The Rising Information Integration Challenge

Loraine Lawson

Did you know that 98 percent of Fortune 1000 companies are either considering, piloting or deploying unified communications projects? Neither did I, but that's the finding of a survey by the headset maker, Plantronics.


I learned this while reading a post on IT Business Edge's sister site, the aptly-named Unified Communications Edge. It's run by one of my favorite tech writers and punsters, Carl Weinschenk.


As Weinschenk pointed out earlier this year, the exact definition of unified communications is something of a moving target. Obviously, the point is to bring together all the ways we communicate - instant messaging, telephony, videoconferencing, e-mail and so on - into one place, and, ideally, allow the user to choose the format that's most convenient for that particular message.


The picture becomes even more interesting when you add in mobile devices, which is exactly what's happening in the UC world.


Whenever you get that many technologies trying to communicate, there are going to be inteorperability and integration issues-depending on how far you want to take things. Wikipedia is often a good starting point for a quick overview, and it essentially defined unified communications as the integration of all these communications systems-which, I'm pretty sure, means unified communications would fit ZapThink's definition of a complex system.


Wikipedia also offered this:

UC also refers to a trend to offer Business process integration, i.e. to simplify and integrate all forms of communications in view to optimize business processes and reduce the response time, manage flows and eliminate device and media dependencies.

What word jumps out at you in those definitions? If you said "integration," give yourself a gold star.


Now let's add one more wild card into the pile: The ability to sell unified communications as a service in the cloud. Do you see how crazy this could get?


Suddenly, it seems like a very good time to get serious about information architecture. And yet, a recent Forrester survey found that only one-third of organizations have formal information architecture.


Right now, the focus on unified communications seems to be on the technology-how to get these systems sharing and interoperating. However, as the hardware and software pieces get worked out, organizations no doubt will find unified communications systems add to their data-integration problems-and the related issues of data quality, data storage, data governance and compliance.


Unified Communications Edge is a great place to learn more about unified communications. Do yourself a favor-check it out. Because UC is coming, and for those who aren't prepared, I suspect the integration headaches won't be far behind.

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