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Collaboration is mandatory today

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Effective collaboration is a vital characteristic of a successful company, as an organization that cannot communicate with employees, partners and customers has no place in today's highly competitive business world. Teamwork is becoming increasingly important today as the consumerization of IT continues to disrupt normal operations in the workplace.

In the past, individuals would go to "work," classifying the term as a place rather than an activity. Now, employees can perform work-related tasks from virtually anywhere thanks to the evolution of smartphones, tablets and cloud computing. As a result, executives need to leverage solutions that keep geographically dispersed people connected, regardless of location or platform.

These needs are encouraging decision-makers to employ the use of unified communications systems, which combine multiple next-generation applications like video conferencing and VoIP phone services under a single umbrella. The ongoing demand for these capabilities is causing the market to flood with vendors, raising several key questions that need to be addressed.

Best-of-breed or single-vendor approach?

Deploying unified communications from a single provider or converging multiple solutions from various vendors has become one of the biggest questions associated with collaboration tools like unified communications, according to an ITworld report.

Unfortunately, there is no single answer to this quandary.

"There isn't a right answer, but you should understand the options and have a strategy," said Rob Koplowitz, a Forrester Research analyst, according to ITworld.

Although using multiple disparate solutions can provide a number of potential benefits, including avoiding potential lock-ins with vendors, it also raises a number of possible problems. In many cases, leveraging applications from multiple providers invites the chance that the tools cannot collaborate with one another due to interoperability issues. Since the unified communications landscape is relatively new, no standards have yet to be made, meaning each vendor does its own thing.

Selecting a single vendor, on the other hand, eliminates this concern as well as other potential issues, including poor user experience, ITworld noted. If individuals have to navigate through multiple menus just to use two applications simultaneously, performance will suffer and employees will be unhappy. This is especially important because communications solutions are used by the entire organization, not just IT departments.

"Unlike business intelligence or [enterprise resource planning] systems, collaboration tools are used more [frequently] and by more people," said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, according to ITworld.

A separate study of nearly 350 enterprise IT executives by TechTarget noted that employee productivity is among the most common reasons their organization deployed unified communications in the first place. If the technology can't deliver on these promises, however, the firm will likely struggle to maintain operations.

The survey also found that more than 57 percent of respondents said enhancing corporate collaboration was the top benefit for implementing unified communications.

As the workforce expands due to the use of advanced communication tools, decision-makers need to be sure their collaboration technologies can keep up, because if they can't, executives will find their business struggling to tread water.