Allan Sulkin's latest No Jitter feature details the results of Allan's third annual survey of North American consultants, and the results I found most intriguing had to do with the consultants' experiences and opinions regarding Unified Communications.For starters, Allan found that just about half of the consultants he surveyed already had participated in at least one UC procurement and installation. What's particularly noteworthy is that in asking the question, Allan left less wiggle room for defining UC than we've seen in other analysis. Specifically, his survey asked, "During the past year have you worked with a client to purchase and install a full-featured UC solution...(audio conferencing bridge system, only, and/or cellular extensions do not count)." Having already considered IP telephony separately, Allan here exempted two more items that vendors typically sneak in under the definition of UC, even if those technologies are being used in a standalone manner: Audio conferencing and cellular extension.
Audio conferencing is an easy call; just buying a conference bridge doesn't make you a UC implementer, even if it is an IP-based bridge. The inclusion of cellular extension probably would generate more debate; in fact, it has, in other No Jitter posts. But choosing to exclude a standalone cellular-extension from a UC definition is certainly a very defensible position.
But here's the thing: Even with those restrictions, Sulkin still got 52% of his survey respondents saying they have done at least one UC implementation.
And just to clear up confusion, Allan followed up with a question about communications-enabled business processes, or CEBP -- "During the past year, have you worked with a client to purchase and install a Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP) solution that integrates communications tools with a Line of Business application, such as SCM, ERP, CRM, et al?" Here again, there was what I'd consider a strong "Yes" response: 23%.
So in Sulkin's survey, more than half the consultants had implemented what the UCStrategies.com team calls "UC-User," meaning Unified Communications aimed at user productivity, mainly by integrating communications media and channels. Furthermore, almost one-quarter of the consultants in the survey have implemented what UCStrategies.com calls UC-Business Process, or what much of the market is calling CEBP.
I find that latter number a bit surprising; you'd think there would be more case studies floating around out there if CEBP implementations were as common as the survey suggests -- 23% is a lot for a relatively new, not necessarily mature technology.
On the other hand, Allan's survey sample wasn't huge -- ranging as high as 60 responses, depending on the question (individual questions weren't broken down with number of responses). So you're talking maybe a dozen consultants who have done at least one CEBP implementation -- possibly more than one implementation, but maybe not. The survey was done at the annual Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC) conference, where many of the participants have large enterprise customers, so I think the fair conclusion to draw is that there has been some limited experimentation going on with CEBP. Overall, I agree with Allan that this quote probably represents the majority, when it comes to clients' view of CEBP: "Lots of interest, feasibility discussions, but no takers thus far."
So I wind up thinking this survey paints a picture of UC as a leading-edge technology that, during a normal business cycle, would be well-positioned to continue growing and attracting more attention. Whether the usual rules still apply, however, is another question.This survey paints a picture of UC as a leading-edge technology that, during a normal business cycle, would be well-positioned to continue growing and attracting more attention. Whether the usual rules still apply, however, is another question.