Think About UC Needs, Not Definitions

What unified communications is comprised of is confusing to end users – and even to those in the field. It's possible, however, to avoid the headache by focusing like a laser on what the platform should accomplish, not definitions of what telecom/IT category it fits into. Whether to go with a "best of breed" or single vendor approach is a related and important question. 

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Jan 28, 2011
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There has been a lot written, here and elsewhere, about how to define unified communications. The debate can be a bit distant and academic. However, it becomes more meaningful when companies actually deploy services.

The Structured Blog has a good idea, which is essentially to forget about the abstract and go with what the company thinks will work: 

Start with the requirements your company has for connecting employees and partners in different offices and around the world. Build a requirements list that fully reflects your unified communications needs, and use this as a way to determine not only which manufacturer to use but whether it makes sense to use a purpose-built solution (such as that offered by ShoreTel). When you make the decision to implement a particular platform, you'll know that it is the best available for your company – not the “best” according to some abstract measure.

Deciding precisely what the organization needs sounds easy. It can be tricky, however. Jason Andersson at UC Strategies offers more insight into just how an organization should proceed. The three keys, he writes, are that the organization should identify its users, the volumes of communications it will be called upon to support and which communications channels will best support those needs. Clearly, lots of work can be done to come up with the best data for each of these points.

An important step in moving forward – and continuing to navigate around unified communication's inherent confusion – is the decision on whether to go with “best of breed” or a single vendor. A single vendor solution would avoid much confusion, but by definition will leave the organization with a platform that has less to offer in an area or two.

I discussed best of breed with Stephen Beamish, Mitel's vice president of marketing and business development in a podcast posted on Unified Communications Edge last week. Beamish told me that an informal survey that ran during a company webinar late last year resulted in 74 percent of respondents opting best of breed. Beamish said that partnering and general industry evolution is reducing the challenges of integration elements brought from different vendors.

Finally, Melanie Turek at No Jitter commented on a Siemens initiative that adds extra communications features to voice without charging more. If this becomes a widespread approach, companies in essence will be able to construct their own best of breed packages from latent functionality that is tagged along with equipment that the organizations set out to buy or lease.

The key for organizations is to know precisely what they want their unified communications platforms to do. This, the experts are saying in one way or another, is far more important than a deep understanding of the precise – and still elusive – definition of unified communications.

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