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Unified communications considerations for 2008

Andrew R. Hickey

Unified communications (UC), by many accounts, took a strong hold this year as several vendors, including Cisco, Microsoft and Siemens, revamped their VoIP message and began offering IP communications tools under one umbrella.

But if 2007 is to be considered the year that UC broke, then 2008 will be the year it becomes entrenched in the enterprise.

With that in mind, Siemens Communications has pulled together a list of the top 10 events that will affect UC next year. The predictions show that there will be a lot for companies to consider before moving forward with their UC spending plans in the coming year, but they also serve as a reminder that UC is here and is likely to stick around well beyond 2008.

According to Grace Tiscareno-Sato, senior global marketing manager with Siemens, the top 10 events companies need to be aware of are:

  1. More managed services providers will announce powerful, new, sophisticated UC offerings for small to midsized businesses and enterprises.
  2. More enterprises of all sizes will adopt UC as a hosted service, following the powerful Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) trend that is currently under way.
  3. Systems integrators will flock to integrate UC into existing business applications through either hosted or on-premise methods.
  4. Market-leading vendors in the UC space will showcase more customer deployments

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  1. as the adoption curve spikes upward.
  2. Organisations that deploy UC directly into business applications and workflows will reveal that they have achieved new competitive advantages.
  3. Organisations that offshore operations with UC implemented will reveal new levels of efficiencies and faster time to market.
  4. Financial services organisations will lead the charge in bringing UC into workflow processes, where every second of human latency is extremely expensive.
  5. Presence-based, multimodal UC to the mobile device will begin a fast adoption rate.
  6. Social networking sites will bring multimodal communications directly into their communities and content so members can begin collaborating with voice, IM and video.
  7. Application vendors and communications vendors will continue to strike new, innovative relationships, accelerating industry consolidation, but with a UC twist.

On the surface, each of the 10 events may appear innocuous, but when combined, they show a greater momentum in the emerging UC market and also illustrate that companies will begin to buy into UC as a communications and business enabling platform, Tiscareno-Sato said.

One of the biggest trends for UC in 2008 is that businesses of all sises will realise that they don't have to deploy UC all by themselves, she said. They can use hosted services or do a partial in-house and partial managed rollout. UC will be consumed as a service, reducing the burden on IT staffs to support new tools. That will also serve as a benefit to service providers, who will be able to offer packages to the enterprise.

"Next year is the year that unified communications begins the adoption it was meant to have," Tiscareno-Sato said, adding that it will be embedded into workflows and processes. She said that 2008 will also be a time when many companies, and some vendors, take a step back and begin to view UC as more of a process than a product.

"2007 has been a year of building awareness [about UC]," she said. "And that awareness has become confusion. When the dust settles, we will really see truly valuable and measurable improvements."