Unified Communications in 2010: Where Are We with UC?

When it comes to unified communications (UC), I’m not entirely sure everyone is exactly on the bandwagon yet—at least not wholeheartedly. It seems that most organizations that claim to have implemented UC have done so only in a very limited way. For example, in my company, I get my voicemail messages and missed call notices in my Outlook Inbox, which is made possible by the unified messaging (UM) capabilities of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007.

But the potential for UC goes well beyond that. If you’ve seen any of the info on Office 2010 and its integration with SharePoint 2010, you might begin to get an idea. For instance, multiple people can check out the same document from SharePoint and work on it at the same time on their individual local computers; you can see who’s working on a particular section at the moment and start an IM conversation with them right from within Word. Meanwhile, SharePoint keeps you from overwriting changes someone else is making and combines all updates into a newly revised document.

 

This example is, of course, a Microsoft-centric application of UC, but the potential is there to use that same presence information in the development and implementation of third-party applications or custom, in-house applications as well. Up to this point, most UC has been focused on the communications channel itself—unifying email, phones, conferencing, and so forth—because that’s the easiest to implement and it seems like a big, flashy win for end users. Going to that next level of integrating communications throughout the line-of-business applications stack is going to be a lot more difficult to implement, and therefore a lot more difficult for companies and their overworked IT departments to embrace—but it’s also the area with the potential for the greatest productivity gains and ROI.

 


Naturally, I'd like to hear other views on the state of UC out there in the wild. I've posted a poll question about how your companies are doing with UC that you can respond to on the Exchange & Outlook page. Or feel free to leave a message below explaining what you're doing, what headaches you've had to overcome, what benefits UC has presented to you and your business, or what's keeping you from implementing UC in the first place.

Discuss this Blog Entry 1

on Jul 9, 2010
I agree, there is far greater potential for UC than UM through Microsoft Exchange. As you mention, many organizations who have implemented UC have focused mostly on the communications channel. But it is the organizations who are taking it a step further, and focusing on unified communication and collaboration (UCC) who are achieving the highest ROI. Platforms that integrate VoiP, text, and IM, along with the ability to create and share documents, audio, and video, and, of course, SharePoint integration, give users the ability to more fully replicate a business process, rather than a single function of a business process. Add to that a 3-D environment and social profiles of the users, and you’ve almost recreated real-life business situations ideal for both effective communication and collaboration. This is where the bandwagon you speak of is heading.

As an answer to your question, I find that most organizations are hesitant because of the large overhaul in IT infrastructure that many UC platforms require, and their headaches come from lack of employee adoption and overpromised and under-delivered results.

Ron Burns
CEO ProtonMedia
http://blog.protonmedia.com







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