Unified Communications or UC is a term thrown around a lot these days.

What is Unified Communications and why should my organization develop a strategy to evaluate or deploy it?

First, what are the benefits of Unified Communications for a business? For the last decade, the following features have driven adoption of UC:

  1. Don’t miss a phone call because you are away from your desk – take your desk with you
  2. Integrated Presence (know if your coworkers are available no matter where they are and what media
  3. Instant Messaging in the corporate environment
  4. Unified Messaging (fax into email, outbound fax from desktop, storing and playing messages from email client)

UC is now maturing into an even more feature rich, reliable and scalable product offering. Along with the above mentioned feature set, the following are now increasingly included in many manufacturers UC offerings:

  1. Real-time High Definition Video
  2. Data Sharing
  3. Web Conferencing
  4. Multimedia integration including Social Networks for Contact Center

Unified Communications has higher expectations for mobility among users, coupled with increased access to high-speed cellular networks and wireless LANs, have driven tremendous expansion of mobile UC support.

One impediment to many organizations’ adoption of Unified Communications in the past has been that their networks were not set up to segregate voice traffic across the LAN/WAN. However, over the last decade most enterprise networks have been uprated and improved to the point that organizations are ready for an increased adoption of UC and the delivery of communication-driven business value.

The underlying technology powering UC environments is developing and improving rapidly. Now and in the immediate future increasing mobility demands and the continuing rise of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will continue to drive innovation in mobile IPT/UC offerings, as well as the adoption of interactive video and data sharing.

As Unified Communications technology continues to mature and its capabilities become standard at many organizations, focus will shift toward UC integration with key business applications and processes, and with multiple UC platforms. Organizations will realize additional value by enhancing collaboration, integrating social media, and enabling richer customer interactions, locally and remotely.

The following are some criteria to consider when evaluating a UC solution for your organization:

  1. The solution provides basic and advanced feature/functionality.
  2. The solution’s dashboard and reporting tools are intuitive and easy to use.
  3. The three year Total Cost of Ownership of the solution is economical.
  4. The delivery method of the solution aligns with what is expected within the space.

The following are some criteria to consider when evaluating a UC manufacturer:

  1. Manufacturer is profitable, knowledgeable, and will be around for the long-term.
  2. Manufacturer is committed to the space and has a future product and portfolio roadmap.
  3. Manufacturer offers global coverage and is able to sell and provide post-sales support.
  4. Manufacturer channel strategy is appropriate and the channels themselves are strong.

Enterprise Systems assists businesses of any size in the entire process of consulting, evaluation, deployment and maintenance of UC systems. Enterprise has aligned with leading manufacturers that meet the above criteria. For example, Avaya is listed as a UC market Champion and Mitel and Shoretel as UC market Emerging Players by Infotech Research. There are scores of manufacturers that are not even on the list. Enterprise works with business leaders as a vendor neutral consultant and sytems integrator.