It's interesting and useful to periodically step back and look at an emerging technology or application from an outsiders point of view. Or, as in the case of this article inDestinationCRM by Parlano chairman and CEO Nick Fera, from the point of view of an insider explaining it to outsiders.
Unified communications (UC) is hard to describe because it is broad and can include very different technologies. Fera does a good job. For instance:
To that end, Unified Communications (UC) envisions two things. First is a presence framework that tells you where the people you want to reach are located, what communications device they would prefer to use that moment, and how available they are to participate in your intended conversation.
He goes on just as effectively to explain how UC can shift among various options to provide the most sensible way for the user to communicate with the individual or group with which he or she wants to exchange information.
The next piece of the story discusses "persistent group chat," which Fera says are like "chatrooms" but organize groups of participants around topics of shared interest. The key, the piece seems to say, is that persistent group chat is a way to cut though information overload and enable users to organize their unified communications experience. This element of the feature, however, would have benefited greatly from some examples.
Those struggling with the definition of UC -- or who want to provide a good working definition to decision makers -- should check out this piece at TechLINKS. Keith Lynch of Intellinet has written a very simple piece explaining what UC is and providing simple and clear examples. It is a good link to send to decision makers and planners. The bottom line, as the writer says, is that UC is not about technology or a set of technologies. It is about simplicity -- which all great technologies are.
The sector is growing, and the heaviest competition in the corporate unified communications sector is between Microsoft and Cisco. Redmond is in good shape, according to the most recent information from Wainhouse Research. In numbers released earlier this month, the firm said that 37 percent of those surveyed are considering using Office Communications Server 2007, while 11 percent currently are. This compares to a total of 35 percent (9 percent using, 26 percent considering) Cisco's Unified Personal Communicator (UPC).
The release is a bit confusing, however. A graphic highlighting the results shows Microsoft's Live Communications Server (LCS) garnering 20 percent of current users and 26 percent of those thinking of deployments, but no mention is made of the device in the text. Adding in the LCS numbers with the other servers represented would put the percentage of those considering deployments well over 100 percent.
The news isn't all bad for Cisco, however. This AT&T release says that Cisco's Unified Contact Center has been certified by AT&T Labs for use with the AT&T IP Toll-Free service. This is a key piece of UC plumbing which, the release says, will enable business customers to manage and intelligently route calls to contact centers.
This posting at the VoiceCon site raises an important point: It is a challenge -- an important one, for UC proponents -- to portray the return on investment (ROI) benefits of UC. The idea is that few people would argue that UC doesn't offer benefits; the key is to quantify them to the extent that folks who authorize purchases will sign the checks. The two areas on which to focus are cost savings and business process improvement.