Unified Communications in the Enterprise (Archived Report)

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Communications in the Enterprise

by Lynn

Docid: 00017880

Publication Date: 1310

Report Type: TUTORIAL


Unified communications continues to be a major focus for IT vendors
traditional telecom providers, as well as for enterprise customers.
Factors such as the increased number of remote and mobile workers and
deployment of VoIP are helping drive the need and demand for unified
communications. Before enterprises adopt unified communications,
they should identify the processes the technology will address and
so that they can receive a reasonable return on investment and
monitor the success of its implementation. Enterprises need to be
reasonably sure that their employees will adopt and utilize the
before making the required investment in the software.

Report Contents:

Executive Summary

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Enterprise communication technologies have evolved dramatically in
several years, delivering employees many different ways to communicate
send information.


Faulkner Reports

Unified Communications Market


Unified messaging emerged to address the initial problem by
providing a
single mailbox for employees to access voicemail, email, and faxes.
concept continued to be refined as the technology evolved to support
The growth of IP networks and the capability of transporting voice
over IP
and developing true computer-telephony integration spurred momentum
unified communication.

Unified messaging became a subset of unified communication. Unified
communications enable the user to jointly manage voice, email, Web and
communication, using speech and text-based user interfaces on PCs,
cellphones, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). UC has also grown
work with other major forms of communication in the enterprise and
mission-critical software applications, like collaborative tools, Web
portals, and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.
Unified communications is also having an
impact in the call center industry, where it is turning call centers
multi-media contact centers capable of interacting with customers
email, voice, and Web chat.


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Unified communications is an enterprise-level service that developed out
the convergence trend. When properly implemented, a unified communications
solution provides a single interface for all the communications media in the
enterprise, enabling employees to communicate via wireless and landline
PDAs, email, instant messages, multimedia, SMS, faxes, and more.

Unified communications technologies originally started as unified
although messaging is now only one component of a comprehensive unified
communications solution. Today, the technology includes additional services
access to multimedia and collaborative business tools. Unified messaging is
most popular element of a comprehensive unified communications solution,
providing a single interface and delivery platform to send and receive
email, instant messages, and fax traffic.

Unified messaging is a simple solution to a complex problem: delivering a
single-point of access for the various platforms and devices used in the
enterprise, but enterprises had a difficult time establishing a quantifiable
return on investment for unified messaging. The service addressed a common
inconvenience for business users, but it did not provide the concrete
in productivity or efficiency to justify the investment. Meanwhile,
many of
the components remained disparate, forcing IT and telecom departments to
integrate various voice networking devices and software, further driving

Data and voice convergence is starting to truly manifest with
corresponding applications and growing availability of cost-effective
to support it. In the long term, using the same network to transport
messages enables
organizations to more efficiently and rapidly deploy new voice or data

Figure 1 illustrates some of the services
supported by unified communications:

1. Unified
Communications Services

Figure 1. Unified Communications Services

Source:  ReadyTalk

The overall unified communications solution is a much more robust
In addition to unified messaging, it provides access to several other
applications. The following list represents the core applications that
from unified communications:

  • Unified messaging.
  • Collaborative applications.
  • Real- and near-time communications.
  • Transactional applications and information systems.

Unified Messaging

Unified messaging essentially allows subscribers to be contacted
anywhere, at any time. End users can use a single service or device to
receive any type of message, including voice mail, instant messages,
messages, email, faxes, and more. Additionally, subscribers can
customize how
the messages are presented and when they are delivered. Customers have a
single interface to check to gather all of their messages, rather than
logging onto the corporate LAN, checking a fax machine, and dialing into
voicemail. End users can configure their unified messaging system to
information through a telephone or the Internet. Speech-enabled
messaging lets mobile workers access their voice, email and fax messages
from multiple devices including desk phones, cell phones, PDAs, and web

Collaborative Applications

Unified communications can support most elements of the standard suite of
enterprise collaborative tools, including scheduling and calendar functions.
Members of a corporate workgroup, for example, could check the availability of
coworkers to schedule a meeting, and then use the same unified communications
tool to schedule that meeting. The technology also supports the inclusion of
remote and mobile workers, allowing them to access the same network
resources that onsite workers use so they can actively participate in
work projects, etc. from almost anywhere.

