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Unified communications embraces open standards

John O. Cooper, 5th

There is a changing of the guard going on in the unified communications (UC) space. Organizations of all shapes and sizes around the world are seeing this, and the government is no different.

Traditionally,  unified communications solutions have been voice-centered, possibly with some added elements of instant messaging and presence capabilities. Often, voice communication is actually all the system can do. But, because the solution adds voicemail to email delivery, it gets  the “unified messaging” tag and is then thrown into the unified communications bucket. But this solution is far from what most government agencies need; it is simply not enough.

Unified communications is much more of a loose, vendor-specific product description than an actual product category. This is a difficulty that government agencies face: What is right for me?

Along with the server-side solution, these platforms include a proprietary client that used to access the system data and communications. These clients vary widely, depending on the vendor. They can be IP and cell phones, desktop applications or even tablets. The server typically communicates with the client through a  set of encrypted protocols. This is the current model offered by most UC vendors, with many variations but the same core concepts.

However, the changing business climate makes these traditional “closed” systems unfit  for a good number of organizations.

While the traditional solutions offer many of the core elements that an organization needs to seamlessly manage its communications, they are missing many mission-critical elements. Left out are crucial elements that can enable a mobile workforce, such as SMS (text) messaging and  PIM data management (contacts, calendar and event management, tasks, files). The modern worker -- conditioned by ubiquitous social media, online chats and instant messaging -- expects to be limited by time zones only, not by applications’ capability. Organizations today simply must have these tools to stay competitive, be more productive and reduce costs.

This is made even more complex a task when a company has to abandon the traditional ways of doing business and is forced to rely on a mobile or telecommuting workforce. All of sudden, the desk-bound employees have to get mobile workforce agility. They require whole new work flows to be built around them.

Closed systems are simply unfit to fill this need because they severely limit your flexibility. Such systems make user adoption much more difficult. Users are all different and have their own unique work preferences. It is much easier to integrate, and then enhance, current business processes and workflows than it is to completely reinvent them, which is what a system based entirely on proprietary protocols forces you to do.

The new breed of UC products are platform and device agnostic, giving organizations and users the flexibility to choose from an array of clients or end points.

These more advanced and agile UC solutions are standards-based, so all the devices and clients across a multitude of platforms can support them. These new-generation solutions also  allow native support for the widest variety of user access.

Imagine the opportunity to tell employees that they can continue to function as usual, but with new tools that can greatly enhance their user experience. This makes user adoption easy, and improves both productivity and morale.

 No matter what the platform (Windows, Linux or Mac) or the preference -- desktop, browser or mobile device -- the modern UC solution will support it. And it can do so with all the features you need, across these different access methods. The revolution is on the way, and the market is moving towards open standards. The first game-changer solutions have arrived, making it possible for businesses and government agencies to break location constraints and improve productivity through flexible and ubiquitous access to critical information. 

 

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