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Who Makes The UC Buying Decision?

Forrester Research has a new report out that offers some insights into the communications technologies that enterprises are adopting -- and are still holding off on. There's also a provocative data point on how involved business unit executives are in Unified Communications purchases.The respondents were asked how much influence three types of roles have in UC purchasing decisions. The biggest influencers were IT executives, not surprisingly: 26% of respondents said these folks exert final decision-making authority, while 52% reported that IT execs wield "heavy influence" on UC buying. Notably, this was very close to the numbers regarding the influence of telecom executives: 23% of respondents said telecom was the final UC decision-maker for their enterprise, and another 51% ranked telecom as a "heavy" influencer.

That right there is kind of surprising, and encouraging to my friends on the voice/telecom side of things. I'd have guessed that IT would have seized more of this authority. But maybe the large numbers for "heavy influence" on both the telecom and IT side suggest a true collaboration between the two organizations, rather than absolute power being held by one or the other.

The factor that Forrester calls out as important is the last category, "A business unit executive who works with the telecom and/or IT departments." And this is pretty noteworthy: 15% of the survey respondents said this type of exec holds final decision-making authority for UC in their enterprises, another 43% see "heavy influence" here, and 34% say such execs hold "some influence" on the UC buying decsion.

On the whole, this seems like a pretty healthy breakdown to me. Maybe I'm biased here, but I don't really think it's necessarily a good idea to have business unit executives making the final decision about UC purchases. Even more than legacy or first-generation IP telephony, UC means, or will come to mean, a lot of integration with many different aspects of the IT infrastructure, from the IP network to the directories, databases and line-of-business applications. "Some" or "heavy" influence, sure. Business leaders are the ones who have to use the UC systems, and they know what they need to accomplish. But whatever UC purchase is being made, it won't be deployed in a vacuum.

In fact, not only is this kind of collaboration with line of business leaders healthy, it's going to be essential, judging from another Forrester question, about how clear the value proposition is right now for UC. There's a thicket of answers and percentages, but what it all boils down to is that, as Forrester summarizes, "More than half are confused about the value of UC to their company."

That's where collaboration with the business execs comes in. Telecom and IT's job is to clearly inform the business leaders what the technology can do, and then work with them to figure out how to leverage it in their business.