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Selecting the right UC consultant

Finding a UC consultant is not easy. Anyone can style himself a consultant, but the title itself does not reveal much, if anything, about what the person actually does. Is he just providing programming services, staff augmentation or technology consulting? UC has not been around that long, nor have there been that many implementations of a complete UC suite of functions and features. Most enterprises have implemented a piece such as unified messaging (UM) or some conferencing service or mobility solutions -- rarely the whole menu.

I spoke to my friend Marty Parker of Communication Perspectives -- a consultant with UC experience and a member of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC), a not-for-profit organization representing independent telecommunications and information technology consultants.

His comments on the qualifications for a UC consultant go beyond knowing technology. According to Marty, the technology knowledge and experience should include:

  • PBX features and functions
  • VoIP and IP telephony
  • Voice, video, Web and data conferencing
  • Instant messaging (IM)
  • Softphones
  • Call centers

The reason Marty's list is so comprehensive is that UC crosses several technological boundaries, and knowing one technology does not translate into knowing the others.

Another factor is the vendor landscape for UC products. There are several UC vendors and types:

  • Legacy PBX
  • IP PBX
  • Converged PBX
  • Third-party

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  • software
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Middleware

Each of these vendors offers one or more products of varying capabilities and calls itself a UC vendor. A UC consultant should be familiar with all of them because each enterprise's starting point for moving to UC differs with different incumbent vendors. The UC consultant should also be familiar with desktop software and technology such as Google, Yahoo, WebEx, Citrix, and so on.

The real difference in UC consulting is the consultant's understanding of business processes. UC delivers user productivity improvements. It is not a cheaper way of doing today's business, nor will it save on long-distance charges. The primary goal of UC is to make users more efficient in their use of time. The UC consultant should understand the business processes of the customer.

The UC consultant should be able to see how the customer's business works and offer changes through the use of UC that will promote a more competitive enterprise and eliminate delays in supporting internal operations and the enterprise's customer support. "Knowledge and experience with call centers is beneficial, since the call center productivity goals are the same as the goals of UC," Marty says. He believes that "UC systems will integrate with other enterprise applications such as SAP, Salesforce.com and Siebel products. Knowledge of these applications and how they would be used with UC is also important for the UC consultant."

UC services will be accessed through a Web portal, another piece of knowledge that a successful UC consultant needs. Many of the UC users will be mobile, with a range of devices: BlackBerrys, PDAs, laptops and cell phones. The operation and limitations of these mobile devices will enhance or limit the distribution of UC capabilities.

The UC consultant needs to understand that UC does not benefit all of the enterprise staff equally. Those less likely to benefit from UC are:

  • The stationary desk jockey.
  • Lower-level personnel.
  • Possibly a majority of the employees.

Those most likely to benefit from UC are:

  • Those who use the phone or messaging often.
  • Traveling and/or mobile users.
  • Executives, sales, call center, consultants, financial, team leaders/members, distributed work groups, and IT.

Not every communications consultant is a UC consultant. Finding consultants who are vendor neutral can be made easier by contacting the STC or the Canadian equivalent, the Canadian Telecommunications Consultants Association (CTCA). The vendors that are offering UC to the enterprises may have three to five consultants they would recommend. The STC was created in 1976 to provide a self-regulating body of more than 140 professional individuals. The STC's mission is to serve the telecommunications industry and its members through continued education and professional development, and through the sharing of expertise, networking and collaboration among consultant members.

The CTCA is Canada's professional association of independent telecommunications consultants. The CTCA has represented competent, knowledgeable, experienced and ethical telecommunications consulting since 1985.

Contact information: Society of Telecommunications Consultants
13275 State Hwy. 89
P.O. Box 70
Old Station, CA 96071

Email: stchdg@stcconsultants.org
Tel: (800) STC-7670 / (530) 335-7313
Fax: (530) 335-7360

An online directory of STC consultants is available here.

CTCA
160-2 County Court Blvd.,
Suite #179
Brampton, ON
L6W 4V1
Tel: 416-233-7946
admin@ctca.ca

The 65 CTCA consultant membership directory is available online here.

About the author:
Gary Audin, president of Delphi, Inc., has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security experience. He has planned, designed, specified, implemented and operated data, LAN and telephone networks.

This was first published in February 2008

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