Massive Challenge, Massive Promise Make UC Exciting

Carl Weinschenk

David Wippich, the president and CEO of Ensim, a company that writes unified communications (UC) and collaboration software, suggests in this piece that three ducks must be in a row for a UC project to succeed.

The most important duck Wippich points to is that companies need to figure out precisely how the platform is going to be used. In other words, it is important not to deploy technology for technology's sake, but to have a clear idea of precisely where it fits in and what it must do in order to provide a benefit. The other two quackers are to make sure that the applications are fully integrated and that the underlying infrastructure is solid.

UC is ambitious, and there is no consensus on a specific definition. This eWEEK writer has a two-part take. UC is about tying together different communications technologies -- but that only becomes valuable when that newfound communications flexibility is embedded in various business processes. The heart of the story is a list of key steps in facilitating a UC policy: Find a champion within the corporate hierarchy; remember that users have differing levels of expertise; maintain "parallel deployment threads"; continually expand the applications available; and bridge the system to serve customers and partners.

Often, a company wants to roll out a new service but is too busy or inertia takes over and nothing gets done. This can be a particularly sticky problem when the changeover is to something as fundamental and vital to an organization as its communications assets. Simply deciding to go with UC is a major decision with myriad ramifications. This bMighty post -- based on an interview with a Cisco SMB executive after the vendor widened its line of UC-related products aimed at this sector -- offers three flash points at which a company can look to implement. One, of course, is if the company is new or is experiencing rapid growth. The second is if the old phone system simply breaks down. The third, the post says, is if there is an important feature or function that is not offered by the existing platform.

This useful blog post at TechIQ points to several news items related to UC. The bottom line, the writer says, is that companies such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and others are pushing the new approach using live and Web-based events. This may be related to the difficulty in explaining UC. The news items: F5 says its network acceleration technology supports Microsoft's main UC gambit, Office Communications Server 2007; Indiana University was the subject of a UC Webinar at Campus Technology Magazine (a replay is available here) and a UC seminar by IBM and Nortel is slated for New York City on Nov. 14.

This is a nice overview of where Microsoft is in its UC rollout. In October, the company made a big splash with the launch of Office Communications Server 2007. The post, which is at the Unified Communications Strategies Blog, says there are more than 100 companies in its Technology Adoption Program (TAP), and an active certification program is ongoing.

The writer analyzes where Microsoft is in UC. He says it "has accomplished a lot" since its entry into the market in June 2006, and it will be important to see how strictly the company dictates to its partners -- a behavior for which it is well known. The announced goals have been fulfilled, but Microsoft has not released a road map delineating the near- and mid-term future of its UC initiative.

Journalists who cover business are accustomed to PowerPoint presentations that paint pretty pictures of what a new technology or approach will offer. Often, these slides have much less information on how that goal actually will be accomplished. It seems that vendors and service providers are beginning to fill in the UC slides. It will be a long slog, however: The changes necessary to put UC in place are deep and basic.

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