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VoiceCon 2009: Users Key To Unified Communications

The consumerization of IT will permeate the next generation of communications and collaboration software, says an IBM executive.

During his keynote speech Tuesday at VoiceCon San Francisco 2009, IBM's Bruce Morse said end users are going to play a key role in the shaping of future collaboration and communication architectures, and that businesses can embrace this while still retaining security and return on investment.

Morse, IBM's VP of unified communications and collaborations, said he understands there is a tug of war going on between what types of devices employees want to use and the pragmatics concerns of running a business. Many enterprises have found that the iPhone, Macintosh computers, Linux PCs, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have infiltrated the workforce, and most will need to find ways to support the diversity of systems and devices.

One of the key principles for implementing collaboration software is the understanding that users want to move beyond voice, to collaborative technologies such as e-mail, instant messaging, microblogs, and wikis that are increasingly becoming an important part of business communications. Morse said IBM's Sametime offering takes a holistic approach to Unified Communication, and will enable businesses to implement various modes of communications.

"We think Unified Communications is a whole lot more than replacing dial tone with cheaper dial tone," Morse said.

Morse also said businesses often focus all their efforts on the back-end implementation of Unified Communication, and most don't take the time to make it simple and easy for workers to use. Personal devices such as the iPhone have conditioned employees to expect their communications equipment to be intuitive, and Morse said this should apply to their enterprise equipment as well. Beyond boosting employee morale and adoption, intuitive design can save a business money because it can cut down on the time wasted trying to connect employees with proper sources of information.

Enterprises also need to understand that workers want their communication abilities in context, Morse said, which means not having to leave an application to use a certain set of communication tools. This could be as simple as click-to-call functionality, but every additional step the user has to take to collaborate is another hindrance to adoption, and a potential time and money-waster.

Morse also took a few shots at competitors who recommend "rip-and-replace" strategies where businesses get nearly all of their Unified Communications equipment and software from one vendor. Beyond being costly and inefficient, Morse said the approach will lead to challenges with integrating new devices, tools, and applications.

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