ShoreTel Sky Interviews UC Expert Blair Pleasant, Part 3
In part 3 of our interview with Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst of COMMfusion LLC and a co-founder of ucstrategies.com, we discussed which aspects of the unified communications market are gaining momentum and how businesses can use these tools to improve operations.
ShoreTel Sky: Now, is video conferencing in particular getting bigger because everyone has mobile devices and they can hop on a call from wherever, whenever?
Blair Pleasant: I don't know how many people are doing video from mobile devices, frankly. I don't think that's really enabled because of mobile. I think one of the reasons it's getting more popular is because there's now desktop video so you don't have to go into a separate specialized video conference room, you can just do it from your desktop.
ShoreTel: So what about Skype and things like that?
Blair: Yeah, that's really made it more popular and people are more used to using it, whereas it used to be that to have a video conference you had to go to a specialized conference room that had all the video equipment and set it up in advance. And now it's really easy to have a video call with anybody.
ShoreTel: So do you think those over-the-top services, like Skype and other consumer-based services, are making their way into the enterprise? Are they impacting general UC sales? Say, for example, a company only wanted to use a video conferencing solution. Would it be worthwhile for them to replace their whole communications infrastructure with this UC platform or would they be better off to just implement Skype or something along those lines?
Blair: Well in general you don't have to replace what you have to get UC capabilities; you can add on a UC server. Unless your PBX is really, really old and antiquated, you should be able to add on UC capabilities without necessarily doing a rip and replace. But do they need an enterprise-grade video conferencing solution as opposed to just using Skype or something? It depends on how often they're going to be doing it and what kind of scalability they need. Skype is good for certain types of things, but is it something all enterprises want to use for their interactions? Probably not.
ShoreTel: Why is that? Is there a big difference between the two?
Blair: Well, going back to what you had mentioned earlier, there are some security issues and scalability issues. If it's something that your workers are going to be using all the time, I would want something - I don't know, maybe it's my personal bias toward Skype, but you get what you pay for. Skype is good for certain things, but it is not necessarily a secure, scalable enterprise-grade solution.
ShoreTel: Besides video conferencing and audio conferencing and I think we talked about presence, as well as a couple other solutions like find-me-follow-me, what are some of the other big applications that are emerging within the UC environment?
Blair: Well mobility we talked about, that's the big thing, as people can access the UC capabilities from any device and do conference calls, IM and chat and everything from whichever device they're using. They're using iPads for doing video conference calls, so mobility is definitely the big thing. Video is starting to take off more and more.
Those are the big things and I guess business process integration, which I had talked about earlier, where you can tie in the UC capabilities into the business process that you're using. So it could be a vertical application, like an insurance claim, and while they're in the claims process they might need to reach out to the body shop to get pictures of the damage or something. From right within the application they can interact and see who the right people are to interact with, their presence status and availability and then just click to call from right there.
What happens a lot of the time is that it cuts down on time wasted and delays and trying to figure out if that person is available and, if they're not, leaving a voice message. So with UC it really helps to reach the right person at the right time so you can eliminate a lot of those time delays and what we call latency.
ShoreTel: Let's talk about voice for a second. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is obviously huge now within the enterprise. So how is that impacting unified communications? Do you think if a company has VoIP in place, they will be more influenced to embrace this unified communications mentality?
Blair: Well it's easier to. You can certainly still deploy UC with your TDM solutions but it certainly makes more sense when you've got voice over IP and also SIP, which is a big enabler for UC. So it certainly makes it easier and gives you more capabilities when you can do it that way but you don't have to.
ShoreTel: Do you find that it's more common for companies that are making their way toward IP are going to also make their way toward UC?
Blair: Yes. Well they certainly should be, absolutely.
ShoreTel: Well I guess we can wrap it up in a moment. Just one more big question is where do you see telecom, UC, voice over IP and everything heading? Is it pursuing the cloud or something else?
Blair: Well it's definitely heading to the cloud. As I've said, pretty much every RFP these days is including some sort of aspect of the cloud, whether it's for today or migrating in the future, but the cloud is certainly on everybody's mind. So UC in the cloud certainly where all the hype is right now and what everybody's talking about, but as I've said before, it's not necessarily for everybody. For some companies, it's going to make more sense to have premises-based equipment, so it really depends on the company, their use case, their environment, are they geographically-dispersed, how big is the company, etc. So you can't just say, O.K., everyone move to the cloud now. It's really going to depend on the individual company.
ShoreTel: But say, for example, the majority of companies do move to the cloud, does that mean that premise-based vendors are going to be struggling?
Blair: No, because they're all offering cloud-based solutions now also.
ShoreTel: But is their premise customer base going to be dwindling?
Blair: Oh yeah, it'll be moving from premise-based solutions to cloud-based solutions so the revenue will be a little different. Some of them are certainly going to be losing out because the thing with the cloud is that there are lots of different options for where you can get the cloud services from. So you can get it from some of the traditional legacy vendors providing it themselves, others are doing it through partners, some are going through service providers. Then there are some standalone cloud providers that give lots of options for where to get the cloud services.