The Roadblocks To Unified Communications

by Steve Olenski

Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.

Photo by NEC Corporation of America with Creative Commons license.

In early February, in a piece entitled Why Unified Communications Are So Important Yet So Difficult, I wrote of the difficulties including the topic of legacy systems, many of which simply do not integrate with well, if at all, with new UC technology and the inherent cost associated with transitioning from a legacy system to one that is unified.

The article also referenced an ominous edict from Logitech who, in July 2014 wrote “Despite advances in UC technology and adoption, network services aren’t keeping the pace to meet the needs that increased connectivity demands. 17% of the participants (InformationWeek’s 2014 State of Unified Communications Report) worry over their network capacity and list a lack of WAN bandwidth — and the cost to upgrade it—as their most pressing concern.”

There is a wide array of players in the Unified Communications field, including the bigger boys such as Cisco, Polycom, PanTerra, and Oracle, and also startups such as Starleaf.

Overcoming Roadblocks

“The path to unified communications deployment is not without complexities and unexpected roadblocks.”

The above line comes from an article posted on searchunifiedcommunications.techtarget.com – in 2008.

Needless to say, a lot has changed since then — most notably the rapid rise of mobile and the cloud in essentially every aspect of a marketer’s lives. Thomas Wyatt, Vice President and General Manager, Collaboration Infrastructure Technology Group for Cisco, says in the mobile- and cloud-first era, users define how they work — not IT.

“Planning your UC deployment without understanding how your users work is like coaching a football team without knowing who your players are,” says Wyatt. “IT’s job is to build the foundation that will empower these users to work freely and across boundaries on any device — giving them stability, security and flexibility.”

Wyatt adds that the strongest foundation for a business will be built by taking into account several key factors, including “the integration of voice, video, conferencing and messaging tools, options for remote worker connectivity, deployment across on-premise and cloud-based platforms, unified management for control and visibility, and tight interlock with the existing network.”

Unified communications is very fluid, with lots of moving pieces “from the service itself to bandwidth, networking equipment and endpoints, all of which can span multiple sites,” says Arthur Chang, President and CEO of PanTerra Networks.

He offers the following advice when it comes to choosing the right unified communications vendor:

“Selecting a UC vendor that can deliver as much of the solution as possible will give an enterprise the best chance of a smooth and successful migration to cloud UC. Focus on UC vendors that best interoperate with existing legacy applications and have strong pre-sales configuration tools to ensure any performance or incompatibilities are identified early in the process. Redundant WAN connectivity and QoS capable routers are critical to delivering a high quality reliable UC experience.”

For his part, Mark Loney, the CEO of StarLeaf believes the biggest barrier to UC is overcoming the challenges of incompatible communications systems and applications.

“No business should need to rip and replace every piece of hardware and software on the network, just to get working, seamless and interoperable UC,” says Loney. “The only way to do this is to leverage current investments in existing platforms, merging and integrating them so that the reality of any-to-any communication is achieved in a cost effective and productive way.”

In closing, I’ll share something from the aforementioned piece I ran back in February: The most pressing need the analysts at Information Week believe is the biggest problem plaguing UC is an inability to create clear expectations — in both technology and business buyers’ minds — of exactly what it delivers.

So I will put it to you: How do your overcome or have overcome any of these or other obstacles when it comes to implementing a unified communications system?

*This post originally appeared on Forbes.com.


Steve OlenskiSteve Olenski was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. Steve is a senior creative content strategist at Responsys, a leading marketing cloud software and services company. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book “StumbleUpon For Dummies.” He can be reached via LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter @steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.