Why Telephony Should Not Influence Your UC Strategy

By Dave Mailer

INTRODUCTION

Even though the telecommunications industry has been promoting Unified Communications (UC) and now Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) for the best part of a decade, many businesses still rely upon telephony as their primary communication channel of choice. So, with the rise in the importance of collaboration, social media morphing into UC, and with the many UC false starts from the traditional telecommunication providers, organisations need a clear vision for their future UC requirements.

The objectives of this paper are to provide an insight into how a UC strategy should be developed with a particular focus on the relative influences of traditional telephony and emerging UC needs.

BACKGROUND

In developing the right strategy for your business you will be faced with a multitude of factors to consider. For example:

  • Telephony systems traditionally have long investment cycle 7 - 20 years!!
  • Traditional telephone handsets are proving to be remarkably persistent.
  • Usage of traditional telephony services is reducing. However, those services that remain are increasingly business critical.
  • UC software and applications are developing at an ever-increasing pace.
  • New entrants are focusing upon cloud based solutions.
  • Traditional providers are introducing new cloud based solutions that appear to be competing with their legacy UC solutions. E.g. Microsoft Yammer, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit etc.
  • User expectations are increasing as users benefit from free of charge consumer solutions.

These factors are resulting in an environment where traditional telephony and emerging UC are competing with each other to influence UC architectures and solution choices.

So; what role should telephony play in an enterprise organisations’ UC strategy? The competing influences are to either: let voice lead; which enables you to ensure that voice services remain robust and resilient but may constrain the development and take-up of new communications media; or to let UC lead; which embraces the opportunities associated with UC but may result in more traditional telephony services not being as robust and reliable as many users expect.

WHAT ARE YOUR STRATEGIC OPTIONS?

Today’s marketplace is complex, with many solutions and services from multiple suppliers. This white paper doesn’t set out to select or comment upon particular products or services. Rather, we consider the key question relating to the overall solution architectures available to enterprises.

The overall architecture will be influenced by whether a single solution is selected for all requirements (i.e. telephony and UC) or whether a mix and match/best of breed approach is more appropriate.

This paper identifies four broad architectural options:

  1. Fully integrated UC solution
  2. Separate solutions for telephony and UC
  3. A hybrid approach with solutions integrated at the desktop
  4. A hybrid approach comprising separate solutions for UC and non-UC users.

These options are summarised in the following sub-section.

Note: Decisions regarding the service delivery model (i.e. cloud or on-premise) are also key to UC Strategy decisions. This paper uses enterprise architectures for the purposes of comparing the broad strategic options. However, the key principles also apply to cloud based solutions.

1 – FULLY INTEGRATED UC SOLUTION

The primary opportunities and challenges associated with this architecture are:

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Single Solution
    • Simpler support
    • Lower cost
    • Reduced skillset required
  • Single desktop application
  • Better user experience
  • Fewer integration challenges

CHALLENGES

  • Investment cycles must align
  • Restricted solution choice
  • Compromise (between UC and voice)
  • Reduced BC / DR options
  • Upgrade complexity / risk
fully integrated

In summary, this architecture delivers an excellent user experience for UC users but may not deliver the robust and reliable telephony service that some users continue to require.

2 – TOTALLY SEPARATE APPROACH FOR TELEPHONY AND UC

This option is based upon separate solutions for telephony and UC communications needs. Users will consume one or both services dependent upon their individual needs. It is represented schematically below.

separate approach

The primary opportunities and challenges associated with this architecture are:

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Separate investment cycles
  • Best of Breed approach
  • Simplified solution for each requirement
  • Reduced risk
  • Greater BC / DR opportunities

CHALLENGES

  • Multiple solutions
    • Complex support
    • Greater cost
    • Greater skillset required
  • Poorer user experience
  • Multiple desktop clients
  • Multiple mobile clients
  • Overlap / duplication (e.g. voice conferencing)
  • No integration between solutions

In summary, this architecture secures the telephony service but does not deliver the level of integration that may be necessary for some users.

