Unified Communications Goes to School

Michael Vizard

Try as any one vendor might to build the perfect platform for collaboration, the very definition of collaboration will require a lot of interaction across various collaboration platforms.


Today we have dedicated collaboration applications, portals, unified communications offerings based largely on messaging systems, and any number of Web 2.0 services, including Twitter and Facebook. IT organizations are going to be asked by their users to bring all these technologies and services together in a much more seamless way. But in order to accomplish that, the vendor community needs to come together on a much more robust set of standards.


Right now, the few standards that exist in the collaboration space are built mostly around existing messaging protocols and growing industry support for SIP. But not all vendors implement even these standards equally well, and the providers of online services are notorious for providing APIs with limited data-sharing capabilities. That means that IT services companies in this space such as IBM, Avaya and Siemens, which will shortly demonstrate some interoperability between its unified communications platform and Twitter, are being asked to do the heavy lifting by building custom connectors between services.


That's all well and good. But it's an expensive way to solve the problem when you add up all the connectors and the IT consultants needed to implement them.


The lack of plug-and-play compatibility in the collaboration space is also doing the vendors some real harm in terms of market penetration. Every customer out there instinctively knows that better integration across collaboration tools could lead to significant increases in productivity. It's just the cost and the amount of time to achieve that collaboration is beyond the reach of most IT organizations.


There's no doubt that there are some nascent backroom efforts to set some collaboration standards, which would also need to encompass some security protocols. But given the desperate need that most companies have today in terms of getting more done by fewer people to compensate for the real work impact of a down economy, the vendor community needs to start stepping up to the next-generation collaboration challenge now.



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