Unified Communications … Unifying the World or not

One of the technology forecasters' latest claimed “winners” is Unified Communications (UC). A recent report published by Research and Markets predicts that the UC market in Australia will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16.1% between 2007 and 2013.

Like many “new” technologies, particular integration technologies such as this one, it lacks a clear definition. Vendors may try to define it, and perhaps label every sluggish selling piece of kit they have as a part of the UC revolution. This can create confusion.

The intent, at least, of UC is to integrate several different communication systems (voice, messaging, video, mobility, data, conferencing and presence management) onto a single integrated platform.

Integrating all this communications could create a new wave of investment, but what are the benefits for:
End Users – UC can provide flexibility for meeting best fit to users’ communications preferences. In practical terms this means that one login will provide an end user with the option to communicate through a host of options (e.g. fixed line, VOIP, email, SMS, instant messaging, videoconferencing etc.). This can also means a unified inbox and outbox, hence simplifying the management of our messaging and the associated task management and follow up, collaboration etc.
Management – UC (properly implemented) can deliver many of the outcomes that managers tend to dream about: Improved leverage of existing infrastructure, increased efficiency through streamlined/integrated business processes resulting in cost savings.
IT Department – The main benefits from the perspective of IT (in addition to the Management viewpoints above) are in the areas of control, security and reporting through its integrated platform.

Thinking about jumping in? Just like all new technologies requiring systems integration expertise, be sure to tread carefully. Business benefits first, then smart sourcing and well constructed contracts. After all no-one likes being at the hands of one or more systems integrator/product providers who have promised the dream, and are now giving you a broken sleep.
For more information on the Research and Markets report find it here.

Computer Economics produced a report on this issue entitled Unified Communications Adoption May Become Inevitable. An overview of this report can be accessed here.

And finally for anyone game to get basic instruction Unified Communications For Dummies