2011 could be the year of simplification for Unified Communications, enabled by the cloud, interoperability, and integration of business applications and devices. Also, look for consumers to be driving many of the Unified Communications (UC) trends impacting enterprises this year.
Here is a look at where UC is headed in 2011:
Video becomes an everyday UC business tool
Video has come a long way, particularly in the form of telepresence. With today’s technology, making a video call is as easy as making a regular voice call says Eric Schoch, senior director of product management at Cisco. While some may be slow to embrace the daily use of video as a business tool (recalling past difficulties with video), it will become more widespread in 2011. According to ITBusinessedge.com, as video becomes a bigger part of the consumer experience on the Web, more people will grow comfortable with using video at work.
UC goes off-premise and into the cloud
Anyone can access the cloud with a fixed or mobile device connected to the Internet. And the cloud produces benefits for the enterprise, notably allowing enterprises to access updates and new technology at a fraction of the cost. This creates a “perfect storm” for enterprises. In 2011, expect more enterprises to take advantage of the cloud to enable UC applications.
Presence will be integrated into everything you do
Look for presence functionality to be built directly into communication technologies rather than as an overlay application, says Schoch. Presence is fundamental to business communication, and is becoming an expectation for the workforce. Like video, presence is an integral part of the consumer experience and will soon be a fixed part of the UC business toolkit.
Integration of business applications and social media with UC solutions
Specifically, business apps such as CRM (customer relationship management), SFA (sales force automation), SCM(supply chain management), and ERP (enterprise resource planning) will unleash the power of UC. Network World points out that “UC requires unifying communications media across the business apps and devices used by an enterprise’s employees in order to drive greater profitability and performance for that enterprise.” And as for social media, UC will be a success when it truly unifies relevant devices, real-time content, and applications that matter to users. Enterprises may be surprised that social media such as blogging, tweeting, and Facebook fan pages will be an expected component of UC. The line continues to blur between the consumer and the business user.
UC interoperability gets increasingly better
The trend likely to cause the biggest sigh of relief for enterprise IT in 2011 will be the increase in interoperability among UC solutions. One group driving this effort is the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum , which was created to ensure that UC will work smoothly across vendors, platforms, networks, and tool types. Polycom CTO Jeff Rodman said in an interview that “UCIF is focused on ensuring that UC tools work together. It is a different strategy than creating new standards; there are plenty of those. What’s needed is consensus on how to use those standards, and a certification program so that buyers can be confident these things will work together without ripping out their existing investments, while vendors are confident that they don’t need to re-test every new release against every UC tool, release, and sibling.” In 2011, look for more interoperability among vendors.
SIP-based communication will increase, especially on mobile devices, as will the focus on security
“SIP-based communications are between people, connected together without needing to know which device they happen to be using. No more tracking of multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and IM contact names” says Avaya. In 2011, not only will more companies install SIP Trunking as the foundation for UC and FMC solutions, more companies will see SIP-based communication on their mobile devices. The catch is that SIP-based communication also creates a greater security risk, mainly because all the applications, devices, and connectivity are IP-based. Unifiedcommunicationsedge.com observes that “UC security issues have grown more complex for a number of reasons, including the wide dispersion of end points and the complex chain of applications and system components.” While 4G propels more SIP-based communication, enterprises will be keeping a keen eye on IP security.