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Unified Communications: Stop Trying to Wrestle the Elephant [Part 1: Why UC is Failing]

Standing 15+ feet tall and weighing up to 14,000 pounds, the African elephant is the largest land animal on earth. Its trunk alone has over 100,000 muscles and is flanked by a pair of ivory incisors weighing around 100 pounds apiece.

Think you can pin one to the mat? Want to try?

It sounds ridiculous, certainly, but to the thousands of businesses that have tried to ‘pin down’ a single, perfect, off-the shelf Unified Communications (UC) solution…wrestling an elephant might be easier.

According to a Gartner poll, eight out of every 10 UC projects don’t reach their potential, or simply fail. Only one out of 10 is truly transformational. And, according to a recent Evolve IP survey of nearly 1,000 executives, more than 60% say that their company does not use a UC solution of any kind now but 84.4% are either planning on implementing or considering implementing a UC solution in the next one-to-three years. The biggest obstacle, they say, is selecting the right system.

Why? Some analysts still point to cost as the barrier to adoption of true UC solutions. However, the real culprit is lack of strategy. Rather than approach a UC project focused on their needs and building a strategy around them, organizations get diverted by the service providers or manufacturers that are pushing solely their products. They end up having to select the single “all-in-one” solution that provides the majority features they are seeking, while compromising on others…i.e., Google may offer the chat, email and document/spreadsheet features an organization requires, but doesn’t offer the integrated enterprise voice component it needs. To get that voice component, they may need to move users away from Google’s solution to a whole new product, forcing users to learn several new applications. When you ask end users to learn new applications and work in a markedly different way, you make them uncomfortable and greatly reduce adoption, not to mention morale.

The problem with this typical approach is that there is no single technology platform or application that can meet all of the different communications needs of an enterprise, so the IT director cannot just do a standard RFP and then land on one vendor. A strategy is required, first and foremost, to guide companies towards a truly ‘unified’ communications solution that meets company goals.  The good news is that no one is forced to settle on one solution, forsaking “less important” features. In nearly all cases, successful UC implementations incorporate an integrated mix of components rather than one be-all-end-all, off-the-shelf system.

Check back here next week when I will discuss where you start when developing a UC strategy for your organization.


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Scott Kinka is Chief Technology Officer for Evolve IP. He has spent almost his entire career devising new and simpler ways for companies to acquire and integrate technology. While all of the tech talk these days is about the cloud, he was doing this when it was called ASP (application service provider) or on-demand. Before Scott joined Evolve IP as Chief Technology Officer, he served as Vice President of Network Services for Broadview Networks and ATX Communications. He has been involved in application development, hosting, messaging, networking, unified communications, contact centers, and security. His mission (and specialty) is acting as a translator between technology and business needs.