Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) has the capacity to revolutionize project design and management, leaving the frequent flyer miles behind and allowing for better brainstorming and coordination among dispersed offices. By loosening the reins of geographic isolation, businesses are now free to tap into the world’s best talent without requiring a relocation.
As UCC continues to evolve, the entire IT infrastructure has had to adapt to new loads, security measures, and analytics. A successful UCC implementation will stay ahead of the IT demand curve, while continuously evaluating and adapting to the needs of its users. UCC will continue to gain traction in both small business and enterprise environments, tasking IT departments to take a hard look at the following issues in the coming year:
Unfortunately, UCC implementations often fail due to a lack of consideration for the network. Video, whiteboard, and other teleconferencing applications can create network loads that greatly exceed current capacity. Network saturation must be avoided as most UCC applications require a connection that is relatively free of latency and jitter. Accomplishing this can be so great a burden that a basic capacity expansion might not be enough. We may need to rethink the entire enterprise network.
In a curious twist of technological evolution, the monolithic all-purpose server is reappearing in an effort to control the network congestion created by collaboration and conferencing systems. For many enterprise scenarios, we can squeeze more performance out of limited bandwidth by converging information services, resulting in increased user uptake of UCC.
While the benefits of UCC have been well-established, it’s not always clear how or even if employees are utilizing collaboration systems. With careful profiling of user behavior, systems can be customized and training established to ensure the most widespread adoption.
For instance, the Cisco Unified Communications Manager logs most user activities, allowing admins to create reports that track user behavior and trends. This data can then be benchmarked against industry standards and applied to ROI reports to show tangible savings, such as reduced travel costs.
After we’ve recovered from acronym overload, it’s time to take a look at how employees are using their personal devices for collaboration (whether the IT department sanctions this usage or not.) This year we expect to see many employees embrace consumer apps for collaboration on their devices, either due to the slow adoption of UCC within their organizations, or the intuitive design of consumer apps such as Skype. This could mean an update to BYOD policies, increased vetting of consumer apps, as well as bandwidth and security improvements to the company VPN.
For organizations who require a more secure and integrated solution, it might be advantageous to migrate users to enterprise collaboration tools that adapt to a BYOD environment. Apps such as Cisco Jabber and Spark are available for Android and iDevices, allowing for better security, analytics, and administration compared to consumer-based products.
UCC Evolves to the Cloud
For an already over-tasked IT department, the question often arises as to whether it’s even feasible to implement Unified Communications without further straining resources. The cutting-edge trend toward Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) will help to alleviate the administration demand on IT departments. This is particularly important for smaller consulting businesses who lack the resources necessary to implement a complete on-premises UCC system.
Global Unified Collaboration
The next logical step in the evolution of UCC is to achieve global collaboration between organizations. Currently, this is a cumbersome process involving the establishment of external channels of communication while solving proprietary issues when businesses use different UCC software. Fortunately, UC Federation services such as NextPlane have emerged that act as a middle layer, allowing communication between previously incompatible systems.
However, it’s likely that this is only a temporary situation. The cutting-edge trend toward Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) will hopefully create opportunities for enterprises to interconnect their project teams with an ease that was never before possible.
One commonality among all of these trends is the reliance on efficient, secure, and smooth network performance. This dependence upon the network is so interwoven with Unified Communications that network bellwether Cisco has created their own UCC software and UCaaS services that can be managed and optimized in unison with the entire network.
The Cisco CCNP Collaboration certification helps to demonstrate that network pros are up to date on the integration of UCC systems into the business network. Training for this cert serves as an important first step in implementing a comprehensive UCC solution within the organization.
By preparing for the coming Unified Communication and Collaboration wave, IT leaders can ensure rapid user uptake of these new applications while the entire C-Suite celebrates the productivity gains.