Unified communications delayed by lack of knowledge, immaturity

Unified communications (UC) is still a confusing area for many respondents to a recent SearchVoIP.com survey, who cited the technologies' immaturity and the cost obstacles they face when considering UC solutions.

Unified communications (UC) deployments are sitting on the shelf because many companies are not yet up to speed on the market and the technologies that fall into it, according to SearchVoIP.com's recent VoIP and UC purchasing intentions survey.

The survey queried nearly 500 respondents in various roles within their organizations -- including IT/network/systems operations staff, mid-level IT managers, network engineers, consultants, telecommunications managers and other IT staff members -- about their plans for UC and VoIP.

According to the survey results, many respondents, 20.76%, have already invested in systems that perform the UC tasks their businesses require. However, many respondents were quick to point out the obstacles that are keeping them from deploying UC solutions. Topping the list was cost, which 20.16% cited as an inhibitor, followed by lack of a business case, 18.56.%; lack of information about UC options and benefits, 15.37%; product immaturity, 12.57%; and technical complexity, 12.57%.

But those obstacles aren't the only things hampering respondents' plans for a UC deployment. The survey found that 81.2% of respondents said they need to learn more about unified communications, while nearly 58% said they have a good understanding of the concept of unified messaging. Still, 58.1% of respondents said they do not have a solid understanding of the differences between unified messaging and unified communications. Regardless of the lack of knowledge of UC, the majority of respondents, 66.6%, noted that UC is not hype.

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Despite that, only 28.27% of respondents said they have a good idea of what UC is all about and that they are considering it for their enterprises, while nearly the same amount, 27.86%, said they've heard and read a lot about UC but are confused about what it really is and how it applies to their company. Another 22.6% said they have heard about unified communications but don't understand what it's all about; 13.1% said they know about it, but it's nothing they would work on in their position; and just over 8% said they've never heard of UC.

The survey results also illustrate that there is still a level of confusion about who within an organization is primarily responsible for supporting and managing UC deployments. Respondents were allowed to check all areas that apply, and many, nearly 50%, said general IT is responsible for UC, while just under 48% said network managers are in charge of it. Respondents also noted that telecom managers (41%), systems managers (26%), email server managers (20%), and desktop managers (15%) were charged with managing unified communications. Other roles responsible for UC include applications managers and mobile managers.

Confusion and challenges aside, respondents were quick to point out the benefits a UC deployment could bring to their organizations. Nearly 34% said UC can improve workforce access to applications and data anytime, anywhere; 23% said it will enable faster contact and communications among distributed and decentralized staff; 22% said it can improve their ability to communicate over various media, such as teleconferencing and videoconferencing solutions; and 18% said UC can improve customer response-time satisfaction.

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