Survey: Unified Communications Sector Missing the Target with Market

An exhaustive InformationWeek survey suggests that businesses just are not getting it when it comes to unified communications. But they do understand the benefits it provides. The challenge is to sell the concept as well as the individual services and their benefits.

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Jun 21, 2010
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Sites that cover particular topics aren't necessarily cheer leaders. Human nature, however, suggests it is likely that a site that spends most of its time speaking with people from a particular sector may take a somewhat less than completely neutral view of things. After all, if the business – unified communications, for instance – thrives, then the site itself is more likely to prosper.

That's a rather long way of saying that Unified Communications Edge doesn't spend a lot of time on the downside of UC. Clearly, we attempt to present information that will help vendors and service providers serve end users better. But, in general, we do so in an upbeat manner.

That brings me to this InformationWeek survey. The bottom line is that the message is not getting across as strongly as folks would like. The site runs through a long list of perceptual and physical problems with UC.

For instance, training on videoconferencing is inadequate as are systems to track system use. Even more startling is that the assumption people in the field make -- that UC is a good thing -- isn't universally accepted. Indeed, 34 percent of respondents see no definitive business value in UC, and only 10 percent have a non-techie in "a key role in developing a strategic vision." Fourteen percent say integration with enterprise applications is very important.

The survey goes on like that. It shows a disappointing indifference to unified communications as a concept. At the same time, people increasingly rely on its parts, such as IM and videoconferencing. Indeed, it may be like those studies of taxes: People don't like forking over a portion of their hard-earned wages, but they like paved roads, police officers and firefighters and a noisy van with flashing lights to show up when they call an ambulance. In the final analysis, however, UC vendors and service providers will have to sell the concept of UC.

Convincing corporate planners of the value of IM, e-mail and messaging, or even convincing them in vague terms that it's a good idea to tie the services together, isn't good enough. They must understand in specific terms that UC, as it is currently perceived by the industry, is worth implementing. Process stories, such as those at Fluor Corp., a huge multinational, and the Buffalo Sabres hockey team described in this Network World story – certainly help.

Fluor features quick creation of project sites, of varying size. For instance, part of the response to Hurricane Katrina required establishment of a substantial site in only four days:

Trying to do this for a project site of 150 people with a digital TDM PBX would cost $120,000 to $135,000 vs. $18,000 to $20,000 for an IP PBX, handsets and applications, Rogerson says. (See related story, "Unified communications saves Canadian school district $200k/year".)

Indeed, the source, Gary Rogerson, the voice architect for enterprise voice services at the multinational, said the system was so impressive that UC was implemented company-wide.

Those stories happen, and they happen often. The goal is to let more people know.

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