Unified Communications Still Promising, Still Complex

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This Computerworld piece does a good job of previewing the unified communications infrastructure that the New York Mets are creating at Citi Field, the stadium they are moving into next season.


Though at the moment they may be willing to trade the Nortel system for a closer who isn't hurt, the UC system will prove helpful in the long run. It's interesting that Joe Milone, the team's senior director of information systems and technology, defines UC so broadly as to be a bit meaningless; he says that it is "the ability to use technology for everybody on staff to communicate." Despite this imprecise definition, his team has managed to pack sophisticated functionality into the new platform.


The 200 employees will be able to tie into teleconferences and get voice mail and faxes in their mailboxes. Links to Microsoft's Office Communications Server will provide any number of other functions. Milone plans to keep about half of 70 call center personnel on VoIP and half on traditional platforms. About 250 Wi-Fi access points will dot the stadium.


Marketers should note Milone's description of UC and others that are so broad that they essentially are a definition of corporate communications itself. As tricky as defining UC in meaningful terms is, it's no more difficult than the other task, which is managing these expansive platforms. This Network World piece, written by an executive from Ensim, seeks to describe a logical structure into which UC can fit. The key is to find a standardized means of managing all the data, applications and devices that comprise a UC platform.


The expectations and desires from UC may be different depending on the size of the company considering the platform, according to Light Reading. A VoIP Services Insider report by the site says all customers seek to use UC as a way to save money and increase the productivity of existing applications. However, there is a subtle difference between large and smaller companies: Telecommuters and SMBs gravitate toward more general innovative applications, while enterprises aim at applications geared to specific vertical markets.


This CRM Buyer piece offers a good deal of numbers on the acceptance of UC in the data center, courtesy of a survey by the Aberdeen Group. The key driver of UC, according to 45 percent of the 189 organizations queried, is enhancing customer service. Second, at 10 percent less, is driving contact center revenue. Whatever the goals, UC is a hot topic in the contact center: Twenty-three percent of responding companies deployed UC and another 50 percent are evaluating projects. The comprehensive survey deals with challenges, the importance of proper governance, potential benefits and the platforms used by best-in-class organizations.


Clearly, deploying and managing UC is a complex undertaking. Some companies back an approach that highlights the network, while others put the focus on end points. Not surprisingly, Cisco is the dominant proponent of the network-centric view, with Microsoft leading the endpoint forces. Last month, Nemertes Research said that these two companies are battling for supremacy, and that IBM and Avaya also have emerged as major players. The organization gave Microsoft its PilotHouse Award as the best overall UC vendor. Cisco and IBM were finalists.