The organizational impact of unified communications has interested me for a few years, ever since I heard a couple network engineers at Interop joking about how useless and difficult traditional telecom engineers are. I’ve since heard those sentiments echoed, perhaps a little more politely, many times over the years. If network pros and telecom pros feel this way about each other, who are they going to work together when voice converges on IP networks?
At VoiceCon this week I attended a coffee talk roundtable discussion on the organizational impacts of unified communications to hear about what progress (or lack thereof) unified communications managers have made. Here are the two major problems I heard them discuss.
1. UC managers are still struggling with integrating their organizations. It’s not just about integrating telecom engineers into an IP networking team. One manager noted that video poses a new problem. The teams that support and maintain legacy videoconferencing technology in many companies report into the facilities management organization. That’s bound to present cultural problems during integration. Also, other organizations are starting to realize that voice is becoming “just another applications” on the network, and voice and UC is starting to integrate with critical business applications. This means that UC organizations need to start collaborating with the admins of those enterprise applications. One UC manager noted that unified messaging, with voicemail feeding into email inboxes, forces the telecom team to talk to the “Exchange guys.” Sounds awful!
2. Nimbleness is another major organizational challenge for UC managers. With enterprises bringing personal smartphones to work and using consumer services like Twitter and Google Voice, UC managers are struggling to provide comparable enterprise-grade communications and collaboration tools quickly enough. Users adopt the consumer tools they believe will help them do their job better as soon as they identify them. Unlike UC managers, end users don’t have to get budget for these consumer tools, go through an RFP process, nor integrate the tools into the UC environment. They just download the thing or sign up for it and start using it.
It probably won’t surprise you that no one came up with a panacea solution to these challenges during the session. It was more of an opportunity for UC managers to compare their organizational challenges with those with their peers. Hopefully the discussion will help them figure out the solutions on their own after they head home at the end of this week.