These collaborative applications and supporting technologies are helping
the momentum behind the current unified communications market surge as they
deliver tangible productivity gains and translate to verifiable ROI.

Real- and Near-Time

Unified communications can support most elements of the standard suite of
enterprise collaborative tools, including scheduling and calendar functions.
Members of a corporate workgroup, for example, can check the
availability of
coworkers to schedule a meeting, and then use the same unified
tool to schedule that meeting. Presence technology is particularly
here as it provides information on what tools an individual has available
use, as well as the individual’s availability for each of those tools. In
some cases presence technology can also be used to provide information
relative to the skill sets possessed by the individual.

Transactional Applications and
Information Systems

Unified communications can provide remote and mobile access to
enterprise-level transactional systems, including customer relationship
management, enterprise resource planning, and supply chain management
applications as well as proprietary systems. The technology also can
access to information systems by essentially creating a voice portal to
facilitate access to the corporate network or the Internet.

Current View

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Unified communications brings enterprise applications and multi-modal
communications technologies into a single access point. The technology
to evolve and is becoming more robust. Messaging services represent the
pioneering applications used by enterprises who implement unified
technologies. The ability to access voice, fax, and email messages through a
single interface enables business employees to receive important messages
might not otherwise be immediately accessed. Some of the messaging
of a unified communications solution are as follows:

  • Telephone access to email.
  • PC access to voicemail.
  • Message notification to wireless devices.
  • Wireless access to messages, information, and applications.
  • Fax mailbox.
  • Email-to-fax and fax-to-email.
  • Web access to all types of messaging.
  • Call back (to message originator) of voice mail and email
  • Call/message screening – the ability to screen a voice caller or text
    messenger before engaging in communication.
  • Call and message management.

A well-deployed unified messaging solution also enables members of a
user group to message each other asynchronously and through various media.
example, one employee can send an email to another employee at 12 AM but tag
message to be delivered at 8 AM, so the recipient gets the message when they
to the office in the morning. A partial set of unified messaging
are deployed in most enterprises. Other unified communications features
adding subject line context to phone calls, to match that of emails and
messages, and adding videoconferencing to enable 360 degree views of meeting

Unified messaging has been successful when deployed either on phone
or data networks but has not merged both technologies to reach its full
potential. Though the concept remains popular, the application of unified
messaging has not been extensive yet, as it’s proved expensive and difficult
to implement the applications on existing, disparate voice and data
technologies. Unified messaging originally tended to manifest as upgraded voice mail
with alerts and automatic notification rather than an integrated
system. Therefore unified messaging systems did not enable standard
telephones to
access email directories or allow email systems to receive voice
messages. Today’s systems provide a unified email inbox that gives access to
voicemail and fax messages too.

The explosive mobile communications industry has incorporated some
messaging capabilities in handheld devices like cell phones and smartphones. Users may not have full access to their PC’s inbox but they can
send and receive email messages and download address books. Many mobile
also feature text-to-speech technology, now a feature of unified messaging,
which allows users to send and receive real-time text messages.

Thanks to convergence and expanding CTI, IPT, VoIP and other integrated
and data transport technologies, unified communications and its subset
messaging is experiencing a dramatic growth in available applications and
bringing the promise of the technology closer to reality. Once enterprises
migrate voice capabilities to their IP infrastructure, which they are
increasingly doing, they are able to
cost-effectively deploy robust unified communications and messaging, which
should in turn boost end user productivity.

Employees, especially mobile personnel, will be able to make key
faster, collaborate and revamp project plans, negotiate contracts and
troubleshoot unexpected problems. For example, an executive gets an urgent
message regarding the largest customer’s account and needs technical support
staff and sales managers to work together to satisfy the customer. All she
have to do is click on an icon in her address book and send an instant
inviting the staff to join a conference. Messages are sent via email,
cell phone, pager, text-message on a cell phone, etc. The icons next
each team member’s name indicate who is available and who is not, using
presence technology.