3 – HYBRID APPROACH (SOLUTIONS INTEGRATED AT THE USER INTERFACE DESKTOP)

This option is similar to option 2 above, with separate solutions for telephony and UC communications needs. Users will consume one or both services dependent upon their individual needs. However, the two solutions are integrated at the desktop. It is represented schematically below.

hybrid approach

The primary opportunities and challenges associated with this architecture are:

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Separate investment cycles
  • Best of Breed approach
  • Simplified solution for each requirement
  • Reduced risk
  • Greater BC / DR opportunities

CHALLENGES

  • Multiple solutions
    • Complex support
    • Greater cost
    • Greater skillset required
  • Desktop client compromise
  • Multiple mobile clients
  • Overlap / duplication (e.g. voice conferencing)
  • Full Integration benefits not realised?

In summary, this architecture both secures the legacy telephone service and delivers a degree of integration for UC customers. However, the integration is not universal and may be problematic to sustain.

4 - HYBRID APPROACH (SEPARATE VOICE SOLUTIONS FOR TELEPHONY AND UC USERS)

This option is also a hybrid approach. However, it comprises both a fully integrated telephony / UC solution (as in option 1) and a separate telephony only solution. Users will consume one of these services, which are not integrated, dependent upon their individual needs. It is represented schematically below.

hyprid approach separate

The primary opportunities and challenges associated with this architecture are:

OPPORTUNITIES

  • Improved user experience
  • Single desktop application
  • Single mobile application
  • Fewer integration challenges
  • Best of Breed approach

CHALLENGES

  • Multiple solutions
    • Complex support
    • Greater cost
    • Greater skillset required
  • Overlap / duplication

In summary, this architecture secures legacy telephony requirements and delivers fully functional UC for users that require it. However this is at the cost of operating two ‘competing’ solutions.

HOW SHOULD YOU DECIDE

The analysis above has identified four alternative strategic development pathways. None of these are inherently right or wrong. Rather, each enterprise organisation must adopt the strategy which is correct for them. There are a number of primary considerations that should be taken into account when taking this decision. In particular:

  • What is the capability and risk associated with current solutions?
  • What is the demand for new capability / solutions?
  • Will investment cycles within your enterprise influence the decision?
  • What user experience is required / demanded?
  • What are the potential benefits -and how do these align to business processes / transactions?
  • What is the cost profile and are all options affordable?
  • What service delivery model do you require?
  • What are the in-house support / training requirements?

The answers to these, and other questions that are more specific to your organisation, will influence your decision.

IN SUMMARY

It is clear that the future is Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC / UCC). The increasing availability of such capabilities in your users’ personal lives will drive demand in the workplace. However, that demand must be balanced by the demand for robust traditional telephony. In many organisations the legacy telephony requirement stifles UC development. There is no need for that to be the case. Rather, organisations should identify their UC development strategy and then consider how (if at all) telephony will influence the solution and timing (or not).

HOW CAN 4C HELP?

4C Strategies is an independent ICT consultancy with an 18 year track record in major telephony projects.

We’ve helped numerous NHS Trusts, Universities, Colleges, Councils and private sector companies to replace large mission critical telephony infrastructures with new systems and services. Our experience covers PBX systems, IP Telephony, Unified Communications, hosted telephony, data networking and video conferencing.

Our services include:

  • Position statement in respect of current telephony (and UC if applicable)
  • Business needs assessment for UC
  • Market assessment
  • Strategy development
  • Procurement support
  • Deployment and transformation
  • Realisation of benefits

HOW TO FIND OUT MORE?

For more information on 4C, and how we have helped our clients make the move to UC, please visit our web site at www.4c.co.uk.

To arrange a no obligation introductory visit from one our Principal Consultants, please contact Dave Mailer via:

Telephone 01858 438938

Mobile 07970 573427

Email dmailer@4c.co.uk

TERMINAL WAREHOUSE, UNION WHARF | MARKET HARBOROUGH | LEICESTERSHIRE | LE16 7UW

CONTACT
US