Josie Sephton, originally published on The Register
Unified Communications (UC) is a pretty hot topic with analysts and vendors alike. Yet despite a push back from the market on the vagaries of the proposition and questions around ROI, vendors still haven’t nailed how they communicate with businesses.
One of the key problems is that, for the most part, UC is presented as a generic ‘catch all’ solution across the whole of the business. For many businesses, this seems to be one step too far down their communications path. Freeform Dynamics has come up against this very recently with some research we are running around UC. We very quickly found that unless we articulate what UC is and, more importantly, what the different components are, companies are quickly turned off the subject.
In reality, UC is essentially a form of advanced business communications. It provides a broad description for a set of service offerings encompassing traditional elements such as email, telephony, audio and video conferencing, along with components such as unified directory, unified messaging and presence awareness, all integrated into the general communications landscape in the business. Some businesses may only choose to implement some of these areas, and only partially across the business to meet specific requirements. Such implementations can bring significant benefits, but also already represent a move down the UC road.
This leads on to the premise that, in fact, it makes more sense for businesses to not think of UC as a generic solution that is looking for a problem to solve. They should instead turn the picture on its head to look at specific business scenarios and identify where UC fits and, more specifically, which UC components are relevant. In a business process optimisation context, it isn’t hard to come up with examples – in the call centre, using UC to identify and engage with experts to support customer queries and achieve first call resolution is a regularly quoted, and highly palatable application of UC.
But UC has the power to go much further than this. A few months back, Freeform colleague, David Tebbutt wrote an excellent piece entitled ’Is Telehealth Coming at Last?’ This looked at how videoconferencing is being used by the Scottish Centre for Telehealth (SCT) to help provide better access for patients who found themselves somewhat encumbered by the difficult terrain and inclement weather oft found in certain parts of Scotland.
Of course, Scotland isn’t the only place in the world where the terrain makes UC worthy of consideration. There are relevant examples in pretty much every continent that are faced with similar issues – Africa and Australia are two that immediately spring to mind, where initiatives such as virtual schools and remote learning are crucial, and where UC might just play a central role.