This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.
For those of us attending the annual ITEXPO (News - Alert) West event in Austin, paying attention to things where attention should be paid is an occupational delight. And the interesting thing about this year’s event in the context of IP-based integrated enterprise communications is twofold.
First, as the keynotes from ShoreTel, IBM, Siemens (News - Alert) and Cisco all highlighted, after over a decade of a bumpy road, it appears unified communications will finally really arrive in enterprises of all sizes. As the result of a perfect storm of technology, economics, the need for enterprises to rapidly accommodate personal devices, social networking and mobility, the virtualization of where work is done and when, and the needs of an increasingly demanding and disloyal customer base, UC really is on the cusp of fulfilling its promise.
Indeed, as a skeptic myself, it seems safe to say that UC adoption will soar, and soon.
Second, the customer, whether doing something as mundane as trying to obtain customer service or buy something from your company, is driving the market.
Consumerization is necessitating IT departments go multichannel as quickly as possible so that they can interact internally, with partners and customers anyway somebody wishes to interact. This is particularly true in the areas of accommodating mobile interactions and social media. Plus, the virtualization of work has meant that employee expectations are that their personal devices will enable them access to the full suite of business information they need to the applications and collaboration tools they require to produce compelling results.
On the consumer side of things, customers don’t care about technology – just satisfaction and delight when they are interacting. They want what they want when, where and how they want it, and they want it now. In a corporate context they want it securely, according to defined and enforced policies and rules, and without surprises in terms of performance by either their devices or the networks and resources on which the devices rely.
The common thread is that if technology is going to be purchased by enterprises, it is going to be for the purpose of empowering people/teams in support of the business imperatives of the enterprise with a laser-like focus on improving how users (internal as well as external) experience a company’s processes, brand and people. This is at the heart of what is called, in industry jargon, things like improving the user experience, changing the conversation, applications fluency, etc.
Another interesting recurring theme is that one size does not fit all when it comes to UC implementation, especially as it relates to considerations as to if, when, how and what is going to be moved to the cloud. Reality is that success in the UC market is going to be about making the user experience, internal and external, simple and secure. What physically or virtually lies where is relevant for CFOs and IT asset managers based on things like economics, corporate culture, and possibly compliance and other risk management concerns.
However, at the end of the day the considerations are moving targets, and the vendors having success are the ones that offer the full portfolio of UC capabilities available as premises-based, cloud-based or hybrid solutions, with the flexibility of shifting where the functionality resides and what business model can be employed based on a holistic view of the business imperatives of enterprise customers.
While the term customer experience may have already been over hyped by our industry, the reality is that enabling increasingly virtual teams to become high performance, and being able to interact with customers on their terms, are going to be critical to success going forward.
This is true for vendors as well as their customers.
In other words, everything UC has long promised has become a business necessity and not a nicety. And the good news is that the business cases for UC are sound, the solutions are impressive, and the skies are likely to be cloudy all day.
Edited by Braden Becker