Unified Communications and Collaboration Key Initiative Overview

Archived Published: 10 April 2014 ID: G00262976

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Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) allows flexible, scalable communication among groups and individuals. This overview shows how organizations can prepare for UCC to help integrate silos and achieve business goals.


Figure 1. Unified Communications and Collaboration Key Initiative Overview
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.

Source: Gartner (April 2014)

UCC integrates siloed communication channels, enables workgroup communication and transforms how people work to achieve organizational goals.

UCC can support enterprises and public communities, such as universities, municipal departments and emergency responders. Specifically, UCC offers the ability to improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform. UCC has embraced emerging technologies and new services, including cloud computing, mobile and virtualization. UCC products can consist of either a stand-alone suite or a portfolio of integrated applications and platforms spanning multiple vendors. Organizations must respond faster to changes in the business environment to enable business transformation. They also must prepare for changes to the IT environment. Key impact areas include:

  • Expansion of the mobile workforce and bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives

  • Virtualization of the enterprise communications core platforms

  • Adoption of cloud and hosted communications services

  • Virtualized desktop environments

Consider These Factors to Determine Your Readiness

What UCC Means to CIOs

UCC enables employees and workgroups to use appropriate communication modalities to collaborate in real time, leading to improved productivity and operational effectiveness in the workplace. The CIO role is essential to ensuring that the IT organization functions and collaborates with business leaders and those responsible for business transformation to identify opportunities for investment.

Gartner advises the following actions:

  • Establish how the vision for UCC fits with the broader business requirements. Applying the multimodal and collaborative characteristics of UCC can help organizations achieve business goals. IT personnel need to facilitate adoption and anticipate changing user requirements.

  • Address organizational issues. A UCC project spans multiple IT departments and requires senior leadership. Identify key decision makers, and structure your IT group to support objectives.

  • Examine capabilities. Develop a road map that matches the UCC vision and delivers productivity, operational effectiveness and cost savings.

  • Familiarize yourself with vendors and their products. You may have many products that fall under the integrated UCC umbrella.

  • Assess suppliers and the strategic value they bring to a real-time collaboration environment.

What UCC Means to IT Leaders

Organizations often face the following hurdles when considering a UCC initiative. We offer this advice for IT leaders:

  • Convey the UCC vision. Determine communication needs based on job functions, as some users may require intensive capabilities and mobility, while others need simple solutions.

  • Communicate opportunities in cost savings and operational effectiveness. Create a sound business case, as UCC requires substantial investment.

  • Solve organizational issues. Change management is a key part of implementing a UCC strategy. Decide who will make key decisions, and structure the IT group to support these decisions.

  • Address implementation challenges. Determine capabilities enabled by the IT infrastructure, and develop a road map that matches them to products and vendors.

  • Clear up confusion about vendors and products. Ensure that vendors and their rapidly evolving solutions are aligned with the organization's road map.

What UCC Means to Technical Professionals

Technical professionals must work with IT leadership to implement the overall strategy. We advise that they take the following actions when considering a UCC initiative:

  • Confer with IT leadership to ensure that all parties understand and carry out the organization's UCC mission.

  • Determine the state of communications, and assess the affiliated costs and infrastructure. Analyze how UCC will impact demands on network infrastructure, and plan accordingly.

  • Figure out the identity, security and compliance considerations associated with UCC. Work with legal and other business units to ensure that the UCC technologies support business policy.

  • Address how UCC will integrate all endpoints, especially those that are mobile. Endpoints can also include the integration of desktops, smartphones and tablets with servers throughout implementation phases. Implementing and supporting mobile endpoints are critical components to ensure the success of UCC.

  • Understand and tactically deploy cloud options. Delivery of UCC via the cloud, particularly SaaS, is still a work in progress. We find that cloud options are not mature enough yet to deliver on the "unified" aspect of UCC. The tactical implementation of cloud UCC services, when it provides clear advantages for costs or management, is the best option with cloud UCC solutions.

  • Use virtualization to optimize on-premises UCC implementation. Virtualization technologies and hardware have matured and provide significant implementation and cost advantages underneath real-time UCC solutions.

Conduct Your UCC Initiative Using This Structured Approach

Gartner recommends following these major phases in the execution of a UCC initiative (these phases may vary, depending on your organization's maturity):

  • Strategize and Plan: Identify the communication requirements of user segments. Lay out business cases for high-value projects. Evaluate the organization's network and application infrastructure.

  • Select Solution: Align vendor products and strategic provider partners' directions with the organization's needs and the plans of other potential partners. Identify solutions for each user segment, and create a plan for deployment. Select strategic UCC provider partners.

  • Deploy: Ensure that communication solutions are compatible. Product road maps are essential. Select trial groups that will provide the most meaningful data, and allow for extensive evaluation and training for new technologies. Ensure that users receive training.

  • Operate and Evolve: Continue change management and oversight of communication use patterns. Develop a UCC center of excellence that enables people from different parts of the organization to share expertise through all phases. Evaluate partners and eliminate nonperformers.

© 2014 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartners research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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