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Are legacy voice attitudes holding back unified communications?

At Enterprise Connect 2013, some enterprises are still trying to merge legacy voice into the rest of their IT organizations.

ORLANDO -- Just when I thought it was safe to combine "social collaboration" with "unified communications," I find that IP telephony and UC remain very bifurcated.  Robin Gareiss, founder of Nemertes Research, made that clear when she presented IP telephony (IPT) and UC deployment statistics during her "Building a UC business case" session at Enterprise Connect 2013. Those statistics revealed just 38% of today's enterprises have multiple UC apps (IM, video, conferencing) integrated from a single vendor.

Unified communications (UC) has long promised that all modes of communications and collaboration can integrate for a seamless user experience. Gareiss' stats show that telephony continues to be deployed and managed separately from other UC applications. Perhaps because it's a legacy technology run by legacy voice teams. 

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Organizations with traditional PBXs have voice telecom teams that are focused on implementing voice and voice only. Heck, we're lucky to even have them talking about deploying voice over IP.

The companies that believe IPT and UC are separate initiatives are the ones who are replacing legacy voice technology that has finally reached end of life, Gareiss explained. "The organizations with an IP PBX still see voice as something separate… they're two different animals," she said.

At the same time, vendors are struggling with who their customers are. As companies migrate voice onto their IP networks, vendors aren't sure who they should sell to: the telecom or network teams? Who owns what? PBX vendors still aggressively target telecom teams, but those are dwindling along with the market for the legacy voice equipment as even enterprises move to all-IP VoIP systems.

How can IPT become one with UC? Gareiss suggests that until every legacy PBX has been phased out, we won't start seeing IPT as a component of UC. Microsoft has been a huge advocate for combining IPT and UC as one item. SMBs have been quick to adopt the "IPT is just another communication under UC" mantra. But enterprises with old systems in place will have a harder time realizing that the telecom and network divisions must co-exist and even merge. 

Until we see both a push from vendors and organizations to put the two together, we won't see that big beautiful, ubiquitous, integrated UC bird in the sky.

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