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ShoreTel 2013 Predictions: The Evolving Definition of Unified Communications

VMblog Predictions

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2013.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed article by Keith Nealon, division vice president with ShoreTel

The Evolving Definition of Unified Communications

Where is the cloud going in 2013 and beyond?

It's that time again when experts in all industries sit down and make predictions about what may happen in the next year.  I like to use it as an opportunity to reflect on how ideas have evolved and where that transformation might lead.  One area that has seen a considerable change in thinking, and for reasons beyond technology, is cloud-based unified communications. 

Like many others, two years ago our definition of UC was mostly about unified messaging and integrating email with the phone solution.  However, the world is rapidly changing and mobility, remote work and application integration have become far more important aspects of UC in general and drivers toward cloud-based UC. 

Today, I think of unified communications as an integrated combination of communication services that allows business customers to communicate internally and externally.  UC is about breaking down the barriers between your computer and your desktop or mobile phone. When communications are unified, you can start, continue and document a conversation from the device of your choice.  Mobility, the cloud and BYOD are not trends.  They are the new way that people work and any UC solution must allow business to embrace them while still maintaining corporate identity and control.  Everyone considering a unified communications solution should understand how the solution integrates mobile devices, remote workers and distributed offices.

Of course, many factors are causing customers and solutions providers alike to leverage cloud-technology to support communications for the way people work today.  One factor is scalability and on demand availability.   The flexibility of cloud architecture gives today's more agile business the ability to purchase and pay for only what is needed now, with the promise of being able to scale on demand to meet future needs.  Another key driver to the cloud is business continuity.  In today's highly competitive environment, many companies have determined that interruptions in normal business operations must be avoided at all cost.  The cloud model with multiple remote data centers and access from anywhere goes a long way to ensure business continuity and disaster recovery.  Hurricane Sandy served as a wake- up call for many organizations who lost access to their buildings and therefore, their communication infrastructure at exactly the time they needed it most.

Modern unified communications is also about unifying the communications tools, like the business phone system with business applications like CRM.  To get maximum value from any UC solution, it must be integrated with the applications, such as CRM, ERP and SFA that run the business.  The quality of this integration determines how thoroughly management and IT can understand the health of the business.  I suspect that in 2013 as businesses evaluate both unified communications and CRM like systems, integration will become an ever more key requirement.

The next phase of evolution will certainly involve data and business intelligence.  In an increasingly data driven world, users of unified communications technologies will expect it to do far more than mange voicemail and email. It must also provide valuable insight into the health of the business and drive better decisions.  New unified communications solutions will play a role in optimizing staffing levels, evaluating employee performance, analyzing marketing spend and understanding customer behavior.  Just like with mobile devices, it is not what your unified communications system does that makes it "smart," it's what it knows.

The time when unified communications was a nice-to-have cool technology tool has past.  Businesses are starting to see that, like every other technology investment, a cloud-based unified communications solution is strategic and should help contribute dollars to the bottom line.   Mobility support, integration, and intelligence are the keys to making this happen.


About the Author

Keith Nealon is a division vice president with ShoreTel, the leading provider of simple unified communications platforms, including business phone systems. He is a technology industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience in the software-as-a-service (SaaS) space.

Published Friday, December 14, 2012 6:47 AM by David Marshall
Evoulution defenition | Averimages - (Author's Link) - December 22, 2012 7:12 PM - Virtualization Technology News and Information for Everyone - (Author's Link) - January 15, 2013 7:00 AM

First, I'd like to personally thank everyone for being a valued member and reader of VMblog! Once again, with the help of each of you, VMblog has been able to remain one of the oldest and most successful virtualization and cloud news sites on the Web

Defination communication | Flopovos - (Author's Link) - March 4, 2013 9:07 PM
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