A debate has been going on over at No Jitter about whether enterprises are actually adopting Unified Communications (see here, here, here, here, and here). I tend toward the skeptical end of any conversation about how widely a hot new technology is actually being adopted, but I do see a few signs that enterprises are at least paying attention and, where possible, looking for an opportunity to get their feet wet.I was chatting with a consultant yesterday who told me that in his last three engagements, he'd put Unified Communications into the specifications as an option for the companies to include in their RFPs, and in all three cases, the companies jumped at it. The reason? Business differentiation, i.e., the hope that UC could provide a new competitive advantage. This, by the way, supports a theory that Chris Thompson of Cisco expounded to me at VoiceCon Orlando, that during difficult economic times, it's actually easier for enterprises to make investments in "aspirational" technology than that which is "perspirational".
To me, that says the UC message is getting through to enterprises. There's no guarantee that every company will ultimately make the ROI, in whatever way the individual user company calculates that ROI. Maybe the bids will come back and the business case just won't be there.
But for all the concern that's been expressed about definitions of UC and users understanding the value of UC, it seems to me that this consultant's experience, along with our experience at VoiceCon, shows that there are enterprise users out there who get it. They understand pretty well that UC has a lot of promise; what they haven't figured out yet is whether, when you get down into the weeds of migration and integration and management, UC is actually something they can support cost-effectively.
These are nontrivial issues -- heck, just running voice on IP data networks was a nontrivial issue for a long time (and still is, some might say). Add to this the idea that UC is a paradigm shift, a new architecture for communications, and the challenge becomes even greater. Enterprises that show an interest in UC (and who, incidentally, believe they can find the budget for it) will have to figure out how to create a UC migration path.