Why Unified Communications Are So Important Yet So Difficult

Most people in the world today are familiar with Skype or other low-cost or free voice calls made via the Internet. Many businesses of all sizes rely on this concept of IP-telephony.
What Unified Communications (UC) does, however, is expand into other communications, too, and provides benefits, which are numerous.
As techradar.com wrote back in 2012: “By combining telephony and business data on the same network, it gives firms the ability to combine and use voice, data (and video) information in their common business applications, saving and forwarding whole instant message streams, faxes, e-mails, voice phone calls or videoconferencing sessions as chunks of data.”
Clearly the benefits of UC are many. Put simply, the need to be able to communicate face-to-face across any and all mediums on any device at any time is paramount for brands wishing to survive and thrive in today’s world.
Defining & Challenging
Before we get to the challenges that are present with Unified Communications, it might be a good time to define it, for many may not be aware of just what the term actually means.
There are no shortage of definitions but I prefer this one from Gartner, who define it as “those (communications) that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods. This can include control, management and integration of these methods. UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.”
Their definition was defined further to summarize the term: “The primary goal of Unified Communications is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes.”
Okay, so now you know, if you did not already, just what Unified Communications is all about. And clearly you should see the benefits inherent in it.
So, why then, is it so difficult to implement?
Well to start, there are no shortage of players in the UC space. There are big name players such as Cisco, Microsoft and Polycom while there are also some exciting upstarts such as Starleaf, who specializes in both cloud based video conferencing services and offer a comprehensive range of video endpoints for meeting rooms, desktops and mobility.
Then there is the issue of legacy systems, many of which simply do not integrate well, if at all, with new UC technology. There is of course an inherent cost associated with transitioning from a legacy system to one that is unified. However, as previously noted the benefits are numerous.
And make no mistake about, essentially every business and company and organization can benefit from UC. Like, for example, one of the world’s oldest institutions of higher learning.
From an article appearing on esi-estech.com, the aptly-titled article says it all: University of Oxford modernizes with unified communications.
“A three-year contract was recently signed to replace the school’s aging telephone system with a UC suite that would provide staff and students with the ability to better collaborate, work remotely more efficiently, and fully embrace the benefits of bring-your-own-device policies.”
Clear Expectations Lacking
In a July 2014 piece on their blog, Logitech wrote of InformationWeek’s 2014 State of Unified Communications Report. In the piece they touched on the fact “2014 marked exciting growth in UC. Out of the 488 respondents, 70% have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base.”
However, the article closed with a clear and present danger that needs to be addressed.
“Despite these advances in UC technology and adoption, network services aren’t keeping the pace to meet the needs that increased connectivity demands. 17% of the participants worry over their network capacity and list a lack of WAN bandwidth—and the cost to upgrade it—as their most pressing concern.”
But the most pressing need lay elsewhere as “the analysts at Information Week believe that the biggest problem plaguing UC is an inability to create clear expectations in both technology and business buyers’ minds of exactly what it delivers.”
So what sayeth you on the topic of Unified Communications? Does your company currently provide it or a reasonable facsimile thereof?
This article excerpt, by Steve Olenski, originally appeared here: http://onforb.es/18P3f68