I recently held a series of Unified Communications Readiness Workshops in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to provide our channel partners with the tools to break down a complex unified communications solution into something which can be easily characterised and understood.
A few months back while working with Microsoft I stumbled across a maturity framework which Microsoft called the BPIO Model otherwise known as the ‘Business Productivity Infrastructure Optimisation’ Model which is based upon Gartner’s Infrastructure Maturity Model, and MIT’s Architecture Maturity Model.
While similar to other infrastructure optimisation models, what I liked about Microsoft’s interpretation is how they applied it to unified communication.
I won’t go into the detail of the model here… which would take a minimum of two (2) hours to explain but essentially the model consists of four (4) vertical stages each of which represents enhanced levels of maturity as the organization transition from stage to stage.
Horizontally I have identified five (5) technology area’s which I have expanded further from Microsoft’s BPIO Model and which I feel form the foundations of a unified communications solutions include.
Collaborative Workspaces and Portals
IM & Presence
The benefit of the model is that it provides us with a framework to have a strategic discussion with our customers to evaluate what their current maturity level or which stage they are in and by using a consultative approach identify where the business would like to be by taking into account the direction and goals of the company.
By understanding the current state of the organisation and where they would like to be we are in a better position to recommend and implement a staged approach to getting them there. Or to develop a plan transitioning the customer through each maturity level in order to reach a level which provide maximum business benefits and cost savings to the organisation.
Unified Communications is a term which has been around for some time but often is the cause of confusion and misunderstanding.
I remember giving a presentation about the strategic position of IBM, Cisco and Microsoft where I focused specifically on the area’s where the vendors compete and more importantly where they collaborate. During the Q&A a hand went up and ask “..so which product should we lead with?”
Where do you go from here? The question could be answered on many different levels, but the important thing that this question highlighted was that unified communications can not be defined as a single product.
The challenge for all of us who are developing our unified communications practice is to stop thinking of solution in silos… instead the real value which we as sales people can offer our customers is the ability to develop a wider and deeper understanding of their current infrastructure which will undoubtedly consist of a multi-vendor environment.
By understanding the bigger picture of where each of the vendors are coming from in terms of the unified communications strategy and especially understanding where their products compete and compliment we are in a better position to recommend a unified communications solution that scales to meet the customers future needs.
What is Unified Communications (UC)?
Cisco defines Unified Communications as ‘…an architecture that connects people-people and people-applications… simply.’ Anonymous – Cisco
Anoop Gupta, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Unified Communications group defined Unified Communications as being ‘… personal and intuitive; centered around people and availability; allows users to be in control of communications on any device; is deeply integrated with business processes; leverages infrastructure customers already have; makes it simple to manage communications services; lower the costs; and is standard-based for interoperability.’
UC is often the course of great confusion. If you asked 10 different people to define UC you will get 10 different answers. For those of us who are working in this area the above definitions provide us with a bare bone definition for which we have to flesh out. I would suspect that a relative newcomer to the world of UC would find these definitions utterly useless. So let’s get the ball rolling. How would you define UC… I’ll start…
I use this definition to simplify the concept, applying it to the business case. Remember these guys don’t care about ‘speeds and feeds’. They want to know how this technology can increase productivity and provide their business with a competitive advantage.
UC can be defined as
‘…the office of the future where users are empowered to take control over how they communicate, providing access to the right information and the right person over any device or application the first time…’