When organizational politics dictate the Cisco vs. Microsoft decision

The Cisco vs. Microsoft decision doesn’t always come down to features and cost. Sometimes, organizational politics come into play.

Las Vegas -- It's the age-old unified communications question: Cisco or Microsoft? Because both are leaders in their own right, the decision between the two market heavyweights doesn't always boil down to cost and product feature set. Sometimes organizational politics and business requirements dictate the vendor. Sometimes the business doesn't have to choose between the two vendors at all.

At a panel at Interop 2015, Brent Kelly, principal analyst for KelCor Inc., said 60% of enterprises are using Microsoft for at least part of their unified communications (UC) strategy -- most often, instant messaging and presence -- and 75% have a Cisco data network deployment. Between 25 to 30% use Cisco for telephony, while 21% of enterprises have both Cisco voice and Microsoft Lync (now called Skype for Business) and are wondering if they should ultimately pick a side. 

Some businesses harbor separate Cisco and Microsoft camps, which makes getting on the same page with one solution a challenge, Kelly said. While Cisco resides in the network and PBX world, Microsoft comes from the server and software world. Different lines of business and even members of the same IT team sometimes fight for different vendors, based on their own background.

"You have people butting heads that are well-meaning, articulate and will feel disenfranchised if you go a different way," Kelly said.  

The human element of technology roll-outs 

Personal productivity must trump costs. Unhappy users will hinder adoption. "People costs could be 40 to 60% of your [total cost of ownership] over a lifetime with a system," Kelly said. Talking with users and different lines of business within the organization is critical to uncovering UC use cases and requirements.

After communication with users, IT should consider their in-house expertise. "Are you more of a Cisco shop? That fact may lead you one way or another," he said. For a UC deployment to be successful, business stakeholders need to be involved and committed to the outcome, Kelly said.

When one vendor just won't cut it

For some organizations, choosing between Cisco and Microsoft for UC is akin to choosing between their children. But coexistence is possible.

Kelly suggested that, instead of using unique requirements within their business to rule out a vendor, consider these needs as a reason to have both. Perhaps a contact center that needs specific telephony services needs Cisco, while the rest of the departments within the organization can use Microsoft for instant messaging.

Even in a multivendor scenario, it's likely that one vendor will still have the majority share. Businesses should determine if they have "the 70% solution," a vendor that could fulfill most of their needs, while still tapping another vendor for one feature or for one group of users, Kelly said.

"Your organization might need multiple providers. … Frankly, I don't know any large organization that completely abandoned their Cisco PBXs in favor of Lync," he said.  

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, senior news writer and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter. 

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