Factors to Be Considered while Implementing Unified Communications Solution

By CIOReview | Tuesday, June 21, 2016
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“Aren’t we supposed to be using Unified Communications by now?” A niggling question   confronts enterprises as they spread out with operational units across the world. A distributed workforce gives a business an entirely different dimension, necessitating the collaboration between its geographically dispersed teams to work anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Moreover, with the BYOD movement getting added traction, enterprises are slowly transitioning their workplace communication from their traditional legacy meetings and phone systems to a broad range of web conferencing solutions and video-based platforms.

This unprecedented rise in the demand for workforce collaboration and mobility does make a stronger proposition for more enterprises to adopt Unified Communications (UC). However, there are a number of factors to be contemplated before jumping on board of the UC bandwagon.  Listed below are the points that organizations must consider before adopting a UC platform.

Security

According to a recent survey by Dell, about 77 percent of IT firms complained about having data security concerns in their existing UC technologies. It is critical for enterprises to keep their networks secure in a manner to prevent the exposure of customer records and safeguard intellectual property and proprietary data. Organizations must seek a solution that offers a simplified, cost effective, and customizable security portfolio which nullifies existing and emerging threats in real time. At the same time, a highly restrictive solution will hamper wider participation and information sharing, limiting user adoption and thus quashing the value of UC itself.

Return on Investment

The investments on UC solutions vary according to the capabilities of an enterprise’s existing and anticipated infrastructure. Depending on the type solution, UC systems require large investments up-front but are usually less expensive in the long run. Presence-enabled UC solutions facilitate the virtualization of corporate resources, thereby allowing management to locate employees regardless of location to quickly connect them in a call, web conference, or videoconference. A minute increase in connectivity speeds can translate into enormous ROI benefits such as boosted sales or higher customer retention rates. Likewise, interoperability with existing systems is another critical factor impacting ROI.

Architecture

UC architecture varies between industry and organizations within an industry. Also, it should be noted before implementation that the solution’s architecture corresponds with the existing enterprise architecture. There are several elements to UC architecture—the UI elements, directory, databases, communications engines, and so on. A well thought-out architecture can provide seamless user experiences, while a hastily assembled architecture can leave employees confused and searching for the right tools.

Video Portfolio

Video usage is booming as it enables firms to enhance their decision making prowess relating to collaborative groups and highly dynamic, mobile environment. The market is no shortage of UC vendors that are offering a wide video portfolio for enterprises including desktop, cloud, room-based, telepresence, and recorded video solutions. Many experts consider telepresence as the next chapter in video conferencing where a person can be replicated like a hologram during meetings. When comprehensive video-handling requirements are built into the UC architecture, companies will be in a stronger position to support demands for visual applications whenever and wherever required.

Remote Workforce Integration

One of the most perplexing challenge faced by enterprises is to ensure 24/7 connectivity from demanding environments such as sub-Saharan Africa, or the tropical rainforests of Asia or South America. For example, Cisco’s Unified Survivable Remote Site Telephony (Unified SRST) and Unify’s OpenScape Branch equips an organizations’ remote workforce with the existing capabilities that an in-house headquarters should provide.

Deployment without Disruption

How to deploy UC solutions successfully without disrupting the organization’s current workflow? This is a major test that IT administrators in an enterprise need to undergo. Installation of UC solutions will clearly affect an organization’s entire communications network leading to disruption in operations and workflow. Therefore, IT administrators must sit with different departments to churn out a UC plan that has minimal impact on the organization’s current processes and future business goals.

UC- Trends and Opportunities

Enterprises are almost spoilt with many choices while zeroing on the most befitting UC solution. Often, the challenge is to integrate a solution which has the capabilities to embrace and accommodate new developments in a rapidly evolving landscape. The 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications highlights the same point. “Enterprises are facing difficult choices between a longer-term commitment to an on-premise approach and a cloud strategy. The stakes for vendors are ‘exceedingly high’ in the enterprise UC market,” said analyst Bern Elliot, who co-wrote Gartner's Magic Quadrant for UC, in an interview with CRN.

Market leaders like Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel, and Avaya, as compiled by Gartner, are making a transition into hybrid UC strategy by expanding their cloud offerings. Hybrid models with seamless integration of cloud and on-premise approaches are seen as the next phase in UC as it helps enterprises draw from the best of both, while safeguarding their investments. Consistent user experience is another upcoming trend that is currently influencing UC vendors’ product strategies.

Over the last few years, UC has helped address many communication issues that have a direct impact on the businesses. In a nutshell, the role of UC is about ameliorating an enterprise’s productivity in terms of the way of working, and improving business processes, while reducing costs and enabling disruptive transformations. If adopted carefully, UC is one of the rare IT must-haves that can have a measurable impact, allowing for faster and more efficient communications, supporting the enterprise in realizing its goals.