Unified communications: single or multi-vendor strategy?
The workplace is transforming, with unified communications (UC) becoming essential for most major firms. Globally, one in four devices used for work today is mobile with that number likely to grow, according to analyst firm Forrester Research.
As this mobilization increases, businesses employing unified communications are facing a dilemma. The more pragmatic approach of adopting “best of breed” for each component is not always possible; so is a single or multi-vendor strategy best?
Unified communications decision-making is often fragmented, with the IT department overseeing messaging and collaboration and the telecoms or general services department managing telephony. “This traditional approach can lead to a multi-vendor environment that needs integration for ease of use – a key requirement for any successful UC deployment,” says David Ball, UCC Product Management, Orange Business Services.
Ideally businesses would implement a single-vendor solution, appointing one governance board with responsibility for UC strategy. Ball says: “If the right vendor is selected, this should provide the best user experience and user adoption rate and do away with the need for complex and expensive integration between different systems.”
However, this is not always practical, Ball admits, and an enterprise adopting this strategy needs to be sure that it has chosen the right vendor.
Other factors, including existing systems, services, vendor relationships and contracts, must also be taken into account, and for large enterprises, the decision is not always straight-forward. “Most large enterprises are not green field start-ups and don’t have the luxury of just selecting the best solution available,” Ball points out. “The key driver for enterprise decision making should be the requirements of the business and users now and into the future, rather than the existing status quo in the enterprise.”
dealing with complexity
As a rule of thumb, says Ball, “the larger an enterprise, the less likely it will be able to immediately adopt a single vendor approach because of the complexity of the organization and existing solutions deployed.” Instead, a decision must be made whether to strategically target a single vendor or multiple-vendor strategy over the mid to long term.
In this situation, enterprises would be wise to use an external consultancy and expert in UC, such as vendor-agnostic Orange Business Services, to help identify and justify the best strategy. Firms should also consider using services not directly provided by the technology vendors to ensure users receive an appropriate UC service.
“The underlying infrastructure is also an important component in the overall success of a UC deployment, whether single or multiple vendors are used,” Ball adds. “Good network connections, LAN infrastructure and end-point equipment are needed to ensure an overall good user experience and user adoption.”
Newer trends, such as videoconferencing, also must be taken into account. According to Forrester, more than half of enterprise IT decision makers are implementing or expanding their desktop videoconferencing capability.
Firms can then look at steady migration. Orange provides a number of different solutions, including the option for an integrated consultancy and design, which is then given to the customer to manage, or a managed solution, which is remotely managed or hosted by Orange Business Services in its data centers. The fastest growing model is a cloud-based service, hosted by Orange Business Service on a per-user basis.
Whether a business’s unified communications centers around a single vendor or multiple-vendor strategy depends on its individual needs. However, those who appoint an outside expert will ultimately win, saving money and driving efficiency.
“Overall it’s really about identifying a strategy and understanding whether a single-vendor solution will work,” says Ball. “The logic is that single is better, as unified is better, but it is not always practical.”