Unified communications vs. ‘optimized communications’: What’s the diff?

Industry analyst Roberta Fox suggests a new way of describing the next phase of UC and the associated processes. Will this help clarify things or muddy the waters further?

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While we all may not agree on what unified communications (UC) actually means, we can all concur that it’s a simple concept with complex meanings.

To add clarity to the conversation, savvy organizations should be thinking of their telephony, messaging and collaboration environment as “Optimized Converged Communications,” full stop, according to one Canadian industry observer.

Noted industry analyst Roberta J. Fox of IT/telecommunications research firm The Fox Group made the comments during a recent “Optimized Communications” podcast session by industry resource group UCStrategies. The moderated discussion revolves around the idea of a “next-phase” for UC.

UCStrategies moderator Blair Pleasant set the stage: “…it has been obvious for a long time that the term unified communications wasn’t really working.” While readily conceding that while the “Optimized Communications” term will likely become co-opted by vendors sooner than later, Pleasant noted thinking about the new concept can help define UC moving forward. The idea being, optimized communications boosts business engagement and interaction — between workers, internal teams and customers — by fostering an environment that values choice of endpoint device for the “best of most convenient communication tools at any time.

“Rather than being unified, which it’s not, communications should be optimized, allowing workers, teams, and customers to enhance their business interactions and to achieve their defined organizational or customer goals with their choice of endpoint devices while using the best and/or most convenient communication tools at any point in time,” Pleasant noted in a recent nojitter.com blog post when discussing the new UC concept.

“We have the three legs being telephony, messaging and collaboration,” Fox says. “The horizontal legs that hold them up sitting on the seat successfully is training, performance management, and monitoring of your infrastructure, and then it’s the monitoring of the vendors.”

Indeed, it’s a crowded UC market, one where UC has been defined by the vendors and one currently “hobbled by poor interoperability between products, especially at the IM and presence levels,” noted Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst with ZK Research in a recent ComputerWorld article. Kerravala goes on to note that an increasingly mobile-centric world, a “fully mobile-centric approach to UC” is needed from a comprehensive IT solution perspective.

And as the industry has evolved to accommodate UC, IP, and mobile — and the notion of business communication happening only within a 9-to-5 timeframe grows quaint with each passing day — it was argued the next level of multi-level, multi-device communication involves optimizing both the experience and the business results for both the end-user and the enterprise.

Ultimately, the idea is around thinking of “Optimized Communications” less as a future UC buzzword, but more about how to strategically streamline operational workflows across the business.

Think about things from a return on revenue, Fox offered. “Think about how to track and monitor productivity and effectiveness, and then I wish for the vendor, and the industry community, that they could help the clients figure out how to do this and then also how do you use the technologies effectively, because you have to be pretty comfortable whether it’s using (a mobile device like a) Lync phone on my PC.”

Take the next step with unified communications by watching the on-demand Webinar: Introducing Allstream’s Hosted Collaboration Solution.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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