Archive | June 2013

UC 2.0 an explanation of Unified Communications

As a recent joiner to Computacenter, it’s no secret I am no spring chicken. I have worked in this industry for close on thirty years so this has given me a great perspective on the changes we have seen take place.  When thinking back I can recall the Car Phone morphed into the Mobile Phone , and then into the Smart Phone.

The Web has gone through numerous phases of development, at the start of this century there was a lot of noise about Web 2.0 and what this meant for Web Services. Unified communications is no different , we really saw this technology  emerge in the early “noughties” and the big innovators were our colleagues at Cisco. They realized that being able to use the same network for both Voice and data  made sense. It took a number of years before what was called Call Manager became widely accepted but today we  recognise this as IP telephony (IPT) and we see this as industrial strength, mature and low risk solution.

Unified communications has  reached the second major phase it is development. We should call this “UC 2.0”. This type of multi-media UC emerged from about 2006/7 but really has only become more widely recognised in the last three years.  Microsoft were probably the first to move into  the second phase of UC development.   The same trend of increasing services and value is occurring, both Microsoft and Cisco recognise that the modern workplace can leverage a range of Collaborative services and this increasingly means in a mobile and remotely connected world.

“UC 2.0” offers Instant Messenger, Presence , Desktop Conferencing, Audio Conferencing , Unified In-Box,  Voice Telephony and Video Conferencing.  It can be accessed from anywhere where an internet connection can be made available. It still supports the traditional handset but many use a “soft phone”  – as it is so portable!  One key element is the ability to transition between these different media seamlessly, this is probably in my view one of the key ingredients of “UC 2.0”.

With further convergence of technology Smart Phones make excellent platforms for using UC, and both vendors support a wide range of devices.   We also see a convergence of traditional Telepresence and UC platforms.

This multi-media  world,  supports a  less hierarchical command and control style of organisation. Virtual teams can be quickly brought together, people can work from almost anywhere in the world companies can exchange a range of communications between each other securely, this  helps strong business partnership and enhance the business value chain.  At Computacenter many of our managed services customers can now contact us via Instant Messenger for example. As I said I like to refer to this as UC 2.0 , does this work for you?

Connecting tomorrow’s next generation workspace “today”- where do you start?

I was fortunate last week to visit one of our enterprise customers for an executive strategy session.

The customer invited a room of senior stakeholders to discuss and debate future ways of working and connecting next generation end user workspaces. Many questions were posed – what are the needs of tomorrows employee, what does tomorrows customer look like, who will the competitors be – how many of today’s major players will remain? Most importantly what changes are required, personal, cultural, professional, operational, technological and so on to take everything that makes the organisation great today and recalibrate it to ensure they are great tomorrow.

It is a pleasure to interface directly with business stakeholders discussing how their organisation needs to evolve to realise business success in the future. And you know it’s a mutually rewarding session when discussions pose new and radical questions that encourage all to rethink even the most robust personal viewpoints.

Understanding the “future way of working” or “tomorrows workplace”, spawned by evolving employee and customer behaviour seems to be top of the agenda of many organisations serious about winning in the corporate landscape of tomorrow. But where do you start, is the current BYOD euphoria a sneak preview of tomorrows mobile orientated, information rich, always on world or the late arrival of an activity organisations should have undertaken years ago.

And the wire “free” wireless network environment both public and private highlighted by many as one of the silver bullets of “next generation workspace” is also raising a few concerns. The consensus seems to be whilst performing admirably most of the time, many legacy wireless LANs are seriously compromised all too many times. Which positions a wireless LAN upgrade as the first “upgrade it now” post it note on the fridge of any thought leading CTO or CIO.

And who can forget end user devices, or is it operating systems or is it applications or even “apps”, and so on. Do we understand the end user behaviour enabled by this new mobile device wave that unlocks and enables different business outcomes – can the organisation harness it, maximise it, capitalise on it?

But now appears a real dilemma, “to be ready for the workspace tomorrow”, “where do you start today”. Is it wireless, is it devices, users, apps, BYOD – is it security, is it process / workflow change, is it all of the above and more ….. Or is it quite simply to “just start”.

Change starts with change and one of the hardest elements to embrace for even the most successful of the worlds species is the ode that the “skills and capabilities have got you here may not be enough to get you there”.

Future blogs will examine this topic further but organisations may want to consider the following as a minimum to ensure they obtain a connected environment essential to achieving “future workspace” success.

  • Local area access switch functionality and effectiveness (poe, onboard WLC,etc).
  • Device independent applications (HTML5 for example).
  • Wireless LAN coverage, reliability and performance.
  • End user wireless access and authentication, remediation.
  • Mobile device and application management (MDaAM)
  • Data loss prevention (DLP)
  • Wireless to core round trip optimisation (and internet back haul)

Getting today’s workplace centric organisation ready for tomorrow’s workspace centric ideal will be fun but hard. With that in mind senior level sponsorship and acknowledgement that change is not only essential but also now, is as good a place to start – and will ensure that you actually “start”.

Until next time

Colin

Twitter: @colinwccuk