Will the Cloud be the saviour of unified communications?
Research has shown consistently that the major bugbear of IT managers about unified communications (UC) is perceived cost.
The breaking down of computing and communications silos along with the provisioning of new devices and software, not to mention cultural barriers and the need for worker training, can quickly amount to a dauntingly expensive task.
And that’s for technology that has yet to fully prove itself in the real world.
Major UC vendors including Microsoft, Avaya and Cisco are all well on the way to moving their solutions to the Cloud where they can be scaled up or down to suit both enterprise and SME customers.
Read part 2 of Unified communications
Gartner estimates that about 99 per cent of UC deployments to date have been on-premise, but that this figure is likely to fall dramatically as more and more organisations catch on to the lower cost and ease of deployment of unified-communicationsas-a-service (UCaaS).
“CIOs need to wrap their minds around the rise of UCaaS and figure out their spot in the sun,” says Gartner Australia research vice-president, Geoff Johnson.“They need to be evaluating UCaaS now.”
A key driver, of course, is reduced cost. Johnson notes that many CEOs are uncomfortable about forking out for large-scale UC projects, especially with the dearth of quantitative evidence supporting the benefits, not to mention lack of consensus as to what the term actually means. And this as many organisations continue to smart from the GFC.
So what is UC? Well, the vendor-spruiked benefits seem obvious enough. Better staff collaboration and location via presence, faster decision making, integrated video saving time and money on travel, better client relations. The list goes on and on. But as to the best way to achieve all of these alluring results, it’s anybody’s guess.
Last November at the Gartner Symposium in Sydney, the analyst group hosted a roundtable discussion with the theme, “Is unified communications the biggest scam since Ponzi?”
“There was a full house,” recalls Gartner’s Johnson, with the front two rows taken up by nervous looking representatives from several large vendors.
Johnson says that the confusion and uncertainty about the definitions and goals of unified communications is reflected in the fact that very few organisations today have what could be described as a coherent strategy.
“When I talk to clients I say, ‘tell me your UC roadmap’; but nobody has one,” he says. “Nobody is doing anything that could really be cobbled together and called a plan.”