What is Unified Communications – Really

Aug 31, 2012 7:55 am   |   Leave a Comment

The market for business-class videoconferencing continues to grow – just see the recent IDC Worldwide Enterprise Videoconferencing and Telepresence Qview that reported industry growth of 14.4 percent in Q1 of 2012 (as we recently blogged about here).

Yet something is holding back business adoption of UC.

But it isn’t necessarily the technology.

Instead, we think part of the problem is due to misperceptions about UC.

Here is a list of some of the problems, along with some tips on how companies looking for UC solutions can protect themselves:

  • There’s no single definition of Unified Communications. UC has become an umbrella term, with different vendors offering their own definition of UC based on their proprietary technology. For example, some companies without videoconferencing may still claim to offer UC because they offer instant messaging or integrated voicemail. Tip: make sure you understand what you’re trying to achieve from a UC deployment.
  • Comparing feature sets from two different companies can be more confusing than helpful. Because of a lack of a standard definition, there is no single uniform pricing structure, and each company will emphasize their strongest features as being those most important for a “true” UC deployment. One company may claim that unified messaging, comprised of integrated voicemail, email, SMS and fax, is a vital UC component while another may claim that eliminating device and media dependency is a vital UC attribute. Tip: again, it’s important to determine which features are most important for your company, and to realize that some solutions you already use can be integrated into a vendor’s solution.
  • Not all UC features are created equal even within a UC vendor’s portfolio. Even if two companies both offer similar features checklist, their data sharing solutions may differ, with one offering electronic white boards and another offer screen sharing. Both may get the job done but the experience may be quite different. Beyond that, some UC features in a vendor’s portfolio are going to be stronger than others. While native voice, email, and IM capabilities may meet requirements, videoconferencing has been another story; to get full value out of videoconferencing may require the addition of a third-party solution. Tip: ask for references to speak about the components most important to you. Additionally, ask what third-party solutions can be used to augment weaker offerings.
  • Expectations are set but not met. When end-users hear that the company is shifting to a UC solution, they think it means they have unified communications capability wherever they are and whatever device they’re using. That’s often not the case – in fact, that’s one of the biggest issues we hear from customers interested in our videoconferencing solution. For example, an employee working from home may not be able to access all the UC features when they’re at the office. Tip: make sure you understand what the capabilities are of the system you’re buying – and to communicate that to your employees. UC systems that frustrate end-users do not generate ROI.

In our next blog post, we’ll address some technological issues that are affecting UC adoption and implementation.

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About Avistar Communications

Avistar is an innovation leader in the unified visual communications industry, with more than 15 years of experience providing proven business-class desktop videoconferencing technology. Avistar's solutions are used across a broad spectrum of industries with deployments ranging in size from 30-35,000 users. Avistar's technology also helps to power solutions from Citrix, IBM, LifeSize, Logitech and many other leading unified communications vendors, while delivering end-user videoconferencing solutions to some of the world's largest corporations, in more than 40 countries. For more information, please visit www.avistar.com.

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