As a technology and a business strategy, unified communications have been both over-hyped and undersold.
That’s the key message Duncan Potter, vice president for world marketing of VAD Westcon, wants to convey in his presentation on “UC: Myths vs. Reality” at the Channel Partners Expo in Las Vegas on Sunday.
“UC in general has been so overhyped, as if it will solve all the problems on the planet,” said Potter in a pre-show interview. “We’ve tried to get it down to some hard numbers.”
Those numbers include the fact that the average information worker receives 50 messages a day on seven different devices. “You might get that [number of devices] down to five,” added Potter, “but now they’re getting 70 messages.”
Translated into business terms, that means lost opportunity, lost productivity, and lost revenue. Put in those terms, the capabilities of unified communications to centralize and assemble those messages into a manageable workflow become meaningful to CEOs and CIOs.
That’s the challenge. It’s compounded, said Potter, by five prevalent misconceptions about unified communications.
1. It’s new technology. “It’s clearly not a brand new technology – some of this stuff has been around for 10 or 15 years,” remarked Potter. “To some extent providers are now wrapping a nice banner around these things that were not possible to integrate previously.’
2. It’s inherently risky. That’s a lingering perception from the state of the technology five or so years ago, claimed Potter. “We’re finding that people are struggling to catch up with the way the industry has evolved the last few years.”
3. It requires a total rip-and-replace. “You don’t have to nuke all your old stuff,” explained Potter. “Many of these customers already have the pieces needed to move forward with UC — they just don’t know it.”
4. It’s costly. “A pure IP UC system is a lot less expensive than a traditional TDM system.”
5. It’s complex and hard to justify.
That last item gets to the nub of the challenge for channel partners, particularly in a touch economy. If partners and value-added resellers attempt to sell large, full-replacement UC systems to companies trying to wring the last productive month out of their existing telephony tools, they’ll get nowhere.
“If you go in and say, ‘Well you need to upgrade all your stuff,’ the CIO will reply ‘No, get out, you’re wasting my time,’” Potter said. Instead, partners need to re-educate their customers, by saying, “Look, Mr. CIO, you’re still going to move in this direction eventually — what we can do as a reseller is come in, supplement your existing team where you’ve probably had to cut back, and take a look at your systems for smaller incremental changes needed to move the whole piece forward.”
Explaining unified communications in a way that makes clear the immediate, business benefits will help grab the attention of CIOs — and will help customers survive the hard times and prosper in the recovery.
“Coming out of the recession, as the recovery gets underway, we expect to see very aggressive growth in this space,” concluded Potter.