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Cloud, Video, Mobile: Business UC's Perfect Storm

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Enterprise Unified Communications is Being Hit By a Perfect Storm

The market for business phone systems is constantly changing, especially as decision-makers become more aware of the benefits associated with launching a unified communications program. Meanwhile, the "perfect storm" of corporate collaboration trends is beginning to brew, forcing organizations of all sizes to at least consider launching a universal program that makes it easier to embrace all three of these transformations.

A recent TechTarget report highlighted this perfect storm, noting that the proliferation of cloud computing, video conferencing and mobility is impacting the way companies of all sizes and industries collaborate. By understanding how these technologies are transforming the business communications landscape, decision-makers may find themselves in a better position to improve operations.

Cloud Computing Democratizes Communications

The majority of organizations are using the cloud one way or another. While the hosted services are widely known for their storage and infrastructure capabilities, the technology can also be used to manage voice and other communication solutions. This has driven many organizations to implement hosted PBX solutions or cloud-based unified communication platforms that are quicker to deploy and require less internal expertise, TechTarget reported.

Unlike old phone systems, cloud-enabled platforms shift investments from a capital spending model to an operational cost program, which only requires decision-makers to pay for what they use. This has been a boon for many companies, as it allows IT decision-makers to allocate costs to specific departments based on various demands. At the same time, cloud communications isn't necessarily for everyone, as there is often a tipping point when the technology becomes more expensive than traditional solutions, TechTarget stated. In other cases, the cloud isn't as customizable as other services, which may encourage executives to continue using legacy platforms.

Nevertheless, the rapidly expanding and improving cloud landscape is forcing decision-makers to assess yet another variable into their collaboration strategies.

Video Beyond Conferencing

In the past, video technologies were primarily used for conferencing purposes because of their ability to personalize large meetings. Today, a larger number of companies are using video for more than just conferencing, TechTarget noted. This is evident by the increasing number of corporate-related videos on consumer solutions like YouTube, which is being brought into the workplace to augment everything from training to customer service.

A separate Infonetics report highlighted the growing use of video in the enterprise, noting that 87 percent of companies plan to incorporate video into their unified communications environment by August 2014. For the most part, decision-makers are launching these tools to improve response times, reduce costs and augment employee productivity.

"The biggest change we're seeing in unified communication deployments is the adoption of video. Businesses have been implementing more mobility into their UC architectures over the past year and now are looking toward video conferencing to help drive further productivity," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP and UC at Infonetics Research.

In addition to the use of video and cloud, the final trend contributing to the perfect storm, mobility, is also leaving a mark.

The Mobile Coup

The mobile revolution in the workplace is having a monumental impact on the way individuals communicate and access mission-critical resources. Many experts actually believe enterprise mobility is the biggest trend in business communications, as the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has increased the availability of video-enabled endpoints and expanded the remote workforce - a major driver behind most cloud adoption strategies.

During the past several years, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiatives that either allow individuals to use personal smartphones and tablets or gadgets that have been provisioned by the organization have been gaining momentum. TechTarget said this is largely due to the fact that decision-makers have quickly identified the financial and operational opportunities associated with embracing BYOD. This translated into the employee expectation of being able to access unique applications anywhere at any time - an outlook that has driven the use of mobile unified communications.

An IDC report highlighted how the marriage between unified communications and mobility has been a work in progress for some time but is finally coming to fruition.

"Businesses have been investing in unified communication and collaboration tools to respond faster to customer needs, boost productivity and make quicker business decisions. At the same time, mobility has become [increasingly] pervasive in the enterprise," said Stacy Crook, senior enterprise mobile research analyst at IDC.

As small companies and large enterprises both pursue innovative efforts to improve collaboration in and outside of the workplace, the benefits of using a unified communications system will come to light. Rather than trying to implement numerous platforms to reduce costs and improve operations, decision-makers should consider integrating everything under one umbrella and embracing the perfect storm that is emerging within the unified communications environment.