Current Enterprise

Contact Center Applications. Unified communication technologies enable
call center managers to deploy their communications systems as a hub-and-spoke
architecture, allowing all personnel to reach each other easily. The technology
also can turn a traditional call center that only uses the telephone to interact
with customers into a full-service multimedia contact center, able to interact
with customers through a number of different media. Call center agents also can
respond to customer inquiries through different media. Thanks to growth in VoIP
and convergence, call center technology is quickly evolving and will one day
turn contact centers into multi-modal enterprise portals that can handle
multiple types of customer-facing contacts that come in from any device and any
network.  Eventually, the call center will work more closely with other
enterprise applications to direct calls to the most appropriate contact rather
than the first available agent. A call center agent will use presence management
and detection to identify an employee with specialized knowledge on the query,
determine if the worker can participate in a three-way call, and set it up
immediately. Call handling can be tracked and documented on the complementary
applications since they all reside on the network. In addition, call center
agents today no longer have to reside in a designated call center but have
the flexibility to work remotely or in a distant call center. Using IP
technology allows agents to plug into the network from virtually anywhere
start working.

Enterprise Portals. Unified communications technologies enable users
access information from corporate Web portals. In essence, unified
messaging/communications will utilize enterprise portal servers to deliver a
variety of information to users via telephone, wireless devices, and PCs.
Web portals will provide access to various sources of information and
applications for company personnel, customers, suppliers, and partners,
immediate call/message notification and connections. As a result of using
multiple applications and information delivery sources, ownership of
access will exist on the individual level.

Telecommuting Programs. Enterprises can use unified communications to
push the full capabilities of their voice network out to remote workers
the Internet and IP-based applications to access the company intranet,
and email without requiring multiple devices. 

E-Commerce. Unified communications can act as an interface to a
storefront. People can use the phone to get information or to make
They can purchase merchandise or trade stock without talking to a live
With the emergence of the Internet, the 24-hour
storefront has flourished. More information can be accessed and more
can be done than ever before.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP).
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) allows
voice, video, and data over a common signaling and transport (IP) protocol.
Developed by the IETF, SIP has been embraced by enterprises worldwide as a
peer-to-peer, multimedia signaling protocol for integrating devices with
Internet services, such as email, Web, voice mail, instant messaging,
conferencing, and multimedia collaboration.

SIP helps facilitate communications with numerous multi-vendor devices
media. The messaging protocol delegates how devices and applications work
together, such as how VoIP phones establish contact and use features like
waiting. For example, any standard SIP-based phone from 20+ vendors should
with the IP PBX. SIP allows customers to mix and match products from
vendors and lets enterprises orchestrate individual voice or conference
videoconferences and point-to-point video-enabled calls, Web collaboration
chat sessions, or instant messaging sessions between multiple SIP-enabled
devices, like IP phones, PCs, laptops,
mobile phones.

Potential UC Backlash

From an enterprise perspective, one of the major benefits of Unified
Communications (UC) is making employees more available.  While the goal
laudable – improving productivity – some employees may resent the feeling –
if not necessarily the fact – of being "on call" all the
Enterprises must implement UC in a non-intrusive manner, establishing usage
protocols that respect an employee’s "perimeter of privacy." 
Otherwise, UC may be greeted by employees with less than whole-hearted


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VoIP will continue to fan the fire behind the unified communications
market. VoIP is a feature-rich voice technology that allows unified
communications customers to access email over the telephone and is
to enable access to other key business applications, such as customer
relationship management applications. Similar to VoIP, IP telephony
is helping spur the growth of unified communications. IP telephony
comprise real-time transmission of voice communications over IP networks
can interface with traditional telephone networks. Current applications
include PC-to-phone, phone-to-phone, and PC-to-PC voice services. Unlike
telephony uses gateway switches to interface between the public-switched
telephone network and IP networks. Corresponding wireless technologies
also play an important part as the market expands and anytime, anywhere
access to information draws closer to reality.

