Editor's Notes

Getting Users Amped About UC & Bringing Streaming into the Equation

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines

Small and medium-sized businesses across the United States increasingly are relying on new information technology solutions to strengthen their operational, marketing and customer engagement activities, according to a new study by CompTIA (News - Alert). The same report says 25 percent of SMBs expect to adopt UC/VoIP solutions this year.

That's great news for both small and medium businesses and for the vendors, service providers and systems integrators that provide them with VoIP and unified communications solutions. Great news, that is, if these offerings live up to the expectations of SMBs.

"The underlying take away is that SMBs want IT that works right the first time and will look to solutions that do," says Tim Herbert, vice president of research at CompTIA. "Thanks to innovation, the steady decrease of the cost of computing power and storage and new business models, technology has never been more accessible to companies of all sizes."

That said, getting any new process, product or service introduced at a company to provide the maximum return on investment requires a certain level of buy in from those employees who have to use it.

To address this challenge, systems integrator Dimension Data has unveiled the Adoption Management Program.

AMP, which comes in basic and customizable versions, provides e-mails, posters, Web banners, direct mail, video, a webinar, intranet Web page, surveys and other tools and content that a business or organization can use to promote to its employees the benefits of UC and/or videoconferencing. The tools educate and remind employees about how to use these technologies, and can even help measure their interest in and use of the technologies, Mitchell Hershkowitz, Dimension Data's national solutions manager, recently told me.

Recent research from companies like The Butler Group and Sandhill Group indicates the potential need for a program like AMP, given the former research firm's report that 50 percent of corporate software purchases are never used. Sandhill Group, meanwhile, notes end user adoption is the most critical success factor for realizing deployment value of these investments.

On a separate note, VBrick spokesman Rob Halpin tells us that analyst firms Gartner (News - Alert) and IDC are revising their UC "taxonomies" to include video communications, including streaming.

Andy Howard, senior director of marketing at VBrick (News - Alert), says that when people think UC, they typically think about tying the phone in with IP-based communications including data and video, but video streaming is not necessarily thought of as being within the unified communications landscape. However, he says, VBrick in the past year and a half has been pushing the message to analysts and customers that streaming is coming into the UC fold as well.

To enable that, Howard adds, VBrick has been working for some time with videoconferencing outfits including Cisco/Tandberg (News - Alert), LifeSize and Polycom, from which it can take videoconferencing outputs, and use streaming to deliver them to much larger audiences.

VBrick, he continues, last fall released a plug-in for the IBM Sametime UC tool, and this month is expected to offer integration between VBrick's streaming solution and Microsoft's (News - Alert) OCS and SharePoint.