Unified Communications Uptake Predicted

Analyst firm Datamonitor released a report today exploring the present and future of unified communications (UC) within the IT sphere. Though uptake of the technology has been relatively slow so far, the report labeled UC systems as a "trend to watch" in 2008.

According to the report, UC implementations will increase due to a number social, environmental, and economic factors. Titled "Trends to Watch 2008: Unified Communications," the study says that shifting workplace culture and societal changes will influence enterprises to pursue the technology to accommodate changing work patterns and budget constraints.

Though IT budgets within enterprises are expected to remain stable, financial pressure will have an affect on how companies envision their IT departments' strategies and business plans. Rather than investing in on-site systems, Datamonitor predicts more companies will invest in hosted solutions, lowering maintenance costs and overall software prices, while giving an IT staff more time to devote to other projects. The study also notes that many on-demand solutions will also come with hosted IP PBX and UC.

And, with the cost of travel increasing in tandem with oil prices, Datamonitor notes the importance UC and video-conferencing systems will play in adoption rates. Rather than setting up meetings with clients or other enterprise business teams located elsewhere, the report states that more users will choose video conferencing systems as a means to stay connected and reduce travel time. Two programs, Cisco's Telepresence, and RoundTable from Microsoft, have given enterprises more choices within the high-end video conferencing market. Additionally, companies will turn to video conferencing and unified messaging as a way to keep remote workers connected to a main office or branch. While the report states these driving factors could be part of an overall "green IT" initiative, deployments will most likely increase due to cost savings.

Finally, the role of intracompany communication will continue to play a strong role in business culture. Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, as well as messaging services like AIM and Skype, have created a culture of connectedness that organizations will view as an influential factor in evaluating UC's benefit to employee and client relationships. The report states that while companies may worry about decreased productivity among their workers, most should see the power of integrated contacts and a strong online presence as a benefit to business. Keeping up-to-date information available to customers will become a priority in businesses attempting to strengthen client relationships and retain existing end users.

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