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Top 10 Unified Communications Mistakes

The current buzzword to arrive is ‘Unified Communications’. And this is no exception to the rule. The vendors and suppliers are out in full force with an array of suggestions and solutions, all promising that this is the panacea we have been waiting for.

Chris de Silva, Managing Director of NEC Philips Unified Solutions, asks what does it mean for your business and, most importantly, for you the decision maker who must decide whether it’s a real business enabler bringing, with it true competitive advantage, or just another industry bandwagon!

1. ‘Buying’ a Product.

Unified Communications (UC) is not a specific product. It is not about buying new hardware or a solution to order as a standard ‘off-the-shelf’ item, deploy and reap the benefits. UC involves the full spectrum of communication technologies and standards, from business applications and voice to video and data communications.

2. Confusing Unified Communications with Unified Messaging

UC is not the same as Unified Messaging (UM). While UM technologies bring together voice, data and fax on the desktop and form part of the UC story, they stop short of providing the additional UC functionality such as telephony control, instant messaging, integration and collaboration with business applications, presence information and so on.

3. Assuming IP is prerequisite

Without doubt, IP telephony (IPT) will deliver further benefits to organisations of a certain profile, but organisations can begin to leverage the benefits of UC today without any need to rip out and replace the current infrastructure.

4. Following vendors onto another Bandwagon

Since Microsoft announced its entry into the market with its Office Communicator and Office Communications Server in 2006, vendors across the voice and data markets have been falling over themselves in a bid to jump on the bandwagon. For some vendors this has been achieved by rebranding virtually the entire product set ‘Unified’, from UM applications to physical proprietary hardware elements.

5. Investing in ‘repackaged’ kit

Just as rebranding Unified Messaging technologies patently fails to deliver true Unified Communications, adding an expensive ‘new look’ IP phone to the desktop – however neatly it may fit under a flat screen – is not a prerequisite of any Unified Communications solution.

6. Buying into vendor hype

With market share measured solely on number of phones shipped, the pressure is on vendors to leverage this new opportunity to create ever more expensive IP handsets. Vendors are exploiting the lack of market understanding to sell ever more expensive all singing, all dancing IP telephones.

7. Adding complexity

Why, for example, invest in a packaged Unified Communications solution from a voice vendor that is simply adding complexity and integration requirements to the core Microsoft solution?

8. Ignoring the business

Customers need to figure out – before purchasing and implementing the solution - what business challenge they're trying to solve, and how UC can help. UC can transform how enterprises do business, but only if an enterprise has a good handle on what their business processes are and how they want them changed.

9. Going too fast

Organisations also need to be aware that the migration to or adoption of Unified Communications can and perhaps should be done at their own pace – and if that includes the use of existing analogue phones and non IP infrastructures, that is entirely possible.

10. Missing the point

The drive for this technology is clear; organisations need to be more competitive and efficient, which requires improved communication and collaboration between people. However, by retaining a traditional device centric rather than user centric approach, organisations will never leverage Unified Communications to transform day to day effectiveness and improved business processes.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.