June 28, 2010

Migrating to Unified Communications

  • Best Practices
  • Gary Audin, Delphi, Inc.
Unified Communications (UC) is really the convergence of six communication products areas. Some of the six areas have existed for years and others are recent entries. UC is really part of the evolution of IT and telecom into one common set of features and functions, not a brand new, just emerging, concept. The six areas are:
  • The evolution of the legacy PBX into the IP Telephony system
  • The development of the softphone as part of the IP-based PBX offerings
  • Integrating voice mail and e-mail
  • Changing the e-mail function to a desktop management tool
  • Multiple forms of conferencing such as web, voice and video
  • Instant messaging services and capabilities

There are multiple approaches to UC that should immediately signal the institution that the vendor community has a number of different UC solutions. This makes it difficult to compare products. It also means that the vendors do not compare easily nor do all the solutions have equal capabilities.

When a vendor promotes an institution as a successful implementation of UC, confusion will occur. It will be hard to determine how much UC is actually deployed in this vendor-selected successful implementation. It could be that only Unified Messaging is present and not a full complement of UC functions.

There is no single method for enabling an institution to implement the UC migration. Think of UC as a menu, not a single entity. The institution selects those functions and features it perceives as valuable. Staff/employee productivity increases will occur. Whether or not the productivity increases offset the UC investment will vary by enterprise and departmentally within the enterprise. UC benefits will not be consistent across all the enterprise's business units, CXOs and staff.

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Whenever we have a contribution from Gary Audin, we know that it's going to be top-notch, and this is no exception.

In this guide for migration, Gary does a superb job of defining the benefits of UC, examining a specific timeline for moving from generic IP telephony to full UC, and then offering a set of best practices for how to accomplish this undertaking.

Definitely a "must read" independent paper.

Experience represented by nearly a thousand case studies from more than 8 vendors suggests several adjustments to this paper: "Migrating to Unified Communications":

1. It is not at all necessary to implement IP Telephony (IPT/VoIP) in order to implement Unified Communications. The leading solutions -- both on-premise and cloud-based -- provide for UC implementation as an overlay or as an independent solution running aside of the traditional PBX. The new UC solution provides voice communication where necessary, but does not require a PBX upgrade to VoIP/IPT.

2. The way to know what to implement is to look at the enterprise business processes to find those that can be significantly improved by applying the new tools of Unified Communications. This defines the new Use Cases within those processes, which in turn clearly defines the appropriate tools. Implementation of (or migration to) Unified Communications is then a much more specific process with a much shorter time line and lower investment than suggested in the paper.

3. The most effective justifications for UC, as per the case studies, are the changes to profitability that are produced by the improvements to the business processes. Orders of magnitude more documented, proven savings than are available from just personal productivity.

Good advice is offered for training and adoption support, for sure. And networks and bandwidth need to be considered, depending on the UC technologies being used.

In any case, it is worth the effort to find and implement the UC solutions that are now available.

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