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UC federation should actually unify -- When will that happen?

ORLANDO — Whether it’s the BYOD trend, or the idea of UC federation, one theme keeps jumping out at me as I sit in sessions at Enterprise Connect in Orlando this week — the increasing focus on the user experience (what a concept).

While it may not be the most important feature vendors focus on when creating or upgrading a unified communications platform or application, “user experience” is growing in vendor mindshare. Users are making it clear that they have devices (smartphones and tablets, namely) that they love and would like to leverage to get their work done, not just to play Angry Birds.

Along with BYOD, users are asking for ease-of-use when it comes to UC offerings. A.T. Kearney’s Kevin Rice mentioned that his own enterprise uses an internal UC platform with an interface that “looks like Facebook,” so it is easier and more familiar to users. It results in employees actually using the UC platform — which is the major critical success factor for UC.

Users are also asking for communication and collaboration capabilities to be better integrated into their workflows. Most employees already use email, instant messaging and intranet platforms every day, and that’s not even counting other social media tools like LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook. Who really wants to have to remember another password and sign into another application at work?

Analysts are stressing this “no more passwords” requirement from users, and vendors have listened, as well. But challenges lay ahead. UC is already a mixed vendor environment, and most companies have different vendors for voice, video and collaboration. Everybody admits that integration is a major unsolved issue.

An interoperable inter-vendor federation for UC is a realistic goal that a panel of speakers from Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, and Nextplane — led by Russell Bennett, principal analyst of UC insights — believe in.

While UC federation sounds like a great idea for enterprises, establishing trust between UC platforms is not something that is going to happen overnight, according to Albert Kooiman, senior product manager for Microsoft.

But Kooiman predicts that in the future, the idea of UC federation will be a thing of the past, as different companies will have the ability to work together seamlessly without dissimilar UC vendors standing in their way.

After all, isn’t it called unified communications for a reason?

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