As an analyst, I've been covering the topic of unified communications (UC) for the better part of 15 years. It seems every year the industry proclaims the current year to be "the year of UC," but it never really happens. The one thing that's been consistent about UC is that the technology has been long on promise and short on deployments.
Now, I'm not diminishing the value of UC. The value proposition for UC has always been high. UC is a highly transformative technology with the power to change the way we work, bring productivity to new heights, and significantly lower the cost of communications. Yet despite the potential, according to ZK Research, only 23% of businesses have UC deployed fully across the organization (disclosure: I am an employee of ZK Research). This begs the question, if the value proposition is so high, why are full deployments the exception and not the norm?
The answer lies in complexity. This includes complexity of deploying the solution, complexity of managing, and complexity of using UC. Much of the issue with current UC solutions is that, despite the name, they're not really unified. The majority of solutions today started off as VoIP platforms and then had other features "bolted on." This includes features such as chat, presence, video, audio conferencing, web conferencing, and more. What most customers buy today is communications that is unified at a purchase-order level, but that's about it. Now add in the complexity of cloud-based UC services and the complexity becomes exponentially higher.
There is some hope on the horizon, though. UC is transforming, largely by the needs created by remote and mobile workers as well as those in the office. It's time for communications platforms to evolve into a unified and highly personal solution to meet the demands of the mobile workspace. I've started to call this "Personal UC."
Personal UC can be thought of as the next evolutionary step for UC. It delivers a consistent set of integrated services in a simple, intuitive way to any user on any device in any location. One of the key criteria to a Personal UC solution is a single code base that can be delivered as an on-premises solution or via the cloud. The common back end ensures the user is no longer the integration point for moving information from one UC system to another. Rather, every user should have the ability to "personalize" the UC applications they use and communicate with others through the medium of their choice. Juxtapose this with current solutions, where every employee is given access to a set of tools that may or may not fit into the way they work.
I believe Personal UC should be an imperative for all businesses today. Competitive advantage is based on an organization's ability to make the best decision with the right people in as short a time as possible, and Personal UC can help make this happen.
If you want to learn more about Personal UC, I'll be hosting a webinar on this topic on February 26, and I will be joined by ShoreTel, a UC supplier that's aligned its products around the concept of Personal UC. I believe the shift to Personal UC will be critical to maximizing productivity and helping organizations get UC deployed to all their workers, so I hope you attend the webinar.