Business Opportunities in the UC Channel - Part 3

27 Mar 2012

This is the third of an eight-part weekly series of articles that leads up to the UC Summit 2012 that will take place May 6-9 in La Jolla, CA. See the UC Summit website for more details.

Last week we covered the opportunity for the Telecom sales channel to assist customers in UC Vendor Selection and thereby to become engaged at the start of the UC technology transition process that will ultimately lead to more business in later phases. This week we will be focusing on the planning of the migration and legacy integration strategy.

If there is one thing that is certain about a UC implementation, it is that it isn't a "flash cut;" that would be undesirable for all the obvious reasons. There may be a significant array of legacy communications infrastructure in place (e.g. PBXs and video conference suites) and a range of business continuity requirements. Furthermore, the sheer size and complexity of the organization may dictate the migration schedule.

A key input to the migration plan will be the vendor selection phase, which is why it is important to participate in that process. Some customers will opt for the UC solution of the existing PBX vendor; others will be consolidating onto one existing vendor, and the remainder will opt for a completely new vendor. Where an existing vendor is in the mix of UC technology to be deployed, then the migration plan will be somewhat simplified, since all PBX vendors have "seamless migration" as one of their key value propositions. However, a key question (discussed last week) for the vendor selection phase must be "How seamless is seamless?" It is likely that migration to a legacy vendor's UC technology will include PBX upgrades, which will be migration project phases in themselves. That being said, all migration projects essentially fall into one of two camps:

  • Phased migration - the movement of all users to UC technology and the retirement of legacy technology.
  • Legacy co-existence - the maintenance of some or all legacy infrastructure into the medium to long term and the integration of that with the UC system.

The phased migration project is most beneficial for customers whose business is the delivery of services and "knowledge work:" law firms, architects, software companies all immediately spring to mind. If everyone in the company has a PC and they do most of their work at their desk, the UC ROI model indicates that a full migration is required, since failing to retire legacy infrastructure means increasing communications maintenance costs, not reducing them. However, the initial planning meetings will turn up a range of functions sometimes supported by PBXs that you wouldn't expect and will need to be maintained after the migration: examples include elevator phones, card key door openers and even lawn sprinklers (yes, really). There are other ways to skin these cats and they shouldn't be used as excuses to keep expensive and otherwise obsolescent legacy infrastructure in place.

The coexistence strategy is indicated where the company is not made up of entirely of knowledge workers or where there are certain critical business functions that are not supported out of the box by the selected UC system. Good examples of the former type include manufacturing plants, retail branches and pretty much any other department for which telecommunications is not a key part of their hour-to-hour task. Obvious examples of the latter type include call centers and mobile workers who use two-way-radio as their key communications tool. However, vertical integration of these non-UC using groups represents another opportunity that probably goes beyond the initial UC implementation. Perhaps I will say more about that another day.

Whether the customer requires migration or coexistence, there are plenty of good solutions available, including third-party products that will facilitate the project. The best integration solutions are those that are certified by the UC vendor and have a predefined interface; conversely the worst are the ones where the third-party vendor leaves it up to you to implement the integration with a command line configuration interface and a user manual.

Whether you are powering down legacy systems or integrating them with UC systems, there is probably something to be learned here from rock-climbing: never give up a good hand or foot hold unless you have three good points of contact in the direction that you are going. Speaking of which, next week we are going to cover IP bandwidth planning and branch deployment strategy.

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