Key Trends in UC

27 Jun 2013

It has been a very busy Spring. I've attended Enterprise Connect, UC Summit, and AR events by ALU, Aastra, Avaya, SEN, and Mitel. Unfortunately, I could not attend CiscoLive, NEC Advantage, and WebRTCExpo due to conflicts. However, some clear themes are bubbling to the top.

When the vendors moved from TDM to VoIP and UC, each vendor's story was unique. ShoreTel pushed simplicity, Cisco video, Avaya SIP, Mitel virtualization, and so on. Today, each vendor still has nuanced angles, but many aspects of the bigger picture vision are aligning.

Here's a cheat sheet for talking points with your vendors to cut to the chase.

  • Video: Video continues its push migration from group settings to group and personal settings. The cost for quality video solutions is plummeting and rapidly becoming a core communications right. The UC video "vision" has three key components: the actual video infrastructure, the networking impacts, and channel implications. Most vendors support point-to-point, but be sure to inquire about mixing groups with personal solutions.

  • Mobility: It's a simple and innocent word, but represents a lot more than an app for a smartphone. It's about BYOD, security encryption of data, transparency of personal phone numbers, and control. Technically, it's the transparency of location, as in where a person is actually working becoming irrelevant. Consumerization and BYOD have largely converged in the space of mobility. Everyone can demo an iPad as an extension (does not impress any more). Most vendors offer the ability to move live calls between devices. The new areas of differentiation include contact center (agent and supervisor clients), video integrated into the clients, and single number support for SMS.

  • The Cloud: No UC vendor can talk for more than five minutes without referring to their "cloud" solution - but rarely are any of them talking about the same thing. There's public cloud which gets delivered directly and/or via third-party providers. There are private clouds which sometimes come on a disc and sometimes on a server, and then there are wholesale clouds sold to both carriers and resellers. Sometimes the cloud solution and the premises solution are the same, which offers potential toward future hybrid solutions (2014). Talk to vendors about scalability and flexibility.

  • Social Business: Social networking is the inverse of email. If you cc too many people on email, they get annoyed, and reply-alls are even more annoying. The inverse is just publicly post messages and let the receivers self filter. It's called social business and if you didn't get the memo, you didn't look in the right place. All the vendors are talking-up tight integration with social business, but most are currently limited to the contact center. I expect a lot of activity here in 2014.

  • WebRTC: Nothing perks-up an ear better than "WebRTC." As a result the UC vendors are happy to discuss it, though often in cryptic hushed tones. Most vendors will initially embrace it at the consumer end of the the contact center. WebRTC is not a technology the UC vendors can control, so most are cautiously embracing it. It will likely replace softphones, UC clients, and potentially even harsher disruption over time. It will drive down revenue, and could also impact margin. Fighting it won't help, but embracing it at this time doesn't make a lot of sense either.

Huge differences remain between vendors. I have my bets from a technology perspective, but the technical vision doesn't always win. What will matter the most in 2014 isn't the technology, but the overall experience.

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