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Unifying Channels of Communication: Integrating Video into Unified Communications

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Doron Youngerwood | Marketing Manager, Converged Communications | Dimension Data UK

Employees are navigating multiple streams of communications on their desktop, including presence, instant messaging, data sharing and voice communications. As enterprises look to add video conferencing and Telepresence to that mix, the need to unify all these communications becomes pressing.

Users at all levels of the organisation are demanding easy-to-use communication tools. The IT function is facing pressure to incorporate video conferencing simply and cost effectively, offering a seamless end-user experience that ensures an optimum return on investment.

Satisfying user needs for multi-channel communications that include video, while controlling costs, will be the IT department’s challenge as the enterprise video conferencing and Telepresence market is here to stay according to Infonetics Research. It expects the market to more than double by 2015, reaching $5 billion.

Robust and easy-to-use video conferencing technology has been a long time coming, but it is here now. A combination of technological advances and market developments such as cloud-based and managed services has brought video to the mainstream.

Real-time communications technologies are evolving. The session internet protocol (SIP) standard ensures interoperability, simplifying how different technologies integrate and connect. And improvements to session border controller technology within IP networks now mean that personal video on the desktop should just connect to deliver hassle-free meetings.

Traditionally, video has been a siloed technology, managed by the facilities department or different parts of the business, yet it should be a core part of a unified communications strategy. It is critical to unify channels of communications within the business as well as with customers and partners if this level of seamless communication is to be achieved. Voice communication is no longer king and many enterprises are seeing a fall in voice traffic. If businesses are to be able to use video in real time with the same ease as voice and messaging communications, it needs to be part of a broad, unified communications strategy.

In the past, enterprises have managed voice and video separately but have increasingly realised it is expensive to do it that way. The issue has been that whilst organisations recognise there are long term operational savings to be had from a unified approach, they are put off by perceived short-term complexity and cost.

The return on investment an organisation has made in communications infrastructure and equipment depends on rapid adoption and organisations may need assistance if they are to drive usage and adoption.

It is this ease of use that drives usage and adoption. Employees working from home with video on their desktop should be able to manage their preference for communications at any given time, so that for example if their mobile phone is switched off, calls will transfer to the desktop video device.

Yet, many organisations face a cultural reluctance to adopt video. If video is difficult to use in the first few seconds of a meeting, users will go back to using the phone.

Users are not the only consideration. Network infrastructures have also been very complex in the past and enterprises are looking to create simpler ways of doing things. Drawing up a unified communications strategy is an opportunity to do away with complexity at a network and infrastructure level too.

And, it may be more straightforward than it first appears to incorporate video into a unified communications solution. Analyst firm Ovum suggests that larger firms may turn to third party service providers for video conferencing and that this could help fuel a growth in managed services of 11.5% by 2016.

In fact, managed video conferencing is equally relevant to organisations of all sizes, particularly if they want to stay competitive in a multi-site or global supply chain. Video conferencing-as-a-Service (VaaS) is more affordable and accessible and no in-house support resources are needed.

Video technology is here and now. Video conferencing, the last piece in the unified communications jigsaw, may now be dropped into place, completing the picture.