One of the challenges – and attractions – of Unified Communications is that it means different things to different people. Beyond telephony, there isn’t a standardized definition for what constitutes UC. To varying degrees, UC includes elements such as email, chat, video, mobility, etc., but any combination could constitute a solution. In many ways this is akin to buying a car. Think of telephony as the core elements of a car – the engine, chassis and wheels. After that, the car can be as plain or fancy as you like – or can afford – and UC works the same way. If you have a Chevy budget, your UC solution might just have basic chat and email integration, along with entry level SIP handsets. Moving up market to say, a Chrysler 300, you might add on elements such as presence and desktop video. Taking things further to Cadillac territory, you’d be looking at add-ons like mobile integration, immersive video conferencing and other collaboration applications.
Regardless of the type of car, they all strive to take you beyond telephony to make your employees more productive. The key is to support multiple communications modes in an integrated fashion rather than just offering a disjointed collection of point solutions. UC can be effective at all levels, so regardless of your budget, there is a solution out there for you. Of course, there’s more to UC than just adding components – network assessments need to be done, and interoperability issues must be addressed.
While several considerations exist beyond the applications, they should not deter you from the overall objective. If you firmly believe your employees can be more productive with some form of UC, and/or your current communications setup has reached its limits, the end goal should drive your thinking. In essence, you’re driving an older model car, and you see how much more you get with newer models. You can choose to stay at a comparable level and simply get more for your money, or move up to a nicer vehicle that delivers a whole new experience.
Either path is still a step forward, and once you do that, there is no going back. Whatever level of UC is adopted, this becomes the new normal, and there is no reverting back to legacy telephony. UC and IP-based telephony – i.e. VoIP – are more cost effective, flexible to deploy and a far better form of future-proofing than sticking with the status quo.
This last point is important for two reasons. First off, innovation is a core virtue of IP, and you can be certain that the scope of UC applications will keep growing over time. This leads to the second point, which I think really speaks to the underlying value proposition of UC. The flexible nature of IP means that solutions can easily scale, not just in terms of the user base, but also for the number of applications that can be supported. UC platforms are not static solutions – they are constantly evolving to support new applications that integrate with what’s there already.
Coming back to cars, you could argue that all models support UC to some degree. That may be true, but there’s an important difference here. When you buy a Chevy, it will always be a Chevy. Sure, you can add accessories like sporty hub cabs or a leather steering wheel cover, but its basic performance specs will never change. If you really want more, you’ll need a fancier model.
Keeping the flexibility of IP in mind, the great thing about UC is that you can start with any model and end up with any model. Many businesses initially choose to deploy only the basics with UC, even if they can afford more. They’re just being cautious, and want to see the impact and realize the value that UC is promising. Once they reach that point, adding higher end features is relatively easy, and they don’t need to trade the car in for better model. The same is true going the other way as well, by the way. Businesses that start out with a more comprehensive solution can scale it down if they find certain features are not adding value or being adopted by enough employees.
In that regard, it really doesn’t matter what model car you think about – UC can be any car you want it to be. They all have four wheels and an engine, but after that, the rest is up to you. With UC, the important thing is that you’re driving a car – any car – and once you’re on the road, you’ll keep on going. What custom features are most important to you?