Unified Communications is a technology developed by integrating real-time communication with the non-real time communication. Real-time communication includes Instant Messaging, Telephony, IP Telephony, Video Conferencing etc., while non-real time communication includes voice mail, e-mail, SMS, fax etc. When these mediums are integrated one can send a message from one medium and receive the same on the other medium.
Now, let us understand how unified communications came into existence. In the early years of the technology, business telephone systems were a private branch exchange (PBX), which were provided and managed by the local phone company. Since, it was managed by the telephone company, it added to business cost. So, over a period of time, business enterprises started managing the PBX privately, with the help of internal staff. This saved on communications cost, besides being easy to use for interacting with co-workers and colleagues in other departments or one’s own department. Then came the era of IP networks. Vendors like Avaya and Nortel interconnected the IP network with PBX to form Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). One of the drawbacks of VoIP was that it required a special kind of hardware to interconnect the IP network with the PBX. Subsequently, the PBX was replaced by solution based on IP, thereby giving rise to a new technology called IP telephony. This development paved the way for other computer applications to be connected to the telephony system, and a converged communication system started to develop.
Need for Unified Communications
Thus, over a period of time there emerged a need for a converged communications system because employees / workers had multiple means of communication, which led to confusion and hampered productivity of the business enterprise. Moreover, with geographical expansion there was a marked increase in the mobility of employees. As a result, customers were unable to reach employees quickly as and when the need arose, further reducing employee productivity. Nowadays, business enterprises have a presence in different locations / geographies, and each of these locations need to stay connected with each other. So, there is need for communications technology that will keep all workers / executives connected in spite of location constraints. In today�s business scenario, the need of the hour is to increase employee collaboration and at the same time significantly reduce communications cost. This is only possible with unified communications.
Benefits of Unified Communications
Implementing, unified communications in your enterprise could provide you many benefits. It brings continuity in work even if the network, a particular communication device and / or location is affected by a natural disaster. Unified Communications solves the problem of employee unavailability, as the employees� availability and responsiveness increase in spite of high mobility. This leads to happier and more satisfied customers. With unified communications, employees are reachable and stay connected to each other; this increases productivity on the one hand and reduces the external network cost on the other.
Unified Communications in India
Unified Communications in India is at a very nascent stage. Some business enterprises have taken the lead and adopted IP telephony. However, there continues to be high usage of analog devices in business enterprises across verticals, and shifting this huge chunk of users to digital devices will take time. One of the reasons for slow adoption of unified communications in India is that it is a new technology and the technology upgradation cycle by Indian enterprises usually witnesses a lag. Indian enterprises are generally hesitant in adopting new technology, as they are uncertain about the RoI. Very often, enterprise owners / managements first examine the experience of early adopters before taking a decision. Another reason of this behaviour could be that migration from the existing, traditional platform to a new platform often requires large investments, which many enterprises are clearly not ready to bear.
In spite of the above-mentioned factors there has been some level of adoption of UC solutions amongst the BFSI, IT/ITeS and Government sectors. The Healthcare vertical could be another sector which is interested in adopting UC solutions because of the requirement of staying connected and available 24 x 7.
Challenges in Implementing UC in India
As stated earlier the biggest challenge that the UC market faces in India is convincing customers to adopt and invest in new technology. The other challenges revolve around high transition costs and lack of clarity on the regulatory framework, which inhibit business enterprises from implementing UC solutions.
Latest Developments in the UC Market
The next phase of technology evolution in the UC solutions market is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). CSC has launched UcaaS and this model is expected to appeal to SMB enterprises and organizations, which have high mobility of employees, for example, the insurance sector. HP has expanded its UC solutions portfolio by providing offerings that aim to simplify and integrate diverse business communication mediums and lower cost. Similarly, to support the high bandwidth requirements of video and other rich media UC applications, Avaya has designed a new generation of data communication solutions, which are faster and more cost effective.
Over the next two years or so, the UC solutions market in India would be on the verge of gaining sufficient momentum to acquire critical mass and witness large scale adoption across verticals and customer segments.