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Unified Communications: Dialling in mobility and video - Part 3

Demands from employees for mobility and flexible work spaces is driving adoption of unified communications solutions in the New Zealand market – Heather Wright dials in the views of local experts.

Hear me, see me... On the videoconferencing front, Meadows says while video integration has been steady for room based systems, video has been lacking for mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

“Part of that is a cultural barrier – staring into the screen is quite different to talking on the phone to someone.

"But there is also a technological barrier in that it has to be exceptionally easy for anyone to use,” he says.

Vendors are now offering device agnostic solutions which enable users to send a meeting request to anyone in their contacts list, and the contacts can click to join the meeting, irrespective of what device they’re using – and without the need to download clients or dial bridge numbers.

“We’re seeing a lot of uptake [for Avaya’s solution],” Meadows notes. He adds that Skypes use in the consumer market will also help address the cultural barrier for video.

His views are backed by Gartner, which noted in its Critical Capabilities for Unified Communications report that desktop videoconferencing is an increasingly key component of UC solutions, as is the integration of desktop solutions with room-based and telepresence solutions.

“The ability to provide some UC components as on-premises-based, integrated with others in a cloud service, will be key during the next three to five years,” the report notes.

“Organisations need elasticity in their UC solutions to meet employee needs, while balancing head count fluctuations. Cloud-based UC has more elasticity than on-premises."

Gartner also noted, this time in That 3D video telepresence and social co-browsing – or ‘the collaborative sharing of the same Web space with one or more parties from a social network’ – are heading down the track towards us. Meadows cautions that that conversation for resellers is now more complex.

“Mid market solutions have become more feature rich, and that means they’re more complex to sell. The older systems were much more basic, and easier to sell. So now [resellers] are having to invest more time in technical training and enablement.”

Westcon runs about 12 to 15 training enablement courses a year, across sales, technical and pre-sales, and demand for the courses is high, Meadows says. “We pretty much pack out every session we run.”

Meadows urges resellers to stay on top of the latest developments in unified communications, saying end users are more self-educated.

“Resellers who fall behind will rapidly find themselves out of date and their customers will leave them behind.”

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Despite all the positives, Meadows says unified communications is still ‘a bit of a tough sell at the moment’.

He attributes that to the economy still not quite being back to where most people want it to be.

“But there’s the argument that it’s as good as it’s going to get, so it’s time to get on with it. There is a lot of optimism about 2014 and we are seeing companies that have been sweating their assets during the hard times becoming more open to having the conversation about replacing their aging systems.”

Both Meadows and Scott say there are plenty of customers sitting on aged systems – including some that are no longer supported because they’re so old. “We’re coming across more and more of them,” Meadows says.

“They’ve weathered the economic storm, but now the business risk is becoming untenable – if their [phone] system falls over, getting an engineer in and getting it repaired could see them potentially not contactable for a few days. That’s a risk businesses can’t afford.”

Adds Scott: “As companies look to retire their old assets, UC becomes a very compelling option from a cost and installation side. But first and foremost, it enables the modern workplace.”

For Part One, click here. And for Part Two, click here

This article was originally published in the March issue of The Channel magazine, click here for more details