Seeing Beyond the Numbers on UC

Carl Weinschenk

Over at CTO Edge, blogger Charlene O'Hanlon posted an illuminating survey done by the Webtorials Analyst Group on behalf of the International Alliance of Avaya Users.


The slides, and Charlene's commentary, offer many interesting numbers, and the news is good for UC proponents. Writes O'Hanlon:

A whopping 85 percent of the 700 or so respondents said they planned to invest heavily in communications this year. For most, plans include integrating their existing communications technologies and providing support for mobile employees, with 70 percent investing in IP telephony and almost half-46 percent-planning to acquire specific unified communications solutions and applications.

One of the most interesting ongoing issues in unified communications, as I've noted here at IT Business Edge and over at Unified Communications Edge, is that its definition is a bit illusive. It can be said to cover the connections between various telecommunications tools, or refer to those themselves. That can make it more difficult to market: Fuzziness is an enemy of successful selling.


But it helps UC score in a survey such as this, since the two elements -- the individual applications and the overall blanket UC structure -- often are so closely linked. In other words, it is difficult to say whether a survey respondent indicating that IM is a desired platform in reality is thinking of IM as part of a comprehensive UC infrastructure, or IM simply as a nice application to have.


Thus, a slide denoting specific UC investments during the next year for various applications (unified messaging at 49 percent; increased mobility support at 36 percent; videoconferencing at 35 percent; desktop integration at 34 percent and presence at 27 percent) doesn't necessarily paint an accurate picture of UC as it does of the popularity of each application. The exception is the last item-presence-which is by definition a UC-specific tool (the strands of the UC mesh, so to speak).


The point is that the numbers must be taken with a grain of salt.


Likewise, a question in the survey puts UC second only to IP telephony among business investments during the next year (70 percent versus 46 percent). But, again, the slide displaying the results cites as examples applications that can be offered both within and outside a UC framework.


It is important to note that this isn't exactly the most important or confusing duality we have to think about. More seriously, the survey points to good things for UC. For instance, a slide that asks for the top three business requirements is worded in such a way that the responses truly are about the UC concept, not the constituent applications. Though there is no total number of respondents noted on the slide, the sense is that those answering "get it."


While it is important to note the duality of unified communications, it also is possible to make too much of it. The survey strongly suggests that UC is a hot area-whether the precise focus is the individual applications or the mesh that knits them all together.

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