Gartner’s View of UC–Last Year and This Year

Gartner Research has long been a leader in evaluating new computer-based technologies, and I personally know several of the researchers who write about business communications. Bern Elliot, Vice President of Research at Gartner, did a pretty good job in the middle of last year of putting UC technologies into an enterprise business perspective for their “Magic Quadrant” for Unified-Communications, 2007.

In a way, identifying who’s doing what in the UC industry is a little premature, because, until the new technologies are really finished or legacy technology is really ready to be replaced, UC has to be viewed as “a migratory work in progress.” However, it is important to track technology developments, products, and services so that IT will be ready to selectively deliver new UC capabilities whenever required. Gartner rightly confirms the following key points about UC value and approaches to implementation:

  • What the UC Magic Quadrant 2007 report highlights, is the shift to software rather than premise-based hardware for UC application servers, as well as for endpoint device client software flexibility at the desktop and for personalized mobile device independence. This sets the stage for who the UC technology suppliers will be.
  • The biggest value of UC capabilities, in general (not necessarily a particular application or infrastructure component of UC) is the “ability to reduce ‘human latency’” in business processes. Right there is the biggest challenge for enterprise UC planning; where, why, and for whom will UC applications really be important?
  • Gartner recommends that organizations start doing the planning “homework” to answer the above-mentioned questions, i.e., identify the important users, what they are doing now, and start testing UC solutions for those types of users.
  • Gartner claims to have coined the term “Communications Enabled Business Processes” or “CEBP”), now heavily adopted by Avaya) to describe what I have frequently talked about where automated applications can proactively can now act as efficient contact initiators to people. This can exploiting the flexibility of UC to further minimize the inefficiencies of traditional consumer-oriented, person-to-person communications..

New Comments From Gartner – “Business UC”

Bern Elliot added some additional useful perceptions about UC in a new Network World article, “Understanding the Value of Unified Comms.” In addition to repeating his prior statement about what UC is and the main value of reducing “human latency,” Elliot further identified “three functional areas” of what I would call “Business UC” (as opposed to “Consumer UC” which gets into entertainment.)

These are

1. “Personal UC” – which enables individuals to more easily and efficiently contact other individual (“Person-to-Person”). We have described that kind of productivity value as being a “micro-productivity” metric.

2. “Work-Group UC” – This is where UC is exploited to make teams of people more efficient and effective in their “collaborative” efforts on task performance as a group. This gets the job done to produce what we have described as a “macro-productivity” metric, which has more direct payoff to the organization, rather than just to the individuals.

3. “Enterprise UC” is new perspective for 2 above, but is based on proactive, business process application activities that exploit “CEBP” functionality to initiate and “orchestrate” faster and more effective contacts between people. By putting a business process work flow application “in charge” of notifying and coordinating contacts between people, it will be possible to also track the time-to-resolution of a problem, or completion of a task.

The emphasis on communicating flexibly efficiently with people, regardless of who the initiator is and regardless of the recipients, can maximize the success of any business task performance. Conversely, the failure of any key stakeholder to be able to initiate or receive a time critical contact, can impact the completion of any task.

Of course, the article reiterates the problem of what providers will supply what UC technologies, mentioned last year. There will be a lot of overlap, mix-and-match best-of-breed, and services vs. products. However, the bottom line message is to “pick your poison” after you do your homework!

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