• 07/10/2014
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UC Adoption In The Enterprise

A recent survey shows that unified communications is growing in the enterprise, despite many IT pros' lack of familiarity with the term.

Imagine a technology that is used by nearly half of businesses today, with more than three fourths of businesses planning to deploy the technology in the near future, yet the majority of IT pros aren’t familiar with its name. While this may sound like a riddle, it’s actually a description of the state of adoption for unified communications (UC) in the enterprise.

A recent Evolve IP survey of nearly 1,000 IT professionals and executives showed that the main disparity around UC adoption stems from IT pros’ lack of familiarity with and understanding of the term “unified communications.” More than 70% of respondents noted that they were either “not at all familiar” or just “somewhat familiar” with the term.

In general, UC is defined as the concept of consolidating phone, email, fax, chat, video, and collaboration into a single unified channel, either on a device or on a computer.

Based on the survey stats noting lack of familiarity, you would think that an IT solution with such low recognition would have no future in the enterprise. Surprisingly, just the opposite is true. After seeing the definition of the term, 40% of participants were admittedly already using components of UC, and of the respondents who were not using UC, 84% said they were considering implementing components within the next three years. This infographic has more details from the survey about UC adoption.

Regardless of actual familiarity with UC, high projected adoption rates can be tied to the clear benefits these technologies deliver. Having a consolidated and unified system of communication within your business helps to increase efficiencies and make internal operations more seamless. It can also help your business stay ahead of the competition for talent by providing cutting edge IT  and perks such as BYOD and telecommuting.

The Evolve IP survey supports that fact by showing companies with currently deployed UC components as more likely to have BYOD and work-from-home programs. Of the companies using UC, 61% offer a BYOD program and 60% offer a work-from-home program. In contrast, of the companies not using UC, 48% offer a BYOD program and 40% offer a work-from-home program

Clearly, a UC solution, which is designed to enhance productivity and collaboration regardless of location and proximity, is especially helpful for companies looking to keep their remote workers connected to staff and resources.

Despite the benefits, the lack of familiarity with UC creates major roadblocks for adopting a complete solution. How will organizations approach a UC deployment if they don’t have a clear understanding of what it is? It leads to several questions prior to a deployment. For instance, the survey revealed that the major obstacles cited were selecting the right system and provider, determining feature priorities, and employee adoption. 

Figure 1:

So where should you start? Successful deployments begin with a thoughtful strategy to help eliminate these obstacles. To overcome system and provider selection concerns, start by examining your business needs and determine your organization’s primary communication method (be it email, phone, chat, etc.) The technology used for your primary communication method should be the cornerstone to building your UC strategy. From that point, build out and add on features and components that will create a platform that's tailored to your needs.

As with most worthwhile ventures, there is no quick fix to implementing UC. In order for your organization to fully realize the benefits, the UC system must work well and be intuitive in order to drive user adoption. Leveraging technology partners to provide insight and recommend the appropriate features for your organization will prove invaluable and have a direct impact where it matters most: the bottom line.


Definition of UC

The survey confirms the fact that there is confusion about the definition of "Unified Communications" (UC). However, the problem is that the term "communication" is still being applied primarily to person-to-person contacts, i.e., between live people. The fact is, that with rapid user adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, there is now more contact activity being generated by automated business processes through "mobile apps" and automated, personalized "notifications."

So, it's important for business management to identify "use cases" where end users, both inside and outside of an organization, will be making contact through multimodal devices, not just a telephone, and will also need to exchange information content, not just talk.

It is also important to note that cloud services will facilitate UC implementation and integrations with business process applications, and will also lessen the dependency on internal IT resources.

You can read my posts on this subject at www.ucstrategies.com.


Re: Definition of UC

Thanks for that insight Arthur.  Your perspective of UC as "unified interactions," as you describe in this blog post is intriguing. Could you elaborate on how cloud services will facilitate UC implementation?

Re: Definition of UC



It's really very straightforward.

Users need an environment that is open, flexible, and supports all their business communication needs, not just their job responsibilities, anywhere anytime, anyhow. Unitil users had multimodal endpoint devices, it was difficult or impossible to support such capabilities, but now we can capitalize on the "clouds" to provide network access and storage flexibility across business organizations.

With mobile BYOD, we can access mobile apps that are designed for a variety of applications and for different types of end users, i.e., employes, business partners, consumers/customers. They can use applications that ontegrate more easily and interwork most flexibly when they are all in the same network ballpark that is location independent,  i.e., on the Internet.

So, UC which has to support multimodal interactions between both people and between people and automated business process applications, will find that the clouds will provide the necessary flexibility and interoperability that never could be acheived with legacy person-toperson telephony.


Re: Definition of UC

That makes sense. How might compliance requirements affect that cloud migration, especially for highly regulated industries? 

Re: Definition of UC

Hi Art, thanks for chiming in here! I think your point about "communication" is a good one -- UC platforms need to assimilate a lot of "messages" froma  wide range of sources, and that just keeps growing. We recently published another article on why UC needs to transition to unified interaction

That said, the results of this survey surprised me. If 70% of IT pros are still unfamiliar with the term "unified communications," we have a lng way to go before people are getting on board with unified interaction. How can we address that?

