Unified Communications: An Oxymoron That Finally Makes Sense

Tim Banting
Tim Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Customers must clearly define what they need from a UC solution in terms of easy-to-articulate user personas. This will help them avoid overspending on end-user licensing and meeting the needs of the majority of the business.
  • Customers should also look towards defining attributes that have longevity such as reliability and simplicity. Superfluous features offer little value to end users, especially when they can be at the expense of easy administration and management.

Why has it taken so long for UC to become more focused on areas such as user experience and ease of use? The UC industry has grown into an unwieldy mix of features and functions stemming from vendor acquisitions with little thought towards meeting the needs of the customer. However, this is changing as vendors look to simplify and consolidate their portfolios, recognizing that complying with a long list of features is not the basis for a market-leading solution. Customer approaches to procuring technology have also changed. Companies are involving many areas of the business such as heads of departments, HR directors, and facilities managers, rather than allowing IT departments to make buying decisions in splendid isolation. The new CIO looks towards the strategic intent of platforms: the long-term, long-reaching visions for the business as a whole, inclusive of the things that users are going to need today and are going to need five years from now. Therefore, CIOs and IT departments should know the fundamental and persistent requirements of the business.

As IT departments start concisely defining what the business should focus on, it often helps to think of the user base in terms of user profiles or personas. Typical questions to assist in the formation of user personas may include: Where do our users work? Are they office-based or mobile? What tools do they need in a typical working day? Is it a simple desk phone, or do they need more elaborate integrated soft clients? The benefit of such an approach is that it prevents customers from overspending on inappropriate end-user software licensing and associated hardware; plus, it helps clearly articulate and define the business requirements a UC solution should meet.

Customers should avoid getting stuck in the middle of a feature war between vendors and instead look towards satisfying the needs of the personas they have identified within the company, in combination with other attributes such as reliability, usability, and simplicity. After all, if a solution is not easy to use, customers will struggle to derive value from it, as is the case with many things in life we need less than we think.

As always, we welcome your views and comments.

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