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Unified Communications Suffers An Identity Crisis

Feature sprawl, vendor marketing shifts, lack of education, confusion and other higher priorities are all contributing to the slower-than-expected spread of unified communications in the enterprise. In fact even the UC name is in danger of disappearing

Is unified communications (UC) suffering from an identity crisis?

In InformationWeek’s “2012 Unified Communications Survey”, the results suggest vendors that are looking to sell IT departments on UC solutions are having a tough go of it, primarily due to a fog that develops in the minds of customers over what UC is exactly.

“We’re in the midst of a major transition in business communications,” explains Michael Finneran, principal, dBrn Associates Inc., and author of the report. “For the most part, it appears the buying community is hopelessly confused regarding the real meaning of unified communications.

“Vendors’ marketing, particularly with their change in direction with regard to which elements of UC they promote, has aided that confusion.”

Restless marketing executives are tacking on new capabilities and adding modifiers, like "collaboration" and "social business" to UC offerings in an effort to gain traction, while simultaneously abandoning the "UC" terminology. Cisco has already purged the term, the report notes.

“It’s restlessness amongst the vendors to try to look as though they have something different. That’s the core reason why they change,” he continues. “To a degree, the users don’t seem to have come up with a good understanding of what UC is. If they could express it, I think it’d come out as, ‘it’s an IP/PBX with conferencing and collaboration capabilities’. That seems to be the part of the messaging they’ve caught onto.”

That said, vendors are keenly aware customers aren’t cluing in to what ‘UC’ represents. “They (customers) don’t quite know what it is, they can’t express the value proposition or see the ROI so (vendors think) let’s try ‘collaboration’ for awhile,” Finneran adds.

Need a straightforward definition as to what UC is? Finneran, through his work with UC Strategies, defines it as: “communications integrated to optimize business processes.” A nice, wide definition that covers a multitude of evils, he jokes.

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