The popularity of these products involving messaging is spurring the need
for UM facilities, particularly with regard to service providers and how and
where their airtime should be regulated. The driving factor behind the
wireless movement is field sales and support forces, which are creating a
distinct vocal presence within the niche area of unified messaging
applications. Taking the wireless application a step further, larger
enterprises are increasingly migrating their unified communications
capabilities into their operational framework, especially with regards
the implementation of Voice over Data networks, Voice over Data
and IP-PBXs.  

Web standards such as SIP, SOAP, XML, and Java enable companies
provide unified communications customers with access to third-party
applications such as SAP and Oracle and allow interoperability between
different hardware. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is an IETF
that is helping facilitate the development of the underlying
that boost unified communication by promoting IP communications with
numerous multi-vendor devices and applications. SIP is a peer-to-peer,
multimedia signaling protocol that integrates with other Internet
like email, voice mail, Web, instant messaging, conferencing, and
collaboration. In May 2010, the Unified Communications
Interoperability Forum (UCIF), with founding members HP, Juniper Networks,
Logitech/LifeSize, Microsoft and Polycom, was created to enable
interoperability of UC hardware and software across enterprises,
service providers, and consumer clouds, as a means of protecting
customer’s existing investments, simplifying their transition to
more extended UC networks, and generating incremental business
opportunity for all stakeholders in the ecosystem.After three years of
existence, it now has over 40 members.

Unlike existing standards
organizations focused on a single media protocol, the UCIF aspires to
cross the multiple boundaries of interoperability using existing
standards rather than creating new ones. The work of the alliance may

  • Publishing specifications and guidelines
  • Defining test methodologies and certification programs
  • Interfacing with other standards groups
  • Liaising with regulatory governmental bodies responsible for UC

So far, UCIF has submitted USB webcam recommendations that were accepted
by the USN Implementers Forum’s Video Working Group, developed video coding
profiles that were included in the International Telecommunications Union’s
H.264 Advanced Video Coding standard, and has signed an agreement with the
University of New Hampshire to develop SIP over IPv6 testing tools.

Nearly all large organizations plan to migrate to a converged voice
data network, based on IP as opposed to maintaining traditional,
technologically-exclusive voice and data networks. Wireless capabilities
will continue to be essential, as the demand for unified communications
moving from location-dependent communication to location-independent
communication to support a mobile workforce and wireless devices. Thus
unified communication is shifting toward virtual communication, which
theoretically encompass individual user communication portals that
all types of network and device-independent personal communication.

Security Considerations

As one of the least mature IP technologies, VoIP remains a security risk
many companies yearning to reap the benefits of VoIP phones but lacking in
ability to counter inherent security limitations in VoIP applications,
systems and supporting services. Many fear hackers can use always connected
phones to tap into a network, using search engines to discover information
the network and exploiting that information to steal or corrupt confidential
data. A number of improperly configured and secured SIP systems have been
hijacked, so it is critical that Implementaions be performed by those with
appropriate expertise.

New technologies and procedures are being devised to address this threat
some caution against undue panic. For example, Cisco recommends
deploy the VoIP infrastructure and data devices on separate VLANs to limit
hackers ability to penetrate the enterprise by creating SIP messages that
into a VoIP system.

In addition, the VoIP Security Alliance (VoIPSA) aims to fill the void
in VoIP security-related resources through a collaboration of VoIP and
Information Security vendors, service providers and others who distribute
information and advice to the industry. VoIPSA monitors the security
landscape for threats as well as advising on precautions and

UC Evolution

Just as Voice over IP (VoIP) helped transform the Unified Communications
environment, new and emerging technologies, like "telepresence",
become an integral part of UC solutions.

A variation on the concept of video conferencing, telepresence is "a
technology that allows
[enterprise personnel] to interact with [their colleagues and customers], no
matter how far away, as if they were in the same room.  Telepresence
meetings make remote participants life-size, with fluid motion, accurate
flesh-tones, and flawless audio.  The experience feels remarkably
and comfortable for almost any size meeting – from two people to large

Telepresence technology is generally applicable to any enterprise
requiring communication, coordination, or collaboration at a distance. 

