Unified Communications: Modest Start, Significant Future

Carl Weinschenk

Since the deployment of a unified communications (UC) platform is such a complex undertaking, many people assume that it immediately spells big changes-both negatives and positives-to users.


That isn't necessarily the case, however.Silicon.com lays out the positives and negatives of three British organizations' initial experience with UC. The surprising thing is how mundane their reactions seem.


  • The director of network services for Hertford Regional College in the London area found that calls were clearer. The only negatives were a momentary routing problem. The project is using Agito gear.
  • The service director for Wakefield Council says the presence capability has been a positive, and that porting numbers seamlessly has been a small challenge. Equipment from Siemens is being installed.
  • The IT director for NB Real Estate said uptake has been faster than anticipated and that some reinstalls were necessary. The company is employing Microsoft gear.


There are two key points here: One is that the advantages and disadvantages of deploying UC are not fraught with drama. Instead, at least at the start, the plusses and minuses involve incremental improvements such as clearer calls, and annoying but manageable negatives such as routing challenges. The benefits are more substantial and permanent than the liabilities, which focus mainly on easy-to-address implementation issues.


In most venues, however, UC still is a relatively young discipline struggling to get its easily misinterpreted message across to potential users. Internet Telephony describes the complexity of UC and quotes a ShoreTel executive's opinion that early iterations of the technology tended to be difficult to use. The story saysan effort to get around the difficulty-of-use issue is to start communications sessions in IM and intuitively layer applications on top. A good part of the second half of the interesting story discusses offerings from ShoreTel, NEC and Aspect, a smaller vendor.

The reality is that UC is a name given to necessary business-process changes in the modern world. Gartner analyst Jim Sinur does a good job of putting things in perspective. UC, he says, is a great way to distribute tasks within an organization based on "work loads, roles, experience and skills." He also points out that presence and availability-the ability of mobile workers to declare if and when they will be available-is a key tool.


This is how Sinur sums it up:

UC offers the ability to improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform. UC products are used by people to facilitate collaboration and process participation. I expect that UC can extend outside company boundaries to enhance communication and process participation. Look for BPM vendors to start offering more UC capabilities through partnerships.

It is not surprising that UC elicits different reactions. On one hand, well-conceived plans-such as those instituted by the three British organizations-raise nary an eyebrow when they are rolled out. Those who know where it all is headed, however, understand that no matter how modest the start, the long term impact of UC will be transformative.

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