Keeping UC Deployments on the Business Track

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 use.

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.