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.