Unified Communications: Is it real and is it for me?

About a month or so
ago, I saw the following post on Information Week: http://www.informationweek.com/news/telecom/unified_communications/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=225700490

I found the article
to be enlightening and thought I would post my thoughts regarding some of the
items brought out by the article.

First, I find that
companies really have to understand what their Unified Communications (UC)
goals are since the term UC means different things to different people. 
When I talk to people about UC, I look at the entire communications
"stack" and how the experiences for the end user can be streamlined. 
This includes IM, email, voicemail, web and video conferencing and Voice over
IP (VoIP).  I find that too many people look at only one or two components
initially (like IM and web conferencing) and don't architect or plan for future
expansion.  IM and basic web conferencing does not require much network
bandwidth nor server horsepower.  However, if video conferencing and VoIP
is utilized, the bandwidth consumption is higher and latency becomes a more
important factor.  The architecture for IM and web conferencing will be
much different than if VoIP and video conferencing come into play.

Another big issue
that was brought up in the article is training for the end user.  I find
too many companies do indeed roll out technology without providing proper
guidance or training for the end user.  When this happens, the technology
either does not get used or the full potential is not realized.  To be
successful, companies must include training as part of the equation.  I
would argue that the training must come before the solution is deployed. 
This way, the users know what is coming and will be able to immediately take
advantage of the new solution the moment it becomes available.

Companies need to
do the proper research to figure out what UC components will provide the most
benefits.  No two companies are the same so don't make the assumption that
just because your buddy's company deployed solution XYZ, that your company should
do the exact same thing.  Sometimes more is less and less is more, but you
must make the choice based on your own needs.  Working for a great
technology like Microsoft, I am spoiled in that I get access to all of our UC
technologies (solution).  I can't imagine what I would do without Outlook
2010 for my email, Communicator 14 (or is it 2010) for my IM, presence, VoIP,
web / audio / video conferencing.  I love that voicemails show up in my
inbox which in turn synchronizes to my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone (HTC HD2). 
Being a mobile employee, all of these components is an absolute necessity for
me and helps me to be productive no matter where I am at (home, plane, hotel,

In conclusion, UC
solutions can definitely provide cost savings as well as productivity boosts,
but it is not just the technology that must be considered, but the end users. 
Proper planning / architecture combined with end user preparation will give
companies the most bang for the buck.


Harold Wong