The unified communications market is anything but unified.
“Why is UC such a difficult area to develop a roadmap for?” asked Gartner research VP Bern Elliott during a webinar on the subject. “It’s because UC is made up of a series of different technologies that are adjacent to a variety of industries that used to be separate but are now competing for the same family of services as unified communications and collaboration.”
Elliott listed the main categories of players competing to offer various configurations of the UC puzzle:
– enterprise communications providers (i.e., Cisco, Avaya, Mitel)
– carriers and service providers (i.e., Microsoft, AT&T)
– enterprise collaboration service providers (i.e., Oracle, IBM)
– consumer service providers (i.e., Google, Skype)
“This is really a market where the formerly clear boundaries between products and buyers – and how products are brought to market – are breaking down,” said Elliott. “And it makes for a very competitive market, a very confused market. It’s difficult to develop a roadmap for this kind of environment.”
So what’s a network administrator to do? Elliott offered up a series of steps to help them cut through the confusion and move forward with UC adoption.
Break it down: Ask yourself two key questions: 1) how much will your firm use collaboration? 2) how complex are your communication requirements? You might discover a consumer breed solution will be fine for one while some heavier lifting is required for the other.
Consider dual vendors: As touched on above, you might have to go to more than one shop to meet all your UC needs. And that’s okay, Elliott said, as long as interoperability isn’t an issue.
Go long: “Take a bit of a long-term view to understand what’s going to differentiate you in your market against your competition in three to five years,” said Elliott. “If you don’t have a vision then you’re just going to be buying the roadmap the vendors are offering. And that may not be the optimal roadmap for you.”
Don’t rush: Migrating to new technology can be tough both technically and financially. So adopt UC in increments if necessary.
Do pilot testing: It might lead you to the next step below.
Be brave enough to bail: “If a vendor’s not performing well or a solution’s not performing the way you wanted it to, don’t expect it to just get better,” said Elliott. “Better off changing the (UC) plan now than just continuing with the plan.”
Look inward: Examine your own internal business processes for ways to make UC adoption go more smoothly.
Shine a light on shadow IT: Instead of shaming your staff, get real about the unauthorized UC elements they’re using for work. “Talk to your business units and understand what it is that they have and need, and bring them into the process,” Elliott said.
photo credit: Amy McTigue via photopin cc