Pros and Cons of Unified Communications

The Devil Really Is in the Details

Tim Allen

Many IT professionals are overwhelmed by the proliferation of communications networks and devices being used by today’s enterprise employees: voice, video, Internet, mobile devices, email, text, and so on. Managing these various tools can be expensive and time consuming for resource-strapped IT departments.

That’s why more organizations are turning to Unified Communications (UC).

By merging multiple modes of communication and data sharing into a single IP-based infrastructure, UC offers powerful competitive advantages to organizations, making it easier and faster for employees, partners, and customers to exchange ideas and information, ask questions, participate in remote meetings, and access data.

While it has clear benefits, conversion to UC isn’t always smooth. Most of the problems encountered during the shift can be traced to staff resistance and interoperability issues. Below are the major pros and cons of Unified Communications.

Pros of Unified Communications

Boost Productivity

Imagine employees being able to access and share critical business information no matter where they are or what type of device they’re on – all while using a common interface. This flexibility not only makes employees more efficient, it makes them less frustrated. It also enables the business to be more agile overall, which in today’s digital/mobile economy translates into more revenue.

Save On Deployment Costs

Enterprises lacking a UC system have separate management tools for their voice, data, and video networks. This is both inefficient and a waste of money. Further, the extra time spent by IT managing separate networks – troubleshooting, scheduling maintenance, testing, etc. – could be spent on activities that grow the business.

Eliminate Information Siloes

By integrating real-time communication modes – such as voice and instant messaging with voicemail, email, and texts – UC makes it easier to access and deliver information when it’s needed.

Increase Transparency and Agility

Because it combines multiple communication modes into one interface, UC enables employees to see in real time which colleagues are available as well as how, be it email, DM, text, etc. If a conversation has to happen right now, it can.

Cons of Unified Communications

Foot-Draggers Who Diminish the Impact

Many employees will eagerly embrace a new UC system, recognizing the multiple ways one can help them do their jobs better. Others are used to routine and fear change. Overcoming resistance is one of the major barriers to a successful UC deployment.

Learning Curves

Even employees who eagerly embrace the concept of UC may have to learn new ways of doing their jobs. This will take time and initially be a drag on productivity.

UC Platforms and Services are an Investment

In addition to the up-front cost of UC solutions – which can be an issue for enterprises with tight IT budgets – there may be integration and ongoing management costs.

Interoperability Issues

Some UC systems are incompatible with some network hardware. If the UC system of your choice requires different hardware than what you currently have installed, the up-front cost of the deployment will go up. The alternatives are to settle for limited functionality or choose a UC platform to match your hardware. Both are self-defeating in the long run.

This white paper defines and certifies interoperability scenarios, delivers implementation guidelines, and recommends best practices for interoperability between UC products and existing communications and business applications.

Staff May Lack UC Expertise

As with many emerging enterprise IT technologies, UC skills are rare relative to market demand. This means another initial deployment expense in the form of hiring or training.

The benefits of UC are clear and compelling, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some stumbling blocks. IT must take the lead to ensure that the organization gets the UC system it needs and isn’t blindsided by unanticipated conversion expenses.

To do so, IT decision makers must work first with business executives and key stakeholders to determine the features and functionality needed from a UC, and then work with UC vendors to determine whether the solutions they’re offering match business needs and existing network assets.

For more information, read this white paper from Cisco Systems on Understanding the Total Cost of Unified Communications.