26 April 2012

NetEvents APAC Press Summit, Hong Kong - Day 2 - Debate 4 Summary

Unified Communications - from connectivity to communicating
This debate was opened by Charlie Dai, analyst with Forrester Research, and a panel consisting of Frederic Gillant (Orange) and Pranay Misra, Nanotel.

Dai presented some research on the most important features of unifioed communications (UC). The top three in the USA were unified messaging, presence, and business phone features on mobile devices. Obstacles to UC include many employees not yet being trained or on a UC system. For mobile UC, the barriers were that employees didn't have smartphones that could support UC, and problems with integrating across mobile networks and devices.

"Can UC provide solutions to the way we work and interact today, and increase ROI?", asked Dai. "And what's the future of connectivity and communication?"

The panellists were asked for their vision. Misra said that everything needs to be connected. He noted that communication has changed from wired to wireless over last 20 years, now it's click-click on smartphones. He foresaw more connectivity such as the ability "to see what my kids are doing in my home now."

Gillant said that the answer fell into four broad categories:
1. That return on investment (ROI) on UC is not demonstrated.
2. That UC fits onto cloud and UC as a service.
3. The problem of social networks
4. Communication-enabled services to return ROI.

He said that you can't demonstrate hard ROI on UC. He said that UC was usually taken up by early adopters, when for example the CEO wants to use it to speak to his family while travelling. "You can calculate you will pay UC players a lot to implement and manage it," he said. "But you can't go back because it improves your communication with colleagues and partners. HD video is richer and more efficient than email, which this is now a curse and the cholesterol of the office."

UC as a cloud service is not as security-sensitive as putting financial data in the cloud, Gillant said, and you can implement it using a pay-per-use model, which gets rid of large equipment capex.

"On social networks, everyone talks about it but I am not convinced," Gillant said. "I wouldn't hire people who spend time updating Facebook pages three times a day. Social networks are easy to use though and so they are part of UC, but they are a new curse just like email because they don't enhance your communication. Facebook pictures of your dog don't improve productivity."

The best feature of UC is presence, Gillant said. To know that someone is there and what they're doing - even though it's intrusive on privacy. It's also good for messages in industrial processes, such as messages from physical devices like a hydraulic pump. If it fails, it sends an email to one person who is on holiday. Without a properly designed workflow that takes account of absence, it might not be noticed. With UC you can re-route such alerts to someone who is there on call.

UC is also good for collaboration and gathering thoughts, and can provide a hard ROI from presence.

Responding to a question from the audience, Gillant said that email remains powerful as you have a record and can organise meetings such as this.

"This conference may be called by email but the conference is done face to face, which is the highest level of communication," he said. "It allows you to touch and read body language which you can't do via tele-presence."

Email is the lowest form of communication as emails can be mis-written and mis-interpreted. "But email is good as sending documents so I ask people just to use it for that - if you want a discussion with me, call me.

"Email will slowly disappear and be replaced by something else. But presence invades privacy and you can be seen, is not as convenient, but privacy is also going to disappear."

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