Gartner states in its Magic Quadrant on Unified Communications for 2010: 'No vendor product adequately addresses all of an enterprise's UC needs. As a result, a best-of-breed approach remains the surest way of ensuring adequate functionality, and planners should require vendor products to be interoperable.'
Gartner’s attack on what it called the single vendor myth comes from its own research that revealed significant benefits of implementing a multi-vendor network infrastructure, not just in terms of total cost of ownership but also in service delivery across the enterprise.1 And I agree with them that similar ‘single vendor’ myths exist in the implementation of unified communication and collaboration (UC&C), and again, organisations can reap huge productivity, process improvement and TCO benefits by opting for a multi-vendor option.
It's key that enterprises recognise that, in order to reap the real benefits of unified communication and collaboration, it is cost-effective to utilise what you already have and that systems need to be able to be integrated with other business applications, devices and services, so that we can start enabling business processes, improve productivity and reduce cost. Alcatel-Lucent recently did some research which shows that showed that a massive 89% of knowledge workers believe that communicating and collaborating with others is increasingly important to their ability to perform in their work, and almost the same number – 85% – believe integrated communication technologies would increase their productivity and levels of engagement. The same research showed that of 31% of knowledge workers who have used well-integrated UC suites, 70% believe it has improved their level of engagement at work. And of the 69% who hadn't yet used UC, 100% believed that having the technology would increase their productivity.
In my experience, each of the many vendors offering unified communications comes from its respective area of strength – best of breed – whether that's voice, email or the network. I believe that no one vendor has yet mastered every domain of unified communications.
Most vendors tend to offer a one-size fits all multi-media communications package, and whilst these bundles can sound like a cost effective proposition in the short term, they can often turn out to be the exact opposite. At the enterprise level for example, you may already have elements of the bundle – such as email, voice or video communications – that are working perfectly. Why change them if you don't need to because it is cost-effective to utilise what you already have in your unified communication and collaboration strategy.
And the industry is indeed recognising this: a recent InformationWeek survey found that 55% of respondents preferred a best-in-class approach for each UC application, selecting only vendors who promote interoperability, when defining their individual UC technology requirements.
Best-of-breed solutions, by definition, must come from multiple vendors, and in order for the end user to reap the benefits, they must be open enough to be able to integrate with one another. As with any multi-vendor environment, every solution’s value is only ever as high as its openness and it is most definitely the case that the real benefits of UC&C can only be realised when systems can integrate with other business applications and services.