Re: Definition of UC


Don't be surprised about IT pros not understanding what end users want from UCaaS. They are not the only ones. The flexibility of UC will pay off most for mobile users, who will be more accessible and, with multimodal smartphones and tablets, can exploit UCaaS for all their job and personal business contact needs.

Mobile business apps in the "clouds" are where flexible UC options will be increasingly embedded for "click-to-contact" with people, and CEBP will deliver personalized notifications from busines process applications to end users, wherever they may be.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

The term Unified Communications or UC means different things to different people.  And your use of or definition of UC is directly associated with your role and needs.  We all wear blinders at one time or another.  Ask Cisco what UC means to them, Ask Avaya what it means to them, Ask Polycom what it means to them ask Microsoft what it means to them and then ask a typical CIO who uses all those products and guess what?  Their understanding of the term may be skewed or even blurred.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role


Not exactly right!

UCaaS is necessary to support both BYOD and what each individual end user needs for both their job roles AND personal business role needs as a consumer/customer ("Dual Personas").

Handling all modes of contact and interaction between both people and with automated applications (not just person-to-person contacts) has become too complex and end users need communications to be more controllable as contact initiators and as recipients, more simplified, and more time efficient to avoid big mistakes, and more acceptable for the dynamic needs of all mobile users.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

@ artr - Okay I will play the role of the antagonist.  Your comment "UCaaS is necessary to support both BYOD and what each individual end user needs for both their job roles AND personal business role needs as a consumer/customer ("Dual Personas")" frankly solidifies my comment that the definition of UC is dependent on your point of view, your role and if you are an end user, vendor or manufacture.  And UCaaS, I am curious about how does that integrate into disparate technologies?   Can you please unpack that for me?  I am sure that I am not the only curious one out there in UC land.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role


The big challenge for allowing a mobile end user to exploit the flexibility of UC for all interactions (business apps, communication apps) from a single multimodal  device, is to have all those apps being able to interoperate and integrate with shared user data quickly and easily. That's not so doable when those apps are in premise-based silos and using the PSTN for connectivity. By putting them into hosted/managed service "clouds" they are more easily accessible through IP connectivity and can also benefit from having unlimited amounts of storage.

So, basically UCaaS realy needs to be cloud-based service to provide all that flexibility to individual end users and their mutlimodal (but "dumb") endpoints, rather than be limited by job-related, premise-based hardware and software. When it comes to security, that is really a function for individual applications to control, in terms of authenticated identity access, user's rights, and using encryption-protected network connections. 

The application "smarts" and access controls to information should be centralized in the service provider servers, not the access endpoints or networks. That's my perspective for the future of personalized services for individual end users who will be interacting with all kinds of business processes and people, either as a contact initiator or a recipient, through IP connected "cloud" services.

IBM's recent partnership announcement with Apple in developing "mobile apps" for enterprise oganizations is clear confirmation that this is the future for mobile consumers and employees.


Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

@ artr - Good information and relevant and points out a new point.  A purpose built UCaaS is one thing and especially if it is built based on a platform designed, or shoehorned to match the business needs.  It is yet another to take existing applications that are also UC capable (which in my opinion as the antagonist here was part of the conversation).  Talking only about UCaaS is a very different conversation than UC and again straight to my original point.  Define UC and your definition will vary based on who you are and your point of view.  Your view is very focused and specific but that is atypical if you ask me.  And remember where we started this exchange from, was it UC or was it UCaaS?

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

Jeff, I have to agree with you on that one. With ANY technology that is more than just a physical product, views change depending on the eye of the beholder. And according to ArtR's description of UCaaS, it made me think that you wouldn't necessarily need to have anything unified at all. You could just pick and choose the apps you need and tie them into a back-end data warehouse. The "communication" part seems to be less important.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

Susan - In my opinon that is a great observation that communication is less important than app sharing, in the provided description of UCaaS.  And again it depends on the point of view so from my humble point of view Unified Communication is more about the ability to communicate via unified communicaiton portal that features Voice, Video, IM and data or applicaiton sharing.  It should also include a presence commponenet to determine the best method for getting in touch with the individual or even group.  There are more and more cloud based collaboration tools being developed for just that type of application.  They also include a social media componenet as well which ties in nicely to the collaboration piece.  Oracle Fusion is key example of how work flow is being affected by cloud enablement, social media and taking a leap of faith UCaaS.

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

Thanks, Jeff. I think that's a good summation. Coming from the infrastructure side of the house, I am less familiar with software platforms than I sometimes should be, but I will look into Oracle Fusion in more detail. 

Re: Definition of UC depends on your role

Susan - Let me know what you find and what you think.  My point of view is that these type of cloud based solutions roll up many of the attributes that we see in various forms of communication.  If a team is working on a project they create a group, that group can modify documents and or assign areas of responsibility.  They are by nature collaborative and they "Unify" communications or workflow.  However in my opinion this does not replace sitting down together and having an interactive meeting, live or via a video call.  And what I see in my profession is that we are building out more collaborative spaces like all hands meeting areas where the whole company interacts, depending on the size.  And the outcome is pretty good in terms of solution based development.  So what is old is new again, actually talking with each other face to face, now that is communications unified, "CU" or is it "See You"?