Inertia can be a powerful,
Once people have a system that
works, you have to give them a mighty good reason to go through the hassle of
change just for some marginal, incremental gain.
Many families will stick with the
same grocery store year after year, for instance, simply because they know
where they can always find the pancake syrup. Likewise, companies will buy from
the same suppliers all the time – out of habit if nothing else.
So imagine the plight of Cisco
Systems and a raft of other technology vendors out there trying to sell the
world on the virtues of that emerging set of capabilities known as “unified
I don’t know about you, but the
communications systems I have work very fine, thank you very much. I can send
and receive e-mails. My phone rings when people call me. When necessary, I can
hop online for a collaborative Web conference.
Indeed, to many casual observers,
the idea of “unified communications” appears to be a bit of overkill. Maybe
it’s even seen as an attempt to fix something that’s not even broken.
Even with these considerations,
though, others may see value in being able to consolidate a range of communications capabilities in a
single place. The notion that all incoming and outgoing communications could
somehow be funneled through a single interface is an appealing concept.
But, at the end of the day, is
unified communications really worth the hassle? Put yourself in the shoes of a
corporate IT manager deciding on the future of corporate communications
solutions. Does it really make sense to junk existing telephone systems and
online conferencing services simply for the sake of creating a unified
The answer, of course, is a big,
fat “No.” Such a solution merely re-packages features and functionality already
available to end users. With such a unified communications solution, companies
would merely be paying thousands –and perhaps millions – of dollars to
re-create communications capabilities that already are at their disposal.
In short, business users need
some reason for pulling the trigger on investing in unified communications – a
valid rationale for making the investments of both IT budget and training
resources that can prompt a wider corporate embrace of unified communications
In this debate, it’s video that
stands as a crucial linchpin in shaping the future of the market. Of particular
importance are solutions that make it easier for executives to create, manage, and distribute video from the corporate desktop.
Video can provide the technical
“sizzle” that encourages executive decision makers to take a second look at unified
communications alternatives. And, in many cases, the elements that wrap around
video can be parlayed in other forms of Web-based communications. The audio
from a video feed, for instance, can take the place of a traditional telephone
call. The PowerPoint slides presented alongside a video stream can form the
foundation of an online collaborative event.
And, if video is integrated
properly into a true unified communications solution, its impact will extend
far beyond the prospects of technology vendors trying to sell the next great
communications platform. It also will have huge impact on the people who
produce and develop high-quality video content.
That’s because video deployed
within a unified communications solution will fill a variety of roles in the
Naturally, it should be expected
that a viable unified communications solution will excel at enabling live,
two-way video enriched communications events. But this is not the only viable
Advanced unified communications
solutions will make it easier, for instance, to share professionally produced
corporate videos both in live meetings and in time-shifted environments.
Essentially, executives will have libraries of product videos and other video
content that can be retrieved and shared at the click of a button.
As it becomes easier for
executives to share these videos, it will become increasingly valuable for
their organizations to invest in the development of professional videos that
cast their company in the best possible light.
And that day of broader video
enrichment via unified communications deployment may not be quite as far off
some might think. Already, we’re seeing business deployment of some rudimentary
platforms that begin to integrate multiple communications technologies under a
single user interface.
To grab a glimpse at prospective
demand for unified communications in the business sector, Interactive Media
Strategies asked in a survey of 1,003 executives conducted in the fourth
quarter of 2009 about the implementation of platforms that combine two or more
Web communications solutions in a single user application.
Such a description encompasses
everything from the types of all-encompassing elaborate solutions described
above that make all Web communications capabilities available in an on-screen
application to more “simple” unified communications solutions that combine a handful
of communications capabilities, such as merging instant messaging into an
online Web conferencing tool.
Using this description, 15% of
all respondents to the Interactive Media Strategies survey report that their
organization has already deployed some form of “unified communications”
solution. Another 27% cite plans to deploy unified communications in 2010 with
another 25% reporting “interest” in implementing unified communications
And, as a group, these
organizations that are most engaged with today’s mostly limited forms of
unified communications have high regard for the role of video in day-to-day
business. Nine out of 10 respondents in the survey citing plans or interest in
unified communications, for instance, agree with the statement that their
organization should use video more extensively in order to streamline business
The basic message here is not to
turn a deaf ear when executives start talking about the prospects for unified
communications. The adoption of unified solutions invariably will translate
into more rapid implementation of a range of video-enriched communications
capabilities. And that, in turn, will translate into fresh opportunities for
selling more robust video production technology and services.
A unified communications
marketplace at rest is likely to stay at rest unless acted upon by video. But
if this logjam of inertia is broken, it would create significant new
opportunities for the production and distribution of business video.
Steven Vonder Haar is Research Director at Interactive Media Strategies
and can be reached at Svonder@InteractiveMediaStrategies.com