Unified Communications is Present, But Lacks Presence

Improving business productivity and efficiency while reducing costs is more important than ever in the current economic climate – especially to organisations with disparate workforces and operating in a globalised market. Unified communications* (UC) is one way businesses are tackling this challenge, using it to allow employees to work flexibly and remotely as though they were in the office.

However, according to a new study of companies with over 1,000 employees carried out by specialist IT solutions and services provider, Dimension Data, although 47 per cent of large UK businesses have a UC strategy, only 23 per cent use presence technology. Along with the absence of an identity management strategy, this leaves many organisations in danger of either missing out on the full benefits of UC or, at worst, adding unnecessary complexity to their communications.

Presence allows end-users to display integrated real-time information on both availability and the ability to communicate – often in the form of a status indicator – making it easier to manage multiple communications channels and stay in touch anytime, anywhere.

Rob Stanley, Line of Business Director – Microsoft Solutions at Dimension Data, said: “UC is all about making business interactions simple whilst increasing the numbers of communication channels available. If properly implemented this will reduce travel costs, improve productivity, and engender higher degrees of collaboration. Presence is arguably the key component of a successful UC strategy: it brings it all together from an end-user point of view. Without presence, businesses risk making it more difficult for employees to manage their communications, ultimately diminishing the return on a UC investment.”

For presence and UC to work optimally across the complex IT and communication environments of the enterprise, simplified and centralised management of multiple user-identities is necessary. This also improves security through single, real-time updates on employee access rights and permissions. Yet, merely 18 per cent of the IT managers surveyed thought identity management was essential to UC deployment.

Stanley said: “One of the strengths of UC is that you can come at it from many angles. For example, you can take a staggered approach to deployment by implementing VoIP and mobile email first, and quickly benefit from, for instance, a more flexible workforce. This could explain why identity management is not seen as a priority and why only 13 per cent of those respondents polled named presence as a UC technology that would most benefit the business, compared to 47 per cent for mobile email.

“To make things easier and less disruptive in the long run, and ensure the full benefits of UC are realised, it’s important that organisations make presence and identity management a top priority from the outset.”

The report indicated that this is already happening to an extent, with one in three (33 per cent) of respondents saying they intend to deploy presence.