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Opinion: Unified communications with ROI in mind

By Brian Bourne
June 17, 2008 12:00 PM ET

CIO - Today's CIOs must focus on developing more effective strategies toward taking connectivity and messaging capabilities to the next level. And there's no denying that unified communications (UC) is an IT issue that all CIOs in the 21st century should carefully consider.

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Internet Protocol-based (IP-based) solutions operating over a converged voice-and-data network are heralding a new world of communications. Indeed, successful organizations recognize that improved collaboration translates into faster answers and better teaming -- connecting teams in a way that they can communicate and work together, whether in the office, telecommuting or on the road. And as technology continues to converge, CIOs will need to develop effective strategies to update aging communication systems to be more productive.

From a CIO perspective, it is highly important that any UC investment deliver a rapid and adequate return, with both strategic and financial value. Now is a good time to revisit UC technologies -- looking at what fits your enterprise, what you might already own and what you can leverage.

UC: The new world of business

While unified messaging integrates disparate communication tools -- including fax, voice and e-mail -- into a centralized repository available from a variety of different devices, unified communications takes it a step further, automating and merging existing communication modes in a manner that optimizes business operations. UC effectively connects disparate technologies into an infrastructure that allows people to connect with the appropriate available team members and work collaboratively using a variety of technologies in a seamless fashion.

As adoption of IP telephony reaches critical mass, successful CIOs are recognizing that UC is becoming not only more practical but a potential competitive driver as well. In a real-world context, UC is about improving collaboration and overall presence for internal staff and clients alike. UC can improve the productivity of network staff and accommodate network growth with the same staffing levels. It also enables geographically dispersed personnel to function as if they were in the same location, whether it's via video, the Web or voice.

Given all the communication technologies today's knowledge workers now use on a daily basis, the potential to quickly and seamlessly shift between voice, instant messaging and videoconferencing technologies is fast becoming more than a "nice to have" -- it's becoming the shape of working more productively and collaboratively in the 21st century.

Building the case for unified communications

Discovering value in UC comes from understanding its potential to fundamentally change the way we communicate, collaborate and get work done. Certain UC components are very mature (for example, dropping a voice mail or fax into an inbox). That said, now's a good time to move from tire-kicking to a staged deployment and start working at it in chunks.

This story is reprinted from CIO.com, an online resource for information executives. Story Copyright CXO Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.
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