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UC collaboration tools: greater simplicity needed for IT, end users

UC collaboration products must offer ease-of-use for IT and end users. With that goal in mind, Mitel updates its UC collaboration suite.

When integrating unified communications (UC) collaboration into the workflow of an enterprise, make it easy or it won’t take off. The bottom line is that end users won’t embrace UC collaboration tools unless the interface is user-friendly and familiar, regardless of the device it has been deployed on.

The product must also be easy for the IT organization to implement and manage. Any complexity on the IT side may well translate to additional user roadblocks. A mixed vendor environment for each aspect of UC—including voice, video conferencing and instant messaging —can be a UC integration management nightmare for IT. It can also slow UC adoption among employees, as different UC clients can require further training and more work.

“There are a number of barriers to gaining value from any UC platform,” said Bill Haskins, senior analyst for Wainhouse Research. Many projects can fail when the IT department and the vendor focus “on what the technology can offer rather than what users actually need from a communications and collaboration standpoint.”

Many projects can fail when the IT department and the vendor focus “on what the technology can offer rather than what users actually need from a communications and collaboration standpoint.”

Bill Haskins, senior analyst for Wainhouse Research

UC collaboration: Vendors must consider mobility

UC technology vendor Mitel recently announced a new version of its UC collaboration product line, Mitel Applications Suite 4.0 (MAS 4.0). The updated version comes equipped with added collaboration and mobile UC features that require no additional client downloads from the end user and secure messaging and presence capabilities for Android and Blackberry devices.

The web-based collaboration portal -- Mitel Collaboration Advanced – has a new interface and can be accessed via a mobile web browser. “The collaboration portal is easier for the end user,” said Wendy Moore-Bayley, director of solutions marketing for Mitel. “The user can attend conferencing sessions from any device with a browser,” she said.

The ability to conduct video conferencing without downloading a client is an important feature, as many users are unable to download clients onto their desktops due to restrictions put in place by enterprises, said Dave Michels, CEO of TalkingPointz Research.

The Freedom Architecture on which the platform is built keeps BYOD in mind, Moore-Bayley said. From a mobility standpoint, MAS 4.0 can extend communications from the desktop to mobile devices by providing secure instant messaging and real-time presence on an employee’s Android or Blackberry, and soon on Apple iOS, she noted.

Vendors must learn where and how users are accessing UC collaboration tools, said Wainhouse’s Haskins. “Since 2011, there has been a huge shift in joining conferences from the desk phone, to a PC or mobile device,” he said. “Vendors must anticipate this change going forward.”

Business training company SkillPath Seminars installed three Mitel Communications Director (MCD) 3300 hardware PBXs for call management, as well as the applications suite for remote workers, three years ago. The company will be deploying MAS 4.0 for collaboration in early April.

“[SkillPath] never had anything in place for collaboration, and we are really looking forward to the real-time presence information that MAS 4.0 will provide for our workers,” Jason Spainhour, Director of Information Systems at SkillPath said.

For IT, being able to tie everything into one management console is important, he said. “Before, we had five different servers we had to go to for separate functions. With this product, we can pick and choose the UC and collaboration options we want to provision for each user. It really has a lot of potential to lower costs and be more efficient overall.”

More on UC collaboration and virtualization:

Mobile UC on virtual desktops

Cloud providers offering mobile collaboration apps

Avaya introduces mobile UC app for iPad

Reducing the UC collaboration learning curve: A must for enterprises

UC managers will benefit from simplified administration of the platform, as MAS 4.0 can be managed as a virtual application from a single interface and scales to 1,500 users.

 “The ongoing virtualization strategy for UC is significant,” Michels said. “A key thing Mitel has is created is the ability to run a call center agent on a virtualized desktop – they are the only ones that can do that in this space right now.”

Like Mitel, other vendors are looking to provide collaboration solutions that don’t require an administrative account or overcoming permission levels in order to reduce the learning curve for UC collaboration adoption, Wainhouse’s Haskins said.

Organizational fit is a big factor that vendors must be aware of, Haskins said. “Vendors are trying to fold their solutions into the workflow of the enterprise,” he said. “[UC vendors] are working to provide common interfaces that match what the employee is used to using, as well as using common technologies that IT is used to using.”

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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