Unified communications is catching on...but what is unified communications?

* There is no single definition of unified communications that applies to all organizations

It hasn't taken long for "unified communications" to infiltrate corporate IT planning. Nemertes' latest research shows only 16% of companies are doing nothing with unified communications.

More than one-third (36%) are in an initial planning phase; 28% have a limited deployment of specific applications that make up unified communications, or a full unified communications deployment to a limited number of people; and 19% have developed their unified communications strategies and are in the process of implementing them company-wide, according to Nemertes’ Unified Communications & Collaboration research project.

It’s encouraging how quickly companies are embracing unified communications. The problem, though, is that there is no single definition of unified communications that applies to all organizations. In fact, IT leaders use a whole host of definitions to explain what they mean by unified communications. (I know because our research team just finished asking more than 100 IT executives to define unified communications, and the results were quite telling.)

Some organizations view unified communications merely as unified messaging. Others define it as the integration of collaborative technologies with VoIP. Others define it as the integration of any communications technology wrapped around a presence engine. And still others define unified communications as a full integration of communications, collaborative and enterprise applications with mobility extensions and a presence engine.

I like to view unified communications in the broadest possible way: The integration of communications applications with directories and enterprise applications, wrapped around a presence platform with full mobility extensions. Unified communications enables incredibly flexible communications capabilities that actually save users’ time and make them more productive, regardless of their physical locations.

Regardless of the adopted definition of unified communications, it’s easy to see why it’s so important for success in a distributed enterprise. Employees working in branch offices need to be connected to their counterparts in other branches and at the headquarters in the most efficient way possible.

By giving them more sophisticated communications dashboards, which integrate conferencing, whiteboarding, directories, presence data, and instant messaging, they can operate their isolated offices as if they were in the same facility.

The fact that so many companies are embracing the technologies that make up unified communications already is good news for companies and their employees. (Compare Unified Communications products)

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