Unified Communications: Boon or Boondoggle?
There's little doubt, even among the least technologically-savvy of business executives, that unified communications (UC) can produce clear and tangible benefit, complete with bottom line impact. Many of these managers often wonder, however, if these benefits will be worth the difficulty that may be involved in moving on.
The benefits may be clear, but there can be a lot of issues in making the move depending on the current environment. The move from currently-used, legacy tools and systems can be a difficult and costly move, and that may make the payback period in UC prohibitively long. One in six respondents were willing to admit as much, calling the legacy investment a big reason for not bringing in new UC systems, and almost one in three were looking to hold out until the legacy technology had achieved its fullest return on investment (ROI).
Fear is also a major component in resistance to making the move, cited for 26 percent of information technology (IT) decision makers and 39 percent of business decision makers in general who were either “somewhat” or “very” fearful about making the move. Almost half—48 percent—confessed that the full impact of UC on an organization wasn't really understood.
With fear and uncertainty two big reasons to not move, it's not surprising that Oysterman Research projected that UC users would go from 45 percent of respondents today to almost two-thirds—68 percent—in 2017. Fear and uncertainty would likely be replaced by completed legacy payback cycles, and a perception that businesses that didn't already have UC would end up behind a curve that favored those who did. This is a fact underscored by Skype's own progress in the field; in 2010, 42 percent of users surveyed believed Skype had a legitimate business use, a number that hit 55 percent in 2014.
Technology in general often goes through a period of skepticism and mistrust. It's not hard for those who remember the 2000s or even the 1990s to remember that the notion of telecommuting was often regarded as a sure path to widespread employee shirking of responsibility. Hooking companies up to the Internet itself was considered a fast way to lose productivity as employees spent days reading through reams of blonde jokes. Today, most of us can't imagine an office without Internet access, and telecommuting is increasingly commonplace. Unified communications will likely prove no different here; while it's not being universally adopted, it's gaining ground and in a big way.
UC is gaining popularity with every passing day, and with good reason. There's a lot to like about such tools, from the increased versatility and flexibility businesses can show with these tools to improved employee productivity. While fear and hesitation may be keeping some businesses out of the UC game right now, longing for the improvements that UC can provide is likely to overtake this fear, and soon.
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere