UC in the Enterprise: At a Crossroad

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Unified Communications (UC) adoption is up according to research analysts at IntelliCom Analytics. The need to replace old legacy systems appears to be at a tipping point for most organizations. That, coupled with the demand to take collaboration with the worker—wherever they go—is driving UC to the point of no return. Still, while enterprise is embracing UC, employees seem a little cold to the collaboration tools at their disposal. Conversely, while enterprises could do more to push UC, there is a digital divide when it comes to going all-in. UC is at a crossroad, but what are the issues?


Traditional telephony is a big part of the enterprise and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, however user adoption of desk phones is at an all time low and trending downward. Some analysts are even predicting a total extinction. Yet companies hang on to the traditional PBX based system as though they haven’t noticed the marked improvements to voice and video quality coming from VoIP based softphone clients and video collaboration applications. Times are changing and VoIP is on the upward trend in use and technology.

PBX vs. Mobile WINNER: Mobile

Millions of employees have been engaging in business on the go (BOGO) with the use of their smart phones while desk phones sit and collect dust. How do you properly support mobility and the emergent Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) marketplace? Some enterprises have gone about the business of making mobility a part of their business strategy and supplying employees with mobile phones (or paying for service) for business use. The advantage is that the enterprise gives IT control over the applications being used, and also knows the device adoption rates. This helps create an accurate view into usage, content, and expenses across the enterprise. Not to mention, the ability to collect data from the phones to ensure compliance with company policies or legal regulations.

Legacy Network Costs vs. Anything Current Network Costs WINNER: Anything Current Network Costs

The heavy investment in legacy systems at the time of their installment probably makes any company adopt the motto of “if it isn’t broke why fix it.” But the truth of the matter is that entry into the Unified Communications playground can be tailored to the size of the investment you can afford. The cloud offers infinite space without the purchase of servers; VoIP offers connectivity without having to buy a single costly trunk. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) exists in a way so as to eliminate any real energy output on behalf of the enterprise, and for that reason is invaluable. The virtual environment makes UC an option that can require minimal capital expenditure when done strategically.

The Old Way of Collaborating vs. The New Ways of Collaborating WINNER: TIED

While the savviest players on your team have easily switched from the desk phone to parlaying the newest collaboration tools such as Cisco Jabber IM and Microsoft Skype for Business into full-on communication modes, others are slower to digest the latest gadgetry. The digital divide not only exists for enterprises, but for employees as well. When an employee decides they will forgo the “new way” of doing things, it slows productivity for those who have embraced the technologies and are moving projects along with all the speed and ease of effort the new ways provide. It’s no secret that today’s collaboration tools are noted for their increase in employee communication and productivity, but getting everyone onboard is often a goal that is left out after the tools have been delivered. For that reason, some people won’t easily adapt, if ever.

The Crossroad

When the legacy technology first emerged, businesses knew the investment would be hefty but would also bring automation, i.e., convenience, efficiency, and repeatable results into the work environment. For those reasons the enterprise could get behind these new technologies at the time—anything to make the workplace more efficient and effective was deemed a worthy expense. After years of investment to maintain the old legacy systems, businesses can be reluctant to cut ties with equipment that has performed well but may be fading fast with lots of costs to upkeep and maintain. Disjointed applications that come from multiple vendors give some legacy systems the appearance of being held together with scotch tape. Companies that hesitate to jump on the UC bandwagon are effectively kicking the can down the road, and with the road rising up to meet UC, risk going the way of the dinosaur. Likewise, employees that are avoiding the new productivity tools in the enterprise are risking their relevance in the workplace. For both employees and the enterprise, the time to invest is now.

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Darlene Jackson is a published writer with many years of experience in digital publishing, advertising, and public relations. Her diverse assignments include stints with Chicago Public Media, The Chicago Tribune, and various print and online media and communication outlets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree at Northwestern University.

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