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12/20/2006
05:30 PM
Irwin Lazar
Irwin Lazar
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Looking Back?Looking Forward

It’s the end of the year, so that means that all good Bloggers must dedicate at least one posting to summing up the highlights of the past year, and boldly stating predictions sure to come true for the next.  So grab your cup of eggnog and let’s go.

It would be an understatement to declare 2006 as the year of “Unified Communications”, at least from a real-time collaboration perspective.  2006 was the year that UC achieved critical mindshare in the enterprise, led by extensive marketing efforts from Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft, Nortel and many others.  The overwhelming majority of enterprise IT managers I speak with understand the coming together of various real-time communications technologies, and the value that such integration presents.  They understand the potential for integration of communications technologies with enterprise business processes to improve efficiency, transactions, and tasks.  They expect that their communications vendors will have a UC story to tell.

But, there is still considerable confusion about unified communications.  As I wrote back in August, I tend to view implementation of UC as a two step process, with the first step being integration of real-time communications applications into a single set of user interfaces, followed by the application of open interfaces to enable communications applications to directly interface with business process applications.  But unfortunately all too often I ask folks about their UC plans and receive a response that confuses unified communications with unified messaging or with just VOIP.

So while development of UC concepts and technologies was the key trend in my mind in 2006, what’s on tap for 2007?  I still think that UC will be biggest issue for the enterprise market.  Specific challenges around implementing UC still remain to be solved and are generating a great deal of discussion over the last few weeks.  Technical challenges related to integration of presence information from multiple systems and integration of public and private systems will receive a lot of attention from vendors, service providers, and enterprises.  Security, compliance, and manageability issues present additional challenges to solve (and additional business opportunities for those that can solve them).  

Finally, the end-user issues will become increasingly important in 2007.  By that I mean giving individuals the tools and capabilities to control their own communications experience, manage interruptions, and control their privacy.  If 2006 was the year of “You” in the consumer market, 2007 could become the year of “You” in the real-time collaboration space.  Fortunately, this discussion is already beginning (see Alec Saunders wonderful “New Presence” manifesto, in 2007 I expect we’ll see some real advancements in user management of their presence information.

So sit back and enjoy the ride, and know that while Santa knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, by the end of 2007 he might also know if you are in a meeting, on the phone, or sitting idle at your desk.

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