With video and data collaboration, businesses can reduce the need for travel, leading to a world with less pollution, the freedom for employees to live where they want, and better access to healthcare and education, he said. The only problem is that many UC initiatives are still failing.
"Eight out of every 10 Unified Communications projects don't reach their potential, or they fail. Only one out of 10 is truly transformational," Filip said.
Many of the obstacles to UC success are the same as for any other ambitious technology initiative -- things like lack of alignment between business goals and what the technology can deliver, he said. Often, failures start with lack of adequate budgeting and the absence of a business case aimed at a specific return on investment.
On the other hand, UC initiatives can succeed by giving employees "access to the ability to have information anyplace, anytime" and in the manner they want to receive it, Filip said. Businesses will have to do a better job to measure up to the expectations of young workers who have grown up with ad hoc but flexible communication tools like Facebook, he said.
Key elements of success include understanding user's real requirements and usage patterns, providing strong leadership to articulate the benefits and organize the effort, and a phased implementation plan that allows the organization to learn what works.
The minority of organizations that find their way to the "nirvana" of UC implemented and integrated across the enterprise are very enthusiastic about the results, Filip said, but often these projects never find their way out of the pilot phase. Even if they do, UC efforts may fail if the business purpose of the technology is not broadly understood, Filip said. "If employees and end users don't completely buy in and know how to use it, then it will fail."
There are also technological obstacles, and Filip encouraged attendees to push their vendors toward better agreement on and adherence to standards. But he also challenged them to do a better job of focusing their efforts for success, starting with the business case.
"If you're Ford, think about how UC is going to help you sell more cars," Filip said. "If you're a government agency, how is it going to help you serve constituents better?"