  • Product testers in New York can work
    "side-by-side" with product developers in Mumbai.
  • Sales executives in Paris can display their
    products to buyers in Berlin.
  • Subject matter experts in Toronto can provide
    "hands-on" training to their associates in Tel Aviv.
  • Global business partners can leverage the technology to identity,
    and repair supply chain breaks.

Telepresence is differentiated from ordinary videoconferencing by
several factors:

  • HD video of at least 720p
  • 30 – 60 frames per second or higher with near-zero latency and
    full band audio with echo cancellation
  • architected so participants can sense spatial relativity of
    those at the other end of the connection (eg: speakers positioned
    so sound seems to emit from the screen location of the person


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Unified communications can deliver a number of benefits to the
The primary benefits are:

  • Higher efficiency and improved productivity.
  • Streamlined network functions. 
  • Optimized business processes.
  • Enhanced response time.
  • Improved communications with partners, customers, suppliers, and
  • Increased collaboration.
  • Improved customer service.

Companies should profile their employee base to determine the need for a
unified messaging solution. Enterprises with remote offices or a very mobile
workforce would benefit the most from deploying a unified communications
solution. Employees who spend the majority of their time at a desk in one
will probably not reap as many benefits, since they should have access to
corporate portals and messages from their desktop, but the following
of employees will benefit the most from unified communications. 

  • Sales personnel who spend most of their time in the field.
  • Senior- and executive-level personnel who spend a lot of time on the
  • Consultants who travel between branch offices.
  • Corporate workgroups.
  • Remote workers/teleworkers.

All enterprises should plan to implement unified communications as it
undoubtedly dominate business communications in the next decade. They should
so, however, with their business goals in mind and invest in the
that will cause their individual business processes to improve and their
productivity to increase. Despite its growth rate, unified communications
not become a requirement for enterprises to thrive right now. Certain
of the user population stand to benefit more than others and should be the
to receive the technology.

Therefore enterprises considering a unified communications system should
consider tying in as many critical business applications as possible in
order to
create a return on investment. The ability to access all types of messages
a single access point is a nice feature, but the improved efficiency is
times not enough to justify the investment in the technology unless it
the underlying business process, such as improving customer response time.
Administrators and CIOs should assess all available options – both
and service providers – before making a selection. Administrators should
the following factors:

  • Support for digital network formats such as Voice Profile for Internet
    Mail (VPIM).
  • The ability to add other telephony integrated applications to meet the
    needs of the organization’s growth.
  • Ensuring all new applications and systems are SIP compliant and easy
  • Having options for either client- or server-based messaging.
  • Selecting a vendor that has a reputation for strong services and
  • Security needs and procedures that boost the security on VoIP phones,
    disable unnecessary services and restrict access to designated
  • Ensuring sufficient network capacity to accommodate the increased

To successfully deploy unified communications for long-term benefits,
enterprises must migrate from legacy telephony infrastructures and voice
applications to the next generation of converged, "virtual"
telecommunications. This requires using the IP network to support voice
applications, which can include VoIP and/or IPT. Organizations have to
the costs with projected productivity gains and long-term lower Total Cost
Ownership. A phased implementation is generally the most cost-effective
migration path for most organizations and will allow the organization to
leverage new technology introduced during the migration process.

Businesses need real-time communications systems that connect their users
with the people to whom they must talk, while routing less-urgent matters to
message repository of choice. IT departments should make sure the unified
communications products and services they choose can meet these demands
needing an excessive amount of integration.


1 "About TelePresence: Overview."
TelePresenseWorld.com. Hemisphere Expo Services, Inc. 2006-2008.

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About the Author

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Lynn Greiner is Vice President, Technical Services
for a division of a multi-national corporation, and an award-winning computer
industry journalist. She is a regular contributing author to Faulkner Information

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