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ShoreTel Sky Interviews UC Expert Blair Pleasant

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In part 1 of our interview with Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of ucstrategies.com, we discussed the evolving state of business collaboration and how unified communications, mobility and cloud solutions are transforming everything.

ShoreTel Sky: So, to begin, what's your basic definition, just for our readers, of enterprise mobility and how is it impacting business phone systems and communications in general?

Blair Pleasant: Well for me, because I focus on unified communications, it's the ability to access your communications from any device on any location and not being tied down to the office phone system.

ShoreTel: So in regard to unified communications, what is the cloud impact on that?

Blair: Well the cloud impact is huge. I think, pretty much, every RFP (request for proposal) that's going out or every discussion is included in the cloud these days. Even if customers don't want to necessarily go to the cloud right now, they want to know what's going on and they're thinking about it and they're learning more about it.

ShoreTel: So, I know there are a lot of stories out there about the security implications about how the cloud may not be as safe as traditional, on-premise unified communications. Is that going to be a big impact on the future of UC? Is unified communications inevitably heading to the cloud and will these security worries really prevent that from occurring?

Blair: I'm hearing less and less about security issues in the cloud, you know. For certain companies, maybe healthcare companies, but I really think security isn't an issue that it used to be. Most of the vendors have really found ways to make their hosted or cloud services secure and I'm not really hearing that as too much an issue from people anymore.

ShoreTel: What is really holding people back? Anything?

Blair: From UC in the cloud? (Yeah). I think one thing is just trying to figure out if it makes sense for their organization. You know what I've been saying lately is that, UC in the cloud is great but it's not for everybody. For very large, geographically-dispersed organizations it makes a lot of sense, and for very small companies that don't want to - or can't - spend the money on premise-based solutions it makes a lot of sense. If you've just got one medium-sized organization, maybe having a PBX on-prem makes sense and you don't have to go to the cloud.

ShoreTel: So can you talk about the performance improvements that come along with getting rid of having a separate phone system and video conferencing solution and combining all that into unified communications? Why should companies want to use UC?

Blair: From a user perspective, they have a single unified client for all of their communications so they don't have to switch every time they want to use a different channel or media and they have everything in the single client, which makes it easier for them to access different types of communication modes that they want. Also, it provides capabilities like click-to-call and presence status so you can see who's available and just click on their name to initiate a phone call or an IM or even a video call. It makes mobility much easier with capabilities like find-me-follow-me.

One thing is that unified communications can be integrated into your business processes or applications. Let's say you use CRM all the time, so within your CRM application you can access the UC capabilities. From within, let's say Salesforce.com, you can initiate an IM or a conference session or a video session with somebody so you don't have to leave what you're doing and stop to look at somebody's number or to call them or whatever; you can do everything from within the application that you're already using. It also makes it easier to find people because you can use presence status to see who's available and if that person is unavailable you can reach out to somebody else. So we're finding that there is a big reduction in voice messages and the amount of voicemail messages that are being left because it is much easier to get in touch with the people who you want. And you can see if they're available on IM or phone, so if you see they're on they're phone you're not going to bother calling them but you can send them a quick instant message.

It's easier when [individuals are] traveling because they have single-number find-me-follow-me, so customers or partners or people who are trying to call [them] don't have to figure out, 'okay, is that person traveling? Should I call the office number? Should I call the cell phone number?' They just call one number and they can get in touch with the person they're trying to contact.

Read Part 2 of the Interview
Read Part 3 of the Interview