Gartner says through 2016 fewer than 10 per cent of enterprises will have completed the rollout of a single vendor’s complete unified communications suite.
That means you may need to rethink your business model — at least according to Bern Elliot, vice-president and distinguished analyst with Gartner, who hosted a recent webinar on UC.
While the core functionality of UC — telephony, conferencing, instant messaging and unified messaging — is typically delivered as part of a suite, there are other pieces to consider, such as devices.
“This is a particular problem nowadays because the devices have simply exploded — there are so many different types of devices for specific uses and oh, by the way, (employees) also like to have their UC client on there,” says Elliot.
Add soft phones and virtual clients into the mix, as well as UC functionality embedded within apps, social networks, contact centres and even vertical applications such as medical imaging, and UC just got a whole lot more complicated.
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As a result, UC is heavily dependent on the underlying network. “While it isn’t part of the same solution, it is an integral part of the overall planning process,” says Elliot. That means doing a WAN/LAN readiness assessment as part of the planning process — network monitoring tools and software-defined networking should be included in that.
There are technologies, too, that have the potential to transform the delivery of UC services. Here are three that Gartner says you should keep on your radar:
1. Cloud. On-premise solutions tend to seem more advanced and feature-rich than UC-as-a-service (UCaaS), Elliot said, but cloud has the potential to transform UC — and the next generation of cloud solutions may look quite different than what we see today. This is because, says Elliot, platform-as-a-service will allow third parties to access APIs through a web interface.
2. Software-defined networks. With SDNs, you can centrally manage the APIs in each of your routers and control the “routing rules.” In other words, you can reroute traffic and prioritize bandwidth for, say, a videoconference. Though it’s still early days, it’s a promising way to improve performance, says Elliot.
3. WebRTC. Integrating video with clients and mobile end points can get complicated. The promise of WebRTC is to embed real-time communications into web browsers, which means you wouldn’t need special-purpose clients. Elliot, however, doesn’t expect this will replace the need for high-end clients. But it’s another area to consider.
While technology will drive new UC solutions, don’t forget the importance of collaboration to your user population and what their communication requirements actually are.
After all, if you’re going to spend the time, money and effort to roll out a UC solution and then have everyone continue working the same way they were before, then why bother?
UC has real business benefits; the ability to collaborate using video on mobile devices has the potential to change the way we do our jobs. So develop a UC strategy, consider how new technologies will fit into that — but also consider how this can affect real change in your organization.