Moving Beyond UC Features to Business Integration

C. Whelan
C. Whelan

Summary Bullets:

  • Although vendors are ramping up messaging around unified communications/collaboration, some enterprises are not seeing the business case that justifies the investment.
  • Business process enablement is a key area where enterprises can leverage vendor expertise to gain more from their UC investment.

In media articles and discussions with vendors, the message is clear that enterprise uptake of unified communications features is increasing; Web/desktop video conferencing, instant messaging, and unified messaging are leading features being considered to join voice services for initial deployment.  However, a recent survey sponsored by InformationWeek revealed that while most respondents were deploying or planned to deploy a UC solution within the next 24 months, 33% had no plans to deploy UC.  Of those not deploying UC, 32% indicated that they saw no definitive business value, with most of the remaining respondents simply putting UC at a lower priority behind other projects.  Despite being inundated with messages of increased employee productivity and efficiency and reduced operating expenses, some executives and IT managers may not see the business case to justify the investment and transition to a more cohesive collaboration environment.  Vendors have the pieces in place to support a more compelling business case, but could strengthen this case through some changes in messaging around UC benefits.

What enterprises can consider, and where carriers can potentially improve messaging and uptake of services, is the integration of UC features into enterprise business processes, sometimes called communications-enabled business processes (CEBP).  While unified communications bring various types of communications together in a horizontal model across the enterprise, business process integration takes a vertical approach by integrating UC features into specific business applications or processes.  Enterprises can leverage carriers’ open APIs to create an environment in which collaboration and communication features are more tightly integrated with the enterprise’s core operations.  This is an area where most carriers have not been very vocal in their messaging, although AT&T has published solution briefs and case studies for key verticals. 

The lack of messaging may be due to UC displacing existing infrastructure such as older PBXs, which begs the argument that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  Long term, however, this is an area where collaboration features may provide the enterprise with a more solid business case for investment than just vague benefits of improved employee productivity.   Starting with a small implementation, maybe a single application or group within the enterprise could enable the enterprise IT organization to learn how UC-based business process integration might solve a problem.  Enterprises should think beyond the “usual” UC features to understand how these new collaboration models might improve communications with vendors and customers and look to their partners to help them realize these benefits.    

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