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Embrace the AND in Unified Communications

In today’s business world, Instant Messaging (IM) and Presence have become critical applications, overtaking email as the primary platform for sharing information and content when real time communication is not required. Compatibility issues still exist, however, between the most popular solutions, leaving users with inconsistencies when trying to message individuals outside their organization.

January 31, 2020 5 minute read

Unify Unified Communications with Interoperability

Like IM and Presence, all major standard enterprise voice offerings are largely compatible with each other, allowing users to call between different systems. But that is not always the case when it comes to the advanced features that are specifically driving innovation.

A cloud with the text "Unified Communications" in the middle, surrounded by circles with arrows pointing towards the cloud that contain the following text: Mobility, Audio/Video Conferencing, Call Recording, Hosted Fax, Desktop Sharing, Instant Messaging, Presence, Unified Messaging

The proliferation and innovation in unified communications (UC) services of the past few years has proven that even foundational IT is not immune to disruption. With a wide variety of solutions available, the ability to communicate between disparate environments has never been more critical. Today’s organizations are evolving to provide seamless communication to anyone, on any device, while also trying to lower costs and simplify the user experience.

Complexity, complexity, complexity

In a closed environment, everything might work seamlessly. But we live in a world of complex choices that consist of multiple technology solutions, applications and protocols, so the path toward a truly unified environment is not always clear. 

Some of the complications toward effective and efficient UC systems:

  • For personal devices the choices can seem endless; there is a wide variety of computer platforms, mobile devices, operating systems and hardware peripherals to support audio and video.
  • In the conference room, there is a large assortment of endpoints and unlimited integration choices for audio, video, and control system components as well.
  • Data centers, as well, incur a deep “complexity penalty” inasmuch that there are many different architectures, protocols, interfaces, as well as networking inconsistencies that make UC difficult to deliver reliably.
  • With disparate collaboration systems, reservations and scheduling becomes complex and fractured, requiring unique solutions to provide a seamless workflow for the end user.
  • People and their roles, like the technology systems they oversee, are ever changing and innovating and must evolve with those underlying systems in order for the complete UC solution to be optimized.
  • A new collaboration technology cannot simply be “flash cut” at enterprise scale. Instead it must be introduced over a sale of many months, or even years if technology refresh cycles are guiding replacement. That means these technologies must coexist for long periods of time, and the enterprise must support them.
  • Organizations with vibrant M&A or divestiture markets are especially sensitive to this interoperability problem.

Adding to the previously mentioned complexity is the fact that video has become the “killer app“ of effective communication. Human expression being shared among parties who are not physically in the same space has become essential to our daily business communication as there is no substitute for direct, face-to-face communication. With bandwidth being available to the office, home and even mobile users, video communication has never been easier.

However, as it is with devices, complexities remain when it comes to mixed environments. Protocol and feature compatibility issues persist, and it is important to understand the options when deploying large video solutions. Shifts to SD-WAN and the wide scale adoption of remote users raise carrier diversity to the top of the list of risks.

The power of “and”

A man in a suit touching a transparent, digital wall showing various icons and a cloud

In order to create and maintain an effective and efficient UC infrastructure, understanding the levels of complexity across all aspects of people AND process AND technology is absolutely required…and is required as early on in the program as possible to minimize risk. The first step towards this is to assess the underlying systems, processes (workflows, etc.) technologies, applications, people/roles and the list goes on. All of these characteristics must be looked at in relation to all of the other characteristics of the underlying systems. 

People and process

People just want technology to work without caring about the complexity or supporting services behind it. A targeted Operational Readiness Assessment can help to understand the gaps. People gaps might include a broader Adoption Services program or additional training and runbooks for the Service Desk. Process gaps are the well-hidden “gotchas” that will cause stress in day-to-day activities, such as ensuring the now-disparate tools are properly integrated and not disrupt the “normal” state.

Technology

More obvious is determining technology compatibility, incompatibility and opportunities for integration. For this there is no substitute for the hard work of documenting infrastructure and software versions, and testing, testing and more testing.  Be sure to plan accordingly, as you can be sure whatever is not found and resolved during testing will most certainly be found by your users. Or worse, your customers.

Putting it together

The essential element to all of this is to accept and plan for the transition period itself, not simply the end state. Life in general, and technology specifically, has a tendency to be more complex than we anticipate, and does follow our directions and plans.  So, get ready to “embrace the and."

 

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