It’s hard to believe now, but many prominent Americans, from the president of the United States to the executives at Western Union (News - Alert), did not believe that the telephone was a useful device when it was introduced in the 19th century. And, according to Huw Rees, VP of business development at 8x8 (News - Alert), many companies these days are equally dubious about the future of UC. Most can’t even agree on what unified communications really entails.
UC covers a wide range of technologies, from fax to instant messaging, to conferencing, presence, mobility and more. Rees noted that having an open API is a key to UC, allowing developers to create fully integrated applications with customized apps created by small developers, allowing UC core services providers to concentrate on the primary functionality of the technology.
IP telephony is, according to Rees, the key to unified communications. As recent as 2011, less than 10 percent of companies use IP telephony, therefore UC truly is in its infancy and not nearly as widespread or dominant as many in the market would expect. The key question for companies in the UC space is how to move beyond the early adopters to cross the chasm and thus bring UC to the masses. He suggests the “bowling alley” technique, hitting one key sector while allowing other pins to fall in line subsequently.
Many companies are reluctant to replace existing systems since they feel that their current technology “ain’t broke” and therefore doesn’t need fixing. It is important to show the value proposition for large businesses, showing how the UC technology can provide cost-savings or increased productivity.
Rees identified mobility as a key driver in the adoption of UC, with increasing number of mobile users in the workforce. Companies respond to numbers, so they need to learn how UC can help with productivity and cost savings. White papers and case studies will help educate businesses as to how UC adoption can help their bottom lines. He shared several case studies, including the Indiana Public Retirement System, which deployed UC to meet compliance needs as well as boost productivity, an added bonus.
Looking to the future, Rees thinks that bring your own device will continue to grow as a huge trend that will impact the UC space. These devices need to work seamlessly with business communication systems in order to meet worker demands. Gartner (News - Alert) expects widespread BYOD adoption within two years, so companies need to keep it in mind as they make their communications roadmaps. He notes video as an important future trend as well.
Even though many did not see the utility of the telephone when it was first introduced, it became a vital tool for business and personal use as well. Rees sees that the UC industry has the same amount of potential, and believes that, though it is not quite at the A+ level yet, the UC space will soon reach its potential as a technology valedictorian.
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Edited by Jamie Epstein