5 Things You Need to Know About Unified Communications

From hype and ROI to system requirements and quality control, communications convergence can be a complex road to navigate. Here are five things you need to know before you begin.

1. Traditional (Analog) PBXs are going the way of the dinosaur. IP based phone systems bring capabilities for new functions that have not been possible, and will enable "Unified Communications" in the future. You need to know what those features are as part of your selection process for a PBX replacement, especially if your PBX is end-of-life.

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2. You need to be ready to address business ROI opportunities for UC technologies once they are identified, or confidently tell technology-enamored business partners that there is no ROI, at least for now.

3. Consumer phone options are delivering e-mail-enabled voice mail as an option for residential use. This is voice mail that is either delivered as an audio file to e-mail, or as speech-to-text. You need to know that those expectations will come into play for organizational phone and e-mail system. Other technologies, such as instant messaging, call routing options (follow me), consolidated phone numbers (wireless and wired), wireless IP phones, and conferencing options (meet me—video and audio) will drive future innovation. You need to manage innovation and new technology opportunities in a planned, architected approach, using IT governance techniques. Manage user expectations before they get hyped by the vendor.

4. Microsoft and Cisco are in a pitched battle to become heir apparent to the Avayas, Lucents, Nortels and Siemens of the world. You need to be familiar with what is hype and what is real in order to be an informed IT buyer.

5. Most of all, you need to make sure any innovation happening in the phone/telecom space does not impact voice service levels, which in many ways is regarded as the gold standard of reliable technology for most organizations.

Jack Santos is an executive strategist at the Burton Group and has more than 28 years of IT executive leadership specializing in bridging the gap between business needs and technological opportunity.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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