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The UC "Elephant" and the Six Blind Men


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August 27, 2007

The UC "Elephant" and the Six Blind Men

By Art Rosenberg

Now that everyone is latching on to the term “unified communications” (UC) to describe the convergence of all forms of networked business contacts with people, we are starting to see a confusing barrage of product and service announcements, white papers, UC definitions, enterprise market surveys, etc., all purporting to clarify what UC is all about and its importance to business activities. However, the many perspectives of UC being reported in the press remind me of the famous Indian story popularized by John Godfrey Saxe in the nineteenth century, “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” (

The difference with UC in the business enterprise environment is that there are several types of stakeholders in the enterprise environment who, although not “blind,” have different interests and perceptions of the business value of UC. That makes it very difficult to prioritize a logical plan to implement what I call “The Great UC Migration” for an organization. Perhaps the biggest problem stems from traditional telephony technology moving into the UC software framework and connected through “VoIP” networking. Because the good old “telephone” is changing its role in both business and personal communications by becoming mobile and multimodal, not only is the business market uncertain about what UC applications to change first, but also uncertain about who to buy the technology from and in what way (purchases or hosted services)!
UC “Blind Spots?”
Everyone in the enterprise will have areas of priority concerns focused around their operational responsibilities, which may give them “blind spots” rather than making them completely blind. So, instead of putting labels on specific job types or try to correlate job responsibilities with technology requirements, it will be easier to simply recognize the different facets of UC technology implementation that may be of importance to decision makers within an organization or to service important contacts outside the organization (i.e., partners, customers).
Features and Functions – End users, LOB mgrs, CIO, IT mgrs
Ease of Use (Devices, Interfaces) – End users, CEO, LOB mgrs., CIO
Business Process Applications as Contact Initiators – End users, LOB mgrs, IT, CIO
Customer contact – Sales, Marketing, Customer Support mgrs
Business ROI – CEO, CFO, CIO, LOB mgrs.
Cost-saving ROI – CEO, CFO, CIO, LOB mgrs
Technology Implementation Costs – CEO, CFO, CIO, IT mgrs, LOB mgrs
Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO) – CIO, CFO, IT mgrs
End-user Administration and Support – CIO, LOB mgrs, End users, IT mgrs
Network Infrastructure Capacities – CIO, Network mgrs,
Mobility – End users, CEO, CFO, LOB mgrs, IT
Hosted or Managed Service versus CPE – CFO, CIO, IT Mgrs.
Security – CEO, CIO, IT, Network mgmt.
Business Continuity – CEO, CIO, LOB mgmt 
Regulatory Compliance and Archiving – CEO, CIO, CFO, LOB mgrs., IT mgrs.
All these aspects of UC implementation are collectively important, but may be relatively different in priority to the various key decision makers and stakeholders involved in UC migration planning. Needless to say, technology providers will try to position their products or services as being most important because of these factors.
The IP telephony aspect of the UC sales pitch started off by aiming at TCO benefits for IT and the CFO, but that backfired when:
  • TDM telephony replacements could not be cost justified just by reducing costs
  • End user and business process efficiency benefits needed more than VoIP and IP telephony
  • UC benefits needed to be maximized by extending them to multimodal contacts outside of the enterprise, i.e., to customers and business partner contacts through federated presence management and mobile, multimodal end point devices.
Because UC technology is still evolving, end user demand for UC benefits is noticeably lacking, which doesn’t incent enterprise IT to get serious about moving forward aggressively.
Triggers For UC Migration
It will only be a matter of time before business communications will have to catch up with the changes to telephony activities that mobility and UC will bring. In a recent presentation on UC to a group of Ingram Micro VARs, it was evident that UC demand is not significant in the SMB marketplace. However, the channels have also not yet stepped up to the UC migration plate in educating their customers about UC when the opportunity presents itself. We see such opportunities being driven by several practical situations that can occur, including:
  1. “End-of-life” for key legacy telephony technologies (Phone systems, voice mail, ACD, IVR) requiring replacement with future-proofed IP telephony technologies
  2. Need to set up “greenfield” locations (Branch locations, new headquarters)
  3. Specific, critical need for communication flexibility, contact efficiencies, and business continuity for high-value business processes and key end users (Internal/External) involved
  4. End user demand for mobility, teleworking, and multimodal communications – (Attract and retain next-generation enterprise employees)
Depending on which of the above reasons “trigger” the need to start serious UC migration planning, coupled with the need to integrate with existing business process application technologies, the move to UC will vary in terms of what functional capabilities will be implemented first and for which specific end users. In addition, these factors will also affect any decisions about implementing UC through hosted services, (try before buy), managed services, or traditional CPE.
IBM Joins Microsoft (News - Alert) In Provisioning UC Capabilities
Microsoft’s very strong role in UC migration was discussed in my latest white paper on UC ROIs that can be viewed on the UC Strategies Web site and which has been commented on at length.
Not to be outdone by Microsoft, IBM is moving aggressively in a similar fashion, with it’s partnering with Siemens (News - Alert) OpenScape. With both Microsoft and IBM actively pushing into the UC domain, we should expect the focus of UC migrations to shift more directly to business process applications integrating with and driving multimodal messaging, IP telephony, and SIP-based federated presence management technologies.
What Do You Think?
I will be clarifying more UC migration issues from this white paper in future articles, so feel free to send me your questions and comments. You can contact me at: [email protected] or (310) 395-2360.
Attend My Panel Discussions at ITEXPO West 2007 in Los Angeles, Sept 10-12. I will be moderating two panel discussions pertaining to UC migration. One will cover “SIP in the Call Center,” while the other will discuss “A Closer Look at Hosted VoIP.” For those of you who can’t attend, I will report the on the key issues raised.
Attention CIOs: Watch this great recent Webcast from Avaya (News - Alert) and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!
Go to:
This discussion with the two leading enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the need for identifying individual business user requirements for UC.


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