Unified Communications, Same as It Ever Was

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

2016 Business Communications: Changing the Way We Work

Unified communications (UC) continues to be IT’s version of the high school student who yearns to sit at the cool kids’ table but never quite makes it.

In the case of UC, it isn’t bad skin or oversized glasses. It’s that it is complex and its most attractive consumer-facing features are replicated – albeit with less secure and shallower feature sets -- by smartphones and tablets.

eWeek reports today on a survey of 250 IT managers by West Unified Communications. The top reason for not deploying UC, the survey revealed, was that it just isn’t seen as a must-have. That rationale outstripped financial concerns as a deterrent, the story said.

Technology Plus, Inc., President Howard Feingold uses a post at No Jitter to examine the reasons that UC continues to struggle. They include people’s reluctance to change, a lack of focus on UC’s capabilities, managerial inertia, inadequate end-user training, and lack of vendor/department interaction. In short, Feingold seems to feel that the technology is getting a bit of a short shrift in the enterprise.

The equipment vendor's focus is to install the system and provide training as efficiently as possible. The IT group's focus is to have the system up and running without any problems, and once complete, they usually move on to the next project. There is no one person in a traditional company who is focused on helping users better understand how to leverage the technology in the workplace.

That’s too bad, from the perspective of advocates, since it’s a bit of a complex introduction even under the best circumstances.

There is some hope amidst the gloom, though. Perhaps no platform is better suited to the cloud than UC. It is inherently confusing, extremely broad and varied – companies want different features and functions – and mission-critical. Security is vital. Hosted, cloud-based and unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) – which have overlapping definitions – are a perfect solution for such a difficult platform.

Ed Tittel at SearchUnifiedCommunications provides a nice overview of UC in the cloud. The benefits track those usually attributed to the cloud, including low cost of entry, greater expertise than that available in-house at most organizations, and others. The trickiest part seems to be the integration of the outside platform with the company’s own communications infrastructure. Tittel concludes with obvious but sage advice:

When comparing UC cloud-based providers, look at the list of UC applications they offer, subscription costs, SLA terms and network access requirements, at a minimum.

Unified communications never had an easy road. It is, however, hanging in there – and may yet get to sit with the athletes and cheerleaders.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.

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