Over the years you have successfully persuaded your CEO to invest heavily in networking and data center equipment. Now you're back, telling your chief executive the organization needs to invest in unified communications (UC). The reasoning is clear: you need to leverage emerging technologies—such as mobile and video platforms—in order to enhance collaboration.
What you're probably not going to suggest is that the enterprise get rid of all that legacy equipment you convinced them to buy. The truth is, few enterprises can afford to dump their old solutions. But it's also unwise to cling to them if they hold you back competitively—which is certain to happen if your rivals become more productive and efficient.
When it comes to something as critical as UC, IT must make old and new work together. That's a formidable challenge, but not an impossible one. To build unified collaboration into the enterprise while successfully integrating legacy technology, IT must consider these key factors:
Open standards are necessary for apps and platforms from different vendors to communicate across a network. A unified collaboration solution base on open standards is essential if enterprises want to continue leveraging legacy equipment and application while they explore newer avenues.
Without open standards, enterprises may find it impossible to integrate new collaboration tools (such as instant messaging and video conferencing) with legacy technologies (such as PBX or telephony). Indeed, by removing "unified" from the equation through closed standards, enterprises undermine full collaboration—and that's the entire point of unified collaboration technology in the first place!
Interoperability means allowing people to communicate freely across different technologies, security systems, and geographical boundaries. It means that a CFO in France can jump on a videoconference with her iPhone and have a seamless conversation with executives in a New York conference room supported by legacy equipment.
Ensuring that newer collaboration tolls can communicate with each other and with legacy systems is a crucial hurdle. As this Cisco blog notes, "That two systems work together is not enough. They must come together as seamlessly as possible to ensure an uncompromised user experience."
In a business environment that rewards agility and execution, a unified collaboration system can make or break an enterprise. Therefore, it is imperative that enterprises choose the right UC partner. IT leaders really need to do their homework here, but the most important consideration is whether a vendor has a track record working with enterprises of similar size and with similar collaboration needs.
IT decision makers should assess the support level offered by unified collaboration vendors. Those vendors that have deep experience, a clear integration strategy, and a customer-friendly SLA should be given serious consideration.