Dell Software Suite Aims to Drive UC Adoption

The tech vendor is offering tools to give businesses greater insight into how their UC solutions are being used and how they are saving money.

UC cloud

Dell Software officials want to help businesses determine how their myriad unified communications systems are being used and find ways to make it easier for employees to adopt the technology.

Dell's new Unified Communications Command Suite (UCCS) gives organizations a single portfolio of products that they can use to gain greater visibility into their unified communications deployments to ensure that workers are able to find the best ways to use them and that the business is getting a solid return on their investments.

Businesses are spending millions on UC solutions from a range of providers, from Cisco Systems and Avaya to Microsoft's Lync, according to Curtis Johnstone, Dell Software's senior UC architect for Microsoft Lync MVP.

"In this fragmented environment … they really need insight into how [their UC solutions] are deployed and how much they're being used," Johnstone told eWEEK. "They want to know how it's being deployed and what the quality is like. … If it's not being used, they can check on the quality."

The UC market is a crowded one, led by Cisco and Microsoft, but it also includes such vendors as IBM, Avaya, Mitel, Unify, Alcatel-Lucent and ShoreTel. The goals of bringing all forms of enterprise communications—from voice and video to messaging, conferencing, presence and communications-enabled applications—into a single solution include improving employee productivity and business processes.

However, what can trip up use of UC solutions are complexity and the quality of the user experience. If employees are intimidated or confused by the technology, or find that the experience isn't worth the trouble, they won't use it. Gartner analysts, in a report in August, noted several areas that UC vendors will need to focus on to drive product adoption, with user experience being among the top five.

Other points noted by Gartner include integration with mobile consumer applications, interoperability among the disparate platforms, adding business value to executives while appealing to IT departments and users, and ensuring that cloud offerings work with on-premises solutions (for example, ShoreTel in April is expected to roll out a common platform for both their cloud and on-premises solutions).

The UC market is continuing to evolve, with mobility, video and the cloud playing increasingly impactful role.

With all that going on, Dell officials are looking for a way to give businesses the analytics and diagnostic tools to get into their UC deployments, find out how they're being used—and how they're not—what services are needed and how those solutions are helping their companies. The new UCCS is part of Dell's larger push to grow its enterprise software capabilities as executives look to transform the now-private company from a PC maker into an enterprise IT solutions and services provider.

In the case of UC, improving the user experience is important, according to Michael Keenan, product management consultant for Dell Software.

"There's not just one user experience," Keenan told eWEEK. "It could be call quality. What you want to do is provide insight into the different [user] experiences. It could be the UI … it could be video."

Dell officials point to a recent survey by the company regarding the adoption of Microsoft Lync's UC solution. According to the results, 72 percent of respondents said quality-of-experience issues—from delays in video sharing to connectivity to dropped calls—were problems. Thirty-five percent said they used third-party tools to identify and resolve such issues.

There also were concerns for businesses. Eighty percent of organizations didn't have the reporting capabilities to let them know about cost savings or if they were meeting cost-reduction goals.

Dell's software, which is available now, is designed to give businesses a single place for getting the data they need regarding their UC deployments across multiple platforms. The initial release of the solution focuses on Microsoft's Exchange and Lync platforms, but Keenan said support for more platforms from the likes of Cisco and Avaya will be added in the future.

UCCS Analytics aggregates data, insights and analytics from across Exchange and Lync, giving businesses the information they need to make better-informed decisions regarding their UC solutions and what other needs they may have to address, according to officials. UCCS Diagnostics give users a single interface for displaying all messaging components—such as Exchange, Lync and BlackBerry Enterprise Server—and finding the causes of any issues within the UC solution and fixing them.