Help with working out the true benefits for your business
Confused about how unified communications could help your businesses? You're not alone, says Quocirca's Rob Bamforth - but there is help available.
Terms like unified communications (UC) look great on vendors' marketing slides but what do they really mean to prospective customers? Frankly, not a lot.
The soft and intangible vendor promises that accompany UC don't always translate into the real benefits that most customers are actually looking for. After all, in many job roles 'productivity' is down to employee attitude and time management rather than the clever use of the latest communications tools.
Such tools are not always what they seem once the shiny marketing veneer has been rubbed off. While it is true that many communications technologies are converging through the sometimes grudging acceptance of common standards, most vendors are still trying to add that extra bit of differentiation or 'value add' that makes their products unique, or as some might term it, 'proprietary' and in some cases 'incompatible'.
Is this a problem? Well, not for customers who believe a particular vendor's products will fill all their current and near term needs, or that communications technologies will not advance too quickly or get overtaken by other changes to the business.
That may be the case for a select few but it's pretty likely that whatever UC products are implemented will have to fit in with other products, be upgraded or replaced from time to time; to do this there must be a fair amount of flexibility.
Ask the right questions
So what should potential customers of UC do?
The first question they should ask vendors is: 'what will it look like for us?' This is often a tricky question when tabled directly at a product vendor, as it is often difficult to demonstrate the fit of its products with others. For example some vendors focus on the desktop, others on IP phones and others on hosted services.
It doesn't matter whether these are all competitive or complementary but a suitably equipped reseller or integration partner ought to be able to showcase multiple vendors' products and offer an integrated UC product.
This is all very well - if all the customer needed to do was look at the technology - but to really understand the impact of UC, they need to feel it and see it applied to the needs of their specific and probably complex environment.
This demands more from the channel partner than the ability to showcase, sell and support various vendors' technology. The partner has to demonstrate the ability to integrate them, not only with a customer's legacy communications tools, but also with that customer's existing processes, people and working practices...