November 01, 2010, 9:13 PM — While many businesses tightened their IT budgets during the recent recession, a growing number of organizations are deploying unified communications solutions -- integrated voice, data, messaging, conferencing and collaboration services over converged networks -- as confidence creeps back and budgets expand. The driver? Return on investment.
Once viewed as a luxury that only large organizations with hefty IT budgets could afford, UC solutions are now within reach of organizations of all sizes, including many small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
Customers tell us that UC solutions quickly increase their organizations' productivity and reduce operating costs. UC not only provides more reliable and cross-functional communication, but also increases resilience against network disruptions. In addition, UC enhances the sense of belonging and affinity amongst remote or mobile workers.
However, getting to a UC platform takes careful thought and planning.
Definitions of "unified communications" are as plentiful as the companies that provide the component technologies. As such, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. However, there are several broad ways to approach UC on a single platform.
Many businesses are pursuing either rich media or telephony-centric approaches to implementation, while others are focusing on e-mail- or instant messaging-centric approaches. Admittedly, the array of available technologies, combined with their unique implications, make selecting a UC solution a complex undertaking. There are many things to consider when deciding what is right for your company, including the nature of your organization's work and its physical structure.
Despite the fact that there are few industry-standard UC approaches, the range of solutions and strategies available enables tailored solutions that best fit each organization's needs.
Many of the obstacles faced in UC implementations stem from at least one of the following:
1. Rushed discovery phase -- it's easier to address challenges prior to implementation, so this phase should carefully assess all potential applications and systems that link to the communications platform or may be affected by the change in traffic
2. Assumption that equipment/applications can be transferred "as is" from existing systems -- it is important to clarify this before investing.
3. Lack of stakeholder involvement in the process -- since UC is not an IT-only decision, you'll only capture the maximum benefit if you secure the users' input during the discovery, planning, and implementation process.
4. Failure to establish a goal and stick to it -- this is where UC solutions can become needlessly complicated, leading to unanticipated costs.