First, let me say that it’s great to be writing about Unified Communications again! It’s such a dynamic industry, where there’s so much happening, and I love being a part of it, albeit independently now. I’m still here to give you my 2 cents.
Defining UC has been an important exercise this past year, but not really for us, in the industry. Defining UC is important for the potential customers (enterprises) who are looking to implement holistic UC solutions. Creating a definition is needed in order to dispel many of the erroneous myths out there today. It’s also critical because if enterprises don’t understand what UC consists of, then they won’t know what they need, and therefore may not utilize all the available collaborative tools efficiently and effectively.
I want to dispel the most important myth, and that is that VoIP/IP telephony is required for UC. In fact, it’s not. Part of my definition of UC is that either VoIP/IPT and/or presence can be the foundation of UC. Let me repeat that: VoIP/IPT is not a requirement for deploying UC. Enterprises need not wait for their VoIP/IP Telephony deployments to be finished in order to deploy UC. The rate of VoIP/ telephony deployments has slowed, as a result of unforeseen challenges and perhaps, not enough value for the upfront costs of deploying VoIP/IP telephony. Those enterprises that have taken the initiative have left it in the testing phase, and those who have not taken the initiative, have given it thought, but not moving forward. As a result, IP telephony is at a standstill. UC may be the catalyst that VoIP/IP telephony needs to reach mass adoption.
Part of the problem is that vendors are confusing the market. On one side of the camp, we the traditional infrastructure vendors, who are basing their UC platforms on VoIP/IPT, indicating that VoIP is the foundation of UC. On the other side of the camp, we have the non-traditional vendors, who believe VoIP/IPT is just another application on a UC platform. In their case, presence is really the foundation of a UC platform. The presence engine is the place from which all modes of communications can be launched. Neither one is right nor wrong, although each would like to say the other is inadequate.
The fact is that enterprises have different needs and requirements. Some enterprises would prefer to have their modes of communication be based on voice; others are more comfortable communicating through presence, and use voice as a secondary and tertiary form of communication. The good news for enterprises is that there is an option for everyone. There may even be instances in which traditional and non-traditional may have to share and co-habitate. That’s not a bad thing. We are still a long way from making that co-habitation seamless, and interoperability still has strides to make. This nirvana is only as impossible as vendors make it. It’s time they all learn to play in the same sandbox if we want to see UC take off.