Opinion Piece: Leveraging full value from Unified Communications and Collaboration solutions


Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) has become an increasingly popular solution, particularly for organisations with remote branches or a large number of mobile workers. In South Africa, the ever-increasing availability and affordability of high-speed bandwidth has made UC&C a viable option, and many businesses of all sizes are examining the possibility of adopting this technology. While a multi-vendor approach has been typical to many ICT solutions in the past, in order to avoid potential issues with UC&C, more and more organisations are turning to end-to-end solutions from a single vendor to ease this process. Regardless of which approach is taken, a number of factors need to be considered to ensure full value can be leveraged from an investment UC&C, including existing infrastructure, interoperability, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return On Investment (ROI), as well as ease of use and scalability.

Communication is central to the success of any business, and UC&C offers organisations a number of benefits, including improved collaboration, communication and productivity, as well as enhanced efficiency and cost saving ability. By converging IP telephony with collaboration tools such as presence and instant messaging, as well as integrating with business processes and back-end solutions such as email, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and directory services, organisations are able to gain seamless communication across channels. IP-based services also enable workers outside of the central office to leverage the full suite of tools available, which means that mobile and branch-based employees are all integrated onto the same communications network. With presence, these distributed staff members are easily identified as available on their media of choice. All connected workers can make use of voice, video, messaging and collaboration to work together and enhance productivity and efficiency, amongst other advantages.

The benefits of UC&C have become clear with an increase in uptake, especially when considering a complete ‘rip and replace’ approach is not always necessary. In order to incorporate this technology into their business, many organisations are able to leverage existing PBX investments by building the UC&C architecture on top of this. However, UC&C solutions are about more than just software – they require additional hardware as well.

Traditional IT approaches advocate multi-vendor environments, to avoid ‘putting all of your eggs in one basket’ as it were. When it comes to UC&C, however, this approach is not always the most desirable solution. Since seamless communication across channels is the ultimate goal of UC&C, and the one upon which the majority of its benefits rest, any lack of interoperability will pose a major challenge. More than often, a single seamless vendor solution with hardware and software is that is optimised will deliver enhanced functionality. This can have a negative impact on productivity, as the ability to communicate effectively is critical in distributed and mobile working environments. Furthermore, in a multi-vendor environment, fault finding can become tricky.

An end-to-end solution from a single vendor, including the software and the hardware for a UC&C deployment, can assist organisations to leverage full value from their investment. The most obvious benefit is that organisations are able to approach a single vendor for the whole solution, saving time and money in the investigative process. In addition, organisations are assured that the different components of the system have been optimised and engineered to work seamlessly together, and customers have a single point of contact with guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) to minimise downtime. A consistent interface across the board ensures ease of use, which will maximise user adoption of the solution, critical for gaining ROI.

Regardless of the method chosen to deploy UC&C, interoperability is a critical factor. If the solution is required to work with existing systems and infrastructure, its ability to interoperate and integrate is of the utmost importance. This enables organisations to leverage existing investment and migrate to an end-to-end single-vendor solution over time, maximising returns. Without integration and compatibility with existing infrastructure, functionality will be compromised.

UC&C is gaining traction as a technology that can potentially deliver enormous benefit to organisations of all sizes. However, when it comes to implementing such a system, the ability of all parts of the solution to work together is essential. An end-to-end solution from a single vendor, which allows for interoperability with legacy infrastructure and which ensures seamless integration, will enable organisations to leverage the benefits of UC&C without the challenges and issues of a piecemeal multi-vendor approach.  


Photo Caption:  Zubair Loonat, Huawei Enterprise Product Manager at Drive Control Corporation.