Unified Communications Featured Article

Polycom's Co-Founder Shares Keen Insight into Benefits of UC


April 23, 2010

Unified Communications as a strategic platform, is gaining in importance within the enterprise as decision makers are recognizing the demand for integrating different communication channels and methods into standard business practices to drive performance.

This unified framework helps to streamline all communications, allowing for one vendor to take the lead on implementation and management.

To provide an overview of UC and how it can benefit companies of all sizes, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently spoke with Jeff Rodman, co-founder and chief technology officer of Polycom, a key player in the UC space.  

Rodman provides keen insight into how UC can help with technology simplification, especially considering the volume of communication channels necessary to drive collaboration. He also explains the mobility benefits of UC, as well as the architecture necessary to allow VoIP to co-exist with UC.

In addition, Rodman touched on the importance of video in the UC system, especially in this globally dispersed marketplace.

UC continues to provide key alternatives to high cost travel, which has a positive impact on a company's bottom line. As for the future of the UC market, much could depend upon the level of involvement the government will choose to have going forward.

The level of competition in the UC market will also only grow as vendors leverage open standards and facilitate interoperability and transparency, keeping the landscape open for the best and most innovative solutions.

Read below for the full interview, portions of which are being used in an article on the benefits of UC that's appearing today in The Chicago Tribune

How does UC help with vendor simplification?

UC is about using a single, unified framework to bring together the variety of services used for communication today.  One immediate benefit of this is that one vendor is typically selected to take the lead position in providing that overall structure or framework.  Because this vendor then takes the mantle of "coordinator," assuring that the different elements of that UC implementation, such as presence, IM, directory services, e-mail, voice, video and telepresence, etc., all work together seamlessly, the jobs of the user and installer are simplified substantially.  

How does UC help with technology simplification?

UC allows an organization to focus on defining and addressing their needs at a higher, more strategic level.  One way of looking at this is by comparison to how office suites have developed.  I'm sure you can remember when we had to get our spreadsheet program from one vendor, word processor from another, presentation package from yet another.  In those days, if we wanted to move information from one program to another, we often had to re-type it because the different kinds of programs had no idea that each other existed.  But as they matured, they grew able to understand one another, so that we can now paste photographs into document files, or spreadsheets into our presentations, and this trend has moved beyond traditional office communications into social media to help streamline our communications and enable us to be more productive.  

The same move is underway now in this new arena of business collaboration, blending another broad set of disparate functions so they can work smoothly and seamlessly together - for example, determining a colleague's presence, initiating an IM session and then escalating to a voice or video call.   Really, this unified view is the way we've always thought of them in our own minds.  It's just taken some time for industries, which have viewed themselves as separate industries, to realize that they all need to see themselves as the same industry, and combine their capabilities in a smart, natural way.

What are the UC Mobility benefits?

The mobile environment gets one of the fastest paybacks from UC because you don't have a lot of buttons, you're short on time, and you can't afford to scroll through a lot of screens.  You can't be cutting and pasting, or switching among programs to find someone's alternate phone number and try to link them into an ongoing conference.  This is one place where UC really shines - for people who spend a lot of their time in the "mobilesphere" and really need simple, powerful, and highly efficient ways to communicate.

Give us a successful UC deployment example?

You've heard us talk a lot this year about the Polycom Open Collaboration Network, which is our close alignment with leading communications platform providers to deliver tightly integrated UC solutions, and our partners include Avaya, BroadSoft, Juniper Networks, IBM, Microsoft, and Siemens. Our goal is to provide our customers with open, integrated collaboration networks that our customers with flexibility and investment protection as they expand their UC networks. Polycom voice and video solutions are an important part of all our customers UC networks, and you can find some really great case studies on our website at www.polycom.com/customers.

How does VoIP coexist with UC?

UC aims at improving productivity and enhancing communications. In a sense, the UC architecture provides the framework that ensures different services work together, and VoIP is one of the most essential services of the bunch.  UC also simplifies the inclusion of HD Voice, or high-fidelity business audio.  Already a component of a lot of VoIP systems, companies can leverage their UC platform by adding HD Voice to the network, allowing for greater intelligibility and lower "phone fatigue" than ever before.

How important is video in a UC system?

Video is becoming an increasingly important part of communications and collaboration, especially in globally dispersed organizations. Because many organizations are working across distances, while at the same time slashing their travel budgets, they're now seeing video as an absolute requirement - it's cheap enough, its performance meets their highest expectations - especially now that immersive conferencing and HD Video are easily available - so it's common to find video in the "must-have" column. While not yet as ubiquitous as voice communications today, both voice and video are essential facets of a transparent person-to-person connection, and UC makes the connection automatic.
 
Is the term UC overused?

I think there's been a bit of "UC fatigue" just because it wasn't well understood for a while, or sometimes used to describe slightly different things or incomplete solutions.  But when we understand that we're talking about UC, Unified Communications, as a framework that unifies all the ways that people find and communicate with one another, it's rather an elegant expression.  

How will the government/FCC affect the UC market?

Right now, it's not obvious what role the government will choose to play in regulating UC. That said, it is important that UC systems and services are designed with this in mind, meaning vendors need to leverage open standards and facilitate interoperability and transparency.  In this way, the competitive landscape remains open for the best and most innovative solutions, and customers are not handicapped by having the pricing and performance of critical tools under the domination of a small number of powerful, often inflexible, companies.  For this reason, a continued emphasis on open standards, rather than proprietary ones, plays an important role in investment protection.  
 
How does UC help in this economy?

Everywhere you look, companies are clamping down on travel.  It's a big expense, and slashing travel can yield up a big cost savings.  But cutting travel can also impact productivity, and so business needs a way to continue providing the benefits of travel, without its costs.  UC gives them this alternative, by enabling simple, transparent, instant communications among organizations. The economy is forcing companies around the globe to give tools like video/telepresence a chance, but what's happening is that once they've realized the advantages of UC and telepresence over travel - no TSA lines, overnight hotels, taxi rides and all the rest - they actually pick video-enabled UC when given an open choice.  It's a potent new source of leverage for businesses in any economy.  


Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for unified communications and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi




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