Caution urged in pursuit of unified comms sales

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Service providers and resellers should hedge their bets in deployment of unified comms, reckons analyst

Analyst Gartner advised service providers and business customers at Azzurri Communications’ CONNECT 2010 conference last month to hedge their bets at this formative stage in the development of unified communications.

Research director Steve Cramoysan (pictured) instructed delegates they should not rely on a single-vendor strategy in deployment of unified communications solutions as single vendors cannot yet fulfil their requirements.

Cramoysan suggested a single-vendor strategy might appear attractive to customers, and to resellers putting in solutions, on the grounds it simplifies supply. But he said such an approach is fraught with risk and could leave  businesses tied into longterm deals that do not allow manoeuvrability or development.

Cramoysan said: “Businesses try to move to a single vendor in order to control everything. The appeal for unified communications is quite strong – it’s a one-stop-shop, and clients know their vendors and know their technology is built to work together, and they know where to point the finger when things go wrong.

“But technology is evolving rapidly. It might be that, over time, a single vendor develops a roadmap and becomes quite good at issuing the tools businesses will need. At the same time, there are inevitably some emerging technologies and services that are just beyond their capabilities.

“In an area like unified communications and collaboration, which is getting broader and broader, it’s very difficult for all these vendors to be best-in-class in all areas.”

The point is businesses might be held back as advancements in technology are made by rival vendors and service providers.

“We’re in the midst of a 15-year transition – from something, at the moment, called ‘unified communications’ that I suspect will become redundant eventually as it will just be contemporary  ‘communications’. It’s difficult, therefore, to bet on the right vendor.

“It would be very easy to go for one now and later realise you’ve backed the wrong horse, and that the capabilities it can offer no longer match your requirements.”

Cramoysan advised businesses to spread supply across a number of vendors to come up with a bespoke and flexible solution, bringing specialists in also to pick up the slack currently not served by traditional telecoms suppliers.

“For the next five or six years at least, the best approach is to try and pick a few ‘anchor’ vendors for unified communications. Then pick a vendor that can give you adjacent capabilities, so you may want to consolidate some of your communication cloud functions to a couple of different vendors.

“You could then fill in the gaps with the specialists because they are usually better at particular functions than bigger vendors. It doesn’t mean a single-vendor strategy won’t work, but we are sceptical about it working for the majority.”

He also warned businesses about getting carried away by the promise of unified communications. “

You can’t come up with a huge business case and get each of these platforms upgraded and integrated, and have an all-singing and all-dancing solution. It requires small steps, not giant leaps. One of the riskiest projects is email migration because people don’t like changing email applications. It’s one of the hardest things to change because customers are used to dealing with the quirks of their existing service. It can cause a huge amount of disruption when changed.”

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