Unified Comms. Is IT really the best owner?

By Ian Taylor: Head of Unified Communications, Telefónica UK

Unified communications raises mixed feelings. For some it is becoming the lifeblood of the digital enterprise, whilst for others, the potential for these investments to support the business enterprise is less apparent.  But whatever your view, the disconnect I still see on many occasions is a void between business operations and traditional ICT procurement.

Investment in UC is generally made for one of two reasons: either to minimise exposure to risk (for example, when an end of life telephony platform can no longer be effectively supported); or to support key organisational initiatives, most frequently centring on new ways of working.

As an example from my ‘day job’, here are two UC solutions developed and delivered to support key organisation initiatives.  The first, in Public Sector, saw UC introduced to support ‘decentralisation’ through a communications infrastructure which connects entire communities, giving local regions more collaborative power in deciding where and how local authority budgets are spent. The by-product of this is proving to be greater social inclusion and extended community reach.  It’s a great project.  The second, in the private sector, has seen latency across the supply chain significantly reduced through collaboration across an ecosystem of co-dependent partners and is another great project.

What’s interesting is that we can see very similar aims in both – both electing for new ways of working to drive efficiency and underwritten by the goal to reduce current ongoing (variable to fixed) operational costs.

But what is more interesting to me is that I still only see a handful of UC projects initiated, driven and heavily directed out of business operations. Instead the vast majority tend to largely be budgeted from and attributable to the  IT areas of organisations, primarily outlining a scope for dial tone refresh whilst looking to cut cost.

I do of course generalise, but it does seem to be IT that is introducing the majority of UC projects in isolation and, in most cases, there’s a focus on limited support for flexible working and cost savings.  Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that.  Skype for Business can significantly cut cost, and bring an end to upfront investment in old PBXs.

And I am not saying that UC projects shouldn’t originate in IT.  It’s just that, as a passionate advocate of UC, I’m hoping that we’re going to see a dramatic increase in requirements coming from more operational areas of the business.  Whether it’s by enabling flexible working to improve employees’ work life balance and supporting real estate consolidation savings, or ensuring better provision of customer service or even taking advantage of more first to market opportunities, UC is a game-changer.

The transformational nature of UC leads me to believe that initiating projects within teams, in a department or across a function can produce better business outcomes and leverage more from your UC investment.  Of course, a represented mix of IT and operations together is undoubtedly the best way forward, so if you’re not sitting in IT and are interested in UC then go talk to them about what it can do for your business.  If I can help at all, please just email me.