Pete Wylie over at Fierce VoIP is a good reporter and writer, and clearly knows the industry well. That’s why we were interested when he recently sought comment about what was meant by “unified communications” following a story he wrote for the daily news source.
I responded to Pete’s request, and would like to share those same comments with all of you. I am sure that Pete will be writing a more comprehensive view in the future.
One thing I think we all agree on is that UC is a fuzzy term. It means so many things to so many people, and for that you can probably place a lot of the confusion on the equipment vendor community. Since UC is such a hot buzzword, every equipment vendor that provides even a modicum of telephony, messaging, or collaboration in their products wants to claim a UC solution, no matter how tenuous the connection. Confusion around the definition of UC is the resulting collateral damage.
So we’re going to go out on a limb here and offer our *definitive* description of UC. We consider this a starting point, and would welcome feedback on this definition. Love it? Hate it? Would you change one word or all of them? Let us know.
Anyway, here it is:
Unified Communications is the integration of wireless, wireline and collaboration solutions enabling a business and their end users to control how, where and when communication occurs through a consistent interface regardless of mode or access method. An effective Unified Communications deployment provides the business simplicity through common end-user interfaces, value through significantly improved network and IT infrastructure efficiency, and productivity in improving interactions between users.
Just a quick bit of explanation about this definition. We believe “advance decisions” are one of the most crucial components of UC, because this makes it clear that underpinning UC is an enterprise policy approach – giving the enterprise control over how communication and collaboration occurs – and is not just some ad hoc tools that aid in communication and collaboration (or which simply use the different access types to do the same thing). Also, the similar user experience is an important consideration, because we presume that core to UC is that whether or not the user is on a wireless device, desk phone, or something else, they should have a consistent set of communications and collaborations options at all times.
Of course, an Enterprise may not have “every” element of UC implemented all at once…but to have a strategy that embodies UC, the way we see it, if someone tries to communicate or collaborate with you, UC should not only let you have the same communication experience over any device (wireless, desk set or softphone), but it will help establish the best instrument or device (based on things like presence, preference, or cost control). Intelligence in the UC system should act in advance like a “traffic cop” by routing the communication to the most appropriate devices; then, once the user chooses one of those (such as answering a call on the wireless phone), all others stand down. And if you move your location, time of day, or preference, a UC solution should know that too.
In the end, we believe that UC is all about enabling users with the communication tools they need wherever they connect. With control across wireless and wireline solutions rightly in the hands of the user and the enterprise, UC ultimately enables their productivity while saving enterprise dollars.