Avaya Predicts Unified Communications Will Grow From The Bottom Up - InformationWeek

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5/14/2008
03:15 PM
Fredric Paul
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Avaya Predicts Unified Communications Will Grow From The Bottom Up

Most observers think of UC as a big enterprise technology that will eventually trickle down to small and midsize companies. But theres another possible approach: UC may be more likely to trickle up from consumer services into the business world.

Most observers think of UC as a big enterprise technology that will eventually trickle down to small and midsize companies. But theres another possible approach: UC may be more likely to trickle up from consumer services into the business world.Count Stuart C. Wells, Avaya Senior Vice President & President Global Communications Solutions, as one such believer.

IMG00052-StuartWells

Speaking from the company's posh Customer Briefing Center in downtown San Francisco, Wells employed his lilting Scottish accent and penchant for answering every question with an anecdote to paint a picture of a world where young business people raised on Google and iPhones demand Unified Communications capabilities in the workplace, whether corporate IT is ready to deliver it or not.

The corporate drivers for UC, Wells said, include employee productivity, customer satisfaction/retention, anytime/anywhere availability, and cost. Surprisingly, though, the business case often doesn't come first, Wells said.

Instead theres a groundswell coming up from the consumer space that is raising expectations that this technology will spread from the high-end to everyone. Thats happening with all kinds of technology, Wells said: You can buy a terabyte for $250! $250! And voice-recognition navigation used to be available only on pricey luxury cars, he added, but now you can get a more sophisticated Microsoft voice-command system in a Ford Focus!

(I think this came up because I was also given a live demo of Avayas UC integration of voice mail and email. It worked pretty well, though I didnt get try it myself. The advantage, according to Avaya, is that a busy salesperson might get 30-100 calls a day and would have to spend hours listening to them all on voice mail. Its much faster to scan via email to pick out the important ones. Of course, it was also pointed out that compliance issues can arise when you put voice mail on email  suddenly voice mail becomes discoverable for court proceedings. Yikes!)

But heres the real point. Actual customers dont care about the term unified communications at all, Wells said, no matter what features it offers. For them, its all just communications and they expect it to all just work together  like a good Google mashup. It should also take into account each persons unique set of applications, devices and needs, including factors such as: Name, Address, Role, Access/Permissions, and Location.

As I noted in a post from Interop (Why Users Hate IT), delivering consumer-class technology can pose an unwelcome challenge to IT departments. But at least Avaya says its trying to help. The key for UC adoption in SMBs, Wells said, is to minimize installation costs, and make it easy to manage  or better yet management-less. Not surprisingly, he added that Avaya offers UC capabilities that SMBS can use by the drink.

Ill drink to that.

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