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Unified communications growing despite economy

By Chris Talbot ConnectITNews.com

1/26/09

One of the biggest benefits of unified communications (UC) is also one of the largest hurdles for companies who have yet to be bitten by the UC bug, according to a poll of IT professionals conducted by CDW.

CDW's first "Unified Communications Tracking Poll" found that a key concern of IT professionals who have yet to adopt unified communications technology is operational costs, but a reduction is operating costs considered by those who have adopted unified communications as one of the benefits.

CDW surveyed 766 IT professionals who work on unified communications or component technologies in business, government, higher education and healthcare. The study found that only six percent of organizations have completed their unified communications deployments, but 20 percent are actively implementing the technologies and 33 percent are actively planning for implementation. Unified communications is gathering momentum, CDW concluded.

"Many things were confirmed that we already knew and hoped to be true. One thing that was a little surprising was respondents that had already begun the implementation of unified communications had significantly lower levels of concerns about key challenges than those who had not begun implementations," said Pat Scheckel, senior director of products and solutions at CDW.

That fact was good to see because it shows the hurdles often associated with unified communications deployment are not as high as some believe them to be, Scheckel said. He urged organizations on the fence to begin their implementations sooner rather than later to reap the benefits of the technology.

Organizations that haven't made the commitment to a unified communications deployment are typically worried about four major obstacles -- capital costs, operating costs, the time needed for IT staff to manage the technology, and what the impact on current infrastructure would be.

"The biggest benefits are increased productivity and reduced operating costs," Scheckel noted.

Sixty-one percent of the IT professionals surveyed said they found they could do more with less, which was the biggest benefit of unified communications deployments (followed by savings in operating costs).

"Once people start implementing, that obstacle becomes a benefit, and that obstacle is really a matter of perception than reality," Scheckel said about operating costs.

In fact, the operating cost savings are often greater than what organizations expect, he said.

"I think it is very much mainstream. If you look at the number of organizations that have implemented UC versus those that haven't done naything, we're seeing high rates of adoption of certain technologies, and really when you look at medium and large businesses, 67 percent of those we polled have prepared a business case or strategic plan for adoption of UC, and 27 percent of those are implementing and 39 percent are in the planning phase. We're not at the fat part of the bell curve, but we're approaching it," Scheckel said. He said he expects to see very heavy adoption of unified communications over the next 18 to 24 months.

Even despite the poor economy, 70 percent of organizations currently planning or implementing unified communications expect to complete their desployments in the next two years.

Unified communications represents a variety of different components, and when it comes to which technologies are being implemented, rich conferencing (audio, video and Web) is the mostly popular of the approaches to unified communications, followed by a voice-oriented approach, Scheckel said. Some businesses also look to unified communications for e-mail-centric or instant messaging-centric approaches, but those are fewer in number. Scheckel noted that he expects the number of e-mail- and instant messaging-centric unified communications to grow significantly going forward. End of article.

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