Unified Communications Featured Article

Best of Breed or Best of Suite for Unified Communications?

December 29, 2008

Now that we understand what Unified Communications is - “Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes” according to my colleagues at UCStrategies.com  - and most of the vendors have launched their initial (and some second and third) offers, users are beginning to think about how they might choose to deploy these solutions. And that brings us back to the future - to the dilemma facing IT departments almost since the beginning. Should one deploy the “Best of Breed” or the “Best of Suite”?

As IT matured, became both more valuable and more complicated, users and vendors applied two distinct selection and deployment strategies:
Always deploy clearly the best application for the individual task – the application that is “Best of Breed” – the best billing, or ERP or CRM or …
Always deploy the application that fit into the overall software platform architecture that had been chosen – the “Best of Suite”.
So, how does “Best of” play in UC vendor selections? There are several … I’ll touch on but a few here, more to follow in future columns. 
First, UC is comprised of several capabilities – Call Control, Messaging (multi-modal), Conferencing (voice, Web, video), Mobility, Contact Center (multi-modal), CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes) – all empowered via Presence. While several vendors offer “complete” UC solution suites, it is unlikely that an objective evaluation would select any one vendor as offering the “Best of Breed” solution for each of the individual UC elements. So, how should an Enterprise make selection decisions?
Second, most enterprises have already chosen and deployed several of these applications, perhaps on a standalone basis – likely over several distinct purchases over several different procurement/ depreciation cycles and across different IT-responsibilities. And the overall enterprise likely acquired these individual solutions from multiple vendors across multiple divisions (or acquisitions). Now, the enterprise may be thinking about how to implement an Enterprise-wide UC Strategy. Given the diversity of the embedded base, a “Best of Suite” solution from a single vendor is not likely to be easily accomplished.
So, as an initial step, it seems that interoperability of the existing standalone applications needs to become a requirement that Enterprise IT organizations should be driving their existing vendors and Systems Integrators to elevate to a priority. Without such interoperability, building a roadmap of either a “Best of Breed” or a “Best of Suite” will be very difficult, if not impossible. And deploying against the roadmap is likely at least an order of magnitude even more difficult. 

David Yedwab, a technology marketing industry veteran with more than 25 years experience providing business strategy advice to major tech firms, writes the Thinking It Through column for unified communications. To read more of David�s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart

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