This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Unified Communications
It’s kind of funny that years after the industry started talking about unified communications there is often still a disconnect about what UC is, what it involves and where it’s going. At ITEXPO East in February, Blair Pleasant (News - Alert),
president and principal analyst for COMMfusion LLC, provided a unified communications market overview and shared her thoughts on the future of UC, in an attempt to bridge that gap.
You’ll have to touch base with her direct, and maybe ask for her ITEXPO East slides, if you want the full presentation, but I’ll review some of the high points here.
UC elements, Pleasant noted, include call control/VoIP, mobility, client access user experience,
messaging (IM, e-mail, UM, chat), conferencing/collaboration (audio, video web/workspaces),
business process/application integration and presence, plus rules.
While some companies talk about complete UC solutions, Pleasant said: “No one vendor does it all.”
Components of a UC solution include the telephony component, or switch. That piece is delivered by companies such as Aastra; Alcatel-Lucent, which Pleasant noted has a great reputation and is well known abroad for this, but not so much in North America (although it’s bringing its Gensys products into play on this front; Avaya, which now has the Nortel assets under its belt, and is selling Aura, and recently introduced a new messaging solution; Cisco, whose focus is clearly collaboration and video; Interactive Intelligence, which Pleasant noted is big on communications as a service; Mitel, which introduced its new Freedom architecture recently and also is focused on cloud and hosted solutions; NEC; Siemens Enterprise; and Zeacom (News - Alert), which primarily serves SMBs and has a nice all-in-one UC, contact center. Other key components, she noted, are IM/e-mail/presence/desktop, in which IBM and Microsoft (News - Alert) (with Lync) are central players; app and portal vendors; voice messaging; conferencing and collaboration; and mobility solutions.
And, as Pleasant reminded ITEXPO East attendees, the drivers of UC include conferencing and collaboration, communications-enabled business processes, one-number service mobile extension, expert agent, and more.
As well all know, UC promises productivity at the individual user level, but can be hard to measure and aggregate in terms of return on investment. However, Pleasant said, UC’s impact in improving business processes for the enterprise as a whole can be significant and measurable. This, of course, is an important point that we’ve heard in the recent past before, as companies like Interactive Intelligence emphasize the benefits of computer enabled-business processes and applying social networking tools in business environments.
Forecasting what to expect for UC, she said we can look forward (meaning to the future, but not necessarily in a good way) to unified communications becoming a loss leader as suppliers aim to get their products into customer environments. She added that all PBX (News - Alert) vendors are morphing into software vendors, so many are becoming focused on vertical solutions or systems integration. She opined that mobile devices will supplant desk phones. She talked about social media integration, how tablets are gaining traction and how video is hot, hot, hot. And she noted that Avaya, Cisco and Microsoft will battle for industry leadership, adding that Microsoft is starting to slowly displace traditional PBX vendors.
Finally, Pleasant wondered aloud whether Google (News - Alert) will make a play into enterprise voice and UC. She said that’s the big question, but that for now, Google appears focused on the consumer.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi