Big data can help accelerate UC adoption

The unified communications industry can benefit from the "big data" trend, particularly when it comes to accelerating the deployment of UC.

Enterprise Connect, the industry’s largest and best show dedicated to Unified Communications and all things collaboration, kicks off next week in Orlando, Florida. I’m expecting to see the typical themes: interoperability, cloud, video and Cisco versus Microsoft. Another theme I’m expecting to see become a bigger topic is “Big Data” for Unified Communications.

Big data has been a hot topic across IT for a number of years now as business leaders look to better use the massive amounts of data collected. Now, the data itself doesn’t solve problems; rather it’s the analytics and processing to actually understand what the data means that has the value. I believe the communications industry can benefit from the “big data” trend, particularly when it comes to accelerating the deployment of UC.

After all these years, the complexity of migrating to IP-based systems sill plagues many businesses, slowing down the rate of deployment. This is why my research shows that although more than 80% of businesses have started a UC deployment, less than 15% have actually completed the deployment.

Some of the biggest challenges in migration are things like:

  • Collection of data. The process of collecting data itself can be time consuming, as data has to come from several sources. Site surveys can be long and tedious, not to mention expensive. Also, pulling data out of legacy systems is inconsistent at best, as the different systems don’t always expose the same data sets.
  • Quality of data. This problem isn’t just limited to communications. In almost every system - PBX, whatever - there is always a large percentage of erroneous data from ad hoc changes and the difficulty of deleting users.
  • Consistency of data. Since collaboration is comprised of multiple systems, different naming conventions are often used. One company I consulted with last year had a team of contractors scrubbing data for over a year to ensure user data was cleansed and normalized. For example, a user – let’s call him Robert Smith - could have user IDs such as rsmith, robert_smith, smithr, etc., across the various systems. This can make analyzing the data very difficult.
  • Normalization of data. Many of the services in UC, such as video and mobility, have only been mainstream for a couple of years. This means older systems don’t really have any knowledge of the "new world." New settings, such as video profile, must be created using some sort of business logic. Then importing this data can be difficult.

If organizations can overcome the above challenges, big data, as well as the related analytics, can be used to automate the creation of profiles that can simplify for the entire on-boarding process. Instead of manually collecting data from multiple sources and then having to manually create new profiles in all of the new systems, data could be imported, cleansed, analyzed and then the new profiles can be generated automatically.

In addition to the time savings element, there are significant cost savings as well. Many businesses roll out all UC services to all workers, as that has the least path of resistance. However, not all workers need all the tools, so businesses are paying for software that some workers will never use. Analytics can be used to better understand which workers use what tools in different stations. This means business now can automate the roll out of UC and be sure that only the services required are being provisioned.

UC management specialist VOSS will demonstrate their UC migration product at Enterprise Connect, and the heart of the solution is big data. The VOSS solution is designed to extract information from all systems, including legacy ones, normalize the data using business logic rules determined by the company, validate the data, and then load it into the new systems – automatically. The loading of the data can be done in batches so it can migrate users at whatever pace they are comfortable with. VOSS has automated all of the heavy lifting in the migration process, including much of the work required in a site survey.

Although UC management, data quality, and migration plans aren’t the sexiest of topics, they are necessary to allow businesses to fully take advantage of UC. For years, the UC industry has been focused on the “next cool thing,” but perhaps it’s time that the non-sexy actually became sexy.

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