Research: Unified Messaging

Feb 05, 2010


Future Tense: Next-Gen Communications Strategies

Is business e-mail poised to go the way of the electric typewriter? No, at least in the near term. But the fact is, we’ve hit a productivity wall, and it will take some creative thinking to get back on a growth path. In addition, as our workplaces welcome more young staffers for whom corporate, client-based e-mail on the wired desktop is a quaint throwback, IT groups will need to cope with a mix of laptops, netbooks, smartphones, Web and in-house e-mail, instant messaging, texting, and the next iteration of social networking. Throw in converged telephony; the core concept of anytime, anywhere presence; regulations that mandate archiving of all communications; and a lack of advanced standards, and if you’re not worried, you should be. This begs the question: Can IT guide their organizations to make the technical and social adjustments needed to be productive with less staff and use all the communication tools available?

We say yes. The promise of next-generation collaboration systems is to bring all types of communications—e-mail, text, instant messaging, video and voice—to any device users want, in a nifty utopian universal inbox. More effective communications equal a more effective worker. The trick will be getting there. Our InformationWeek Analytics Enterprise Messaging Survey of 479 business technology professionals shows a surprising lack of integration, policy and training in place to enable users to effectively manage what they already have—never mind new messaging paradigms. For example, when we asked about synchronization of e-mail with business apps, we were surprised that 61% of respondents don’t integrate mail with accounting, CRM or ERP applications. They’re apparently OK with leaving messaging in the same silo we started with 15 years ago. While most respondents have written e-mail policies, that number drops off when asked about policies for text, video and the use of social networking systems. In addition, organizations provide little or no guidance; less than 10% offer training on use of instant messaging or texting, and only 18% have a unified training program for all the new communications options thrown at end users.

“It’s assumed that employees can read the ‘help’ instructions,” says one respondent. Tell that to the (now former) Deloitte intern whose e-mail asking female colleagues to vote on the physical attributes of male coworkers went viral last month. Beyond common-sense etiquette, newer systems from Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and a host of other vendors bring a high level of integration to end users, often coupled with significant complexity. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen Google appear on the radar of mail systems, capturing 4% of survey respondents. But before you put IT’s imprimatur on a jump to the cloud, beware. As we’ll discuss, the inherent interoperability we expect among dominant business e-mail clients doesn’t extend to next-generation systems. The supremacy of Outlook on the desktop needs to be factored into any move. In this report, we will outline the current state of e-mail—what’s working, what’s not and what’s on the horizon—and provide some key recommendations for moving forward.

Survey Name: InformationWeek Analytics Enterprise Messaging Survey
Survey Date: December 2009
Region: North America
Number of Respondents: 479


Research Report