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October 15, 2008

Podcast Discusses Hidden Dangers of Unified Communications

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

In the telecommunications space, unified communications (UC) is all the rage. Small business owners and large enterprises alike are investigating the implementation of such technologies in hopes of reducing communication spend within their infrastructure. While UC can be a smart move for many, there are hidden dangers that must be uncovered to ensure long term success.
To discover these hidden dangers, TMC president Rich Tehrani (News - Alert) talked with Neal Shact, CEO of Communitech Services. This conversation was featured in a podcast on TMCnet. You can also read Tehrani’s blog to learn more about this podcast and why it is relevant to every company today.
According to Shact, a lot of hype has been created around UC. Much like what happened with VoIP, companies jump on the bandwagon in hopes of receiving all of the perks and benefits promised by the vendors. When the solution fails to perform at this peak level, customers then become skeptical and tend to avoid making further investments in such technologies.

It is common for vendors to try and encourage a company to develop a roadmap for their UC investments. Such a roadmap is designed to identify where the company is going and how they will get there. What Shact noted is happening in the industry is that one: companies are developing these roadmaps based more on vendors than their own needs; and two: they are planning for the improbable and not staffing effectively for the probable.

There are two specific things to know when dealing with the hidden dangers of UC: stuff that the company can predict and stuff that is right in front, yet the outcome or impact cannot be predicted. It is the challenge in planning around these unknowns that make roadmaps nearly impossible to create with accuracy unless they are based on the company itself and not the vendor.   

Consider such phenomenon as social networking and the growth of the virtual world. These are two examples of UC that were in use by younger generations for years before they ever hit the business sectors. Even now, executives are connected on Facebook (News - Alert) more because they think they should be rather than using the site for its intended networking purposes.

Companies are investing heavily in virtual worlds like Second Life and telepresence. There is the promise in the industry that such technology will replace face-to-face meetings and eliminate business travel. Shact points this is as a significant mistruth in the industry.
As Shact highlights, it is true that telepresence can provide benefits that can not be experienced in real life, it will never replace face-to-face interactions exactly. The results are not the same and it cannot provide the proper environment to build relationships. Instead, telepresence should be used when it can improve the interaction, not just replace it.
What can you gather from this podcast? For one thing, you cannot create a comprehensive long-term UC plan. Instead, you have to plan for what you cannot plan for. Technologies emerge and evolve and their applications within the enterprise may not yet be identified.

Most importantly, demand solutions from a vendor that are open and can work with solutions from other vendors. No one vendor can create the best of every UC component and it is imperative that the company — regardless of its size — avoids locking in with one vendor. In doing so, it will lock out the potential for the optimal UC environment. 
To gain the most from Shact’s input in this industry, check out this podcast as it offers a wealth of information and insight surrounding UC that can help you make a difference in your own planning.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.


Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Mae Kowalke

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