With the recession raging and IT budgets contracting, enterprises looking to deploy unified communications solutions need to ensure that they're focused on the business objectives behind the plan. Even in this troubled economy, enterprises need to resist the urge to cut corners, which could hamper UC projects at the onset. IT administrators also must be careful with UC products that are on the market. Some UC solutions, like the ones from Unison, come up short on features that address all an enterprise's UC needs. Others, like those from Microsoft, fill most of a business's UC needs, but come at a high price.
The recession that is strangling the
economy is forcing enterprises to reduce the dollars available for both capital
and operational expenses, and potential unified communications projects are not
immune to the financial pressures.
Given that, customers looking for UC
solutions need to stay focused on the business objectives behind the initiative
when considering products. They need to avoid cutting corners that could thwart
the UC project out of the gate.
On one level, businesses are looking
at UC to improve and extend communication tools to match how people work
today. A UC deployment needs to reflect users' expectations for multiple
channels of communications that can be accessed and utilized no matter where
they are, what network they are currently using, or what device is currently in
Having such tools in place promises
to meet the expectations of employees-particularly younger or newer employees
used to such capabilities in their personal or professional lives-ideally
keeping them motivated and engaged.
However, from a business
perspective, a UC initiative should be able to bolster business objectives,
delivering critical transformations in how the company performs its core
competencies. Depending on the origin of the UC initiative within the
company (i.e., which business group is driving the project), the UC deployment
should affect reductions in travel costs, increase user productivity via
improved collaboration and conferencing capabilities, improve operational
efficiencies via presence and integration of business applications, or
streamline interactions with customers and partners.
In a down economy such as the one we're
mired in, there may be a tendency to try to make do with what is currently in
place. However, that strategy may thwart those underlying business objectives.
Sticking with existing equipment won't save money if databases and business
applications cannot be integrated within the system without prohibitive development
costs, if workers do not have access to the tools they need when out of the
office, or if the infrastructure can't support the new modes of communications
and types of content-particularly video or HD voice-that the company wants to
leverage. Indeed, for most companies, new tools will be necessary, but
those tools must be able to meet the upfront goals while delivering a fast
return on investment.
In a recent report, Forrester Research
analysts predicted that the enterprise UC market will grow from a $1.2 billion
market in 2008 to around $14.5 billion globally by 2015. To meet this expected
need for new communication tools for enterprise customers, telecommunications
vendors have been falling all over themselves to create new technologies or repackage
existing solutions branded as UC.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.