The Long and Winding Road: “Unified” Communications

Then there are the security issues, said security analyst Richard Stiennon of IT Harvest: “You can secure the communications but most (companies) don’t. So it is possible now, if you’ve unified your data and your communication network, then anyone in the building can—there’s some tools that make it easy— snip the wire and listen to your phone conversation.”

You can also do this remotely just as easily by email and a Trojan Horse designed specifically to target the phone system. But, this is also a threat with VoIP and, so far, one that is way down on the “things to watch out for” index. With so few UC deployments out there and the proprietary nature of those deployments, no one is writing mass malware to go after UC—yet.

It’s like the Apple computer syndrome: Apple users love to brag about how secure their computers are, but what many Apple users fail to realize is since Apple is only about five percent of the market, no one bothers to write code attacking them. UC, for now, is in the same boat. But, as more UC installs come online, and they will—aging corporate communications infrastructures almost guarantee it—security will become more of an issue.

Overseas, many once backward economies are now leap-froging U.S. firms by going from completely outdated technology directly to IP-based communications systems and UC. This will inevitably drive up installs and, therefore, the potential for attacks.

Culture Club

Once you get through all of the technical stuff then you have to move on to things like why you want UC, who is going to use it, why they are going use it, etc.; all of the organizational/cultural/”why do they have it and I don’t” issue that come with any system wide initiative like UC.

These can be the most vexing issues of all (provided you legacy system will work with the UC system and your old voicemail system is capable as well).

If you work in financial services, for example, then you can’t get calls on your cell phone, it’s against regulations. Also, most employers don’t want most of their employees to have business conversations on their cell phones, which, for the most part, the company doesn’t even provide. “So, what you end up with is this great variety of people on different networks,” said Cisco’s Thompson.

But, therein also lies the value proposition: “What (Cisco) would rather do is have people work on the device that is most appropriate for their jobs. To carry the traffic over the corporate network where possible because it is cheaper and not have to let he caller worry about how to reach the person or have the employee have to worry about which device is the right device to use at a point in time.”

A tall order to be sure, but, like many technologies before it, if you can make the promise of UC pay off then the benefits are there. But, it seems, UC ranks right up there with CRM, ERP or SOA when it comes to level of difficulty even though it sounds so straight forward.

“It’s productivity in both cases but one is productivity that is going to be focused on generating those revenues or increasing those revenues … verses (UC), which is just to make one’s life simple and easy,” said EMA’s Burton. “And that doesn’t usually rate real high on managements places to spend money (list).”

Even so, with consumer connectivity offerings now quickly outpacing enterprise one’s, it may just be a matter of time before you employees begin to demand what UC has to offer.