Unified Communications 10 years on
by Guillaume Privat, Director, Adobe Connect
10 years ago, Microsoft launched Office Live Communication Server and put Unified Communications on the radar for all IT organizations. Until then, Unified Communications had been used by traditional telecommunications vendors like Avaya, Cisco or Nortel to market their new IP PBX, but Microsoft with LCS really pushed it as a top agenda item for all CIOs.
10 years later, what has happened to the original Unified Communications vision? In a serie of blog posts, we will look at how Unified Communications has evolved from its original vision, how it has been adopted by customers and end-users and where it is going?
Let’s start by looking back at the promises offered by Unified Communications 10 years ago.
From a technology standpoint, Unified Communications was the convergence of voice, video and data communication services on a shared IP-based infrastructure. These services ranged from email and instant messaging to VoIP and video conferencing. Multiple factors made unified communications possible: the rise of MPLS networks which could handle multiple IP services on the same network and the introduction of a new communication protocol, much more flexible and extensible than traditional protocols defined by the ITU: the Session Initiation Protocol.
Many organizations had already deployed these technologies. But they have done so, across time, across different vendors, different standards, and different deployment models (on-premise vs as a service). This piecemeal approach resulted in multiple communications silos loosely connected. Each silo could run fairly deep from the back-end hardware to the end-user device: for example, some desktop IP-Phones worked exclusively with one IP-PBX running on a specific hardware. Each silo replicated similar functionalities: user directory, user profiles, calendaring and scheduling etc…
UC vendors promised to deliver all these functionalities integrated in one packaged application, promising to remove all the integration and multi-vendor management headaches.
From an end-user standpoint, UC promised to provide a central point to manage all their communications services and roam seamlessly across them. For example, as an end-user, you could view the presence of a co-worker, start an instant messaging session and escalate into a phone call, all with the click of a button.
Quickly, it became clear that these productivity improvements were fairly minor and did not justify by themselves the ROI for UC investments. Next ROI justification became “Communication Enabled Business Processes”. UC was seen as a way to remove latency in business processes and speed up the agility of an organization. For example, if a back office worker detected an error with an order, he could quickly get in touch with the sales rep to clarify the issue… providing the sales rep was on IM. It promised that everyone could be joined anytime, anywhere.
In the end, most of the ROI for UC investments came from the obsolescence of existing analog PBX, the ability to route traffic on IP network and save on communications costs or came from commercial bundles offered by vendors (ie purchase of related services included the UC stack for free).
Chime in ! Do you believe your organization has been able to get the benefit of the UC vision: One vendor for all communications services? All communications services working seamlessly with each other? Every employee reachable anywhere anytime?
10 years after, Adobe Unified Communications Proof of Concept