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August 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 8
Thinking IT Through

Are Enterprises Prepared for the Consumer Inversion of Unified Communications?

The last few years have seen a reversal in the traditional way technologies have evolved and been deployed. Historically, technology evolution has followed a “trickle down” evolution: new solutions geared to large enterprises are introduced and as they become adopted, they then “trickle down” to smaller enterprises, small businesses and then the consumer. But, there have been several exceptions, reversals, actually, to this history. To the point where many believe that consumer introductions of technology are now the way to go, with enterprises supported on a “trickle up” basis from the consumer side. Most of us in IT have had to deal with this reversal in technologies coming in from outside the “normal” enterprise IT product evolution. The most notable examples of this “outside-in” inversion are the PC and more recently, the cell (and now, the smart) phone. How is IT doing in considering this inversion in the introduction / adoption / evolution of Unified Communications (News - Alert) (UC)?

UC is certainly capturing its share of IT thought leadership. This mindshare capture is largely driven by Microsoft’s (News - Alert) highly publicized and heavily marketed entry. (Was it really almost a year ago, already?) My colleagues have defined UC as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes”. And most other definitions and perceptions are consistent with this perspective — UC is integrating communications with business processes to improve performance. But does that definition acknowledge the Consumer Inversion? “Complete” UC offers include: telephony services, messaging, video, IM and Presence (although we are still far from universal Federation) – and have linkages to directories and applications for click-to-call capabilities. Mobility may also be integrated with single-number, dual-mode and other complementary capabilities. Collaboration tools starting with voice, video and web-conferencing are also often included in UC solutions. And some offers include the ability to re-use existing communications capabilities, unless it makes sense to replace them (usually for some compelling event like a product end-of-life or a facility move or acquisition).

But, can today’s UC “offers” accommodate the next wave of consumer-driven technology? Can they accommodate the next consumer-driven technology wildcard? Whether it be social networking, mobile video, the iPhone (News - Alert) or some things we can’t yet envision that start, perhaps whimsically like-multi-player gaming or phenomena like Second Life… Can our UC solutions accommodate these continuing and largely consumer-driven enterprise technology inversions? And, more importantly, how is IT prepared to adopt, secure and appropriately manage these technological wildcards as they rapidly invade and transform our enterprise IT infrastructure and help decide who are the winners and losers in many competitive industries? IT

David Yedwab is a Founding Partner in Market Strategy and Analytics Partners (News - Alert) LLC. Contact him at 908-879-2835 or [email protected].

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