Look at wireless UC from the user’s perspective: Gartner

In a teleconference on developing an enterprise strategy for mobile unified communications, Gartner Inc. vice-president and distinguished analyst Bern Elliot addressed the different approaches to UC and how the focus of UC technology is shifting.

“Wireless and mobility requirements fit into unified communications in more than one way…many companies really do start with a focus on mobility and wireless and voice, but that’s not where you should stop,” he said.

To understand where and how mobility fits into UC plans and architectures, Elliot pointed out that wireless solutions are applied separately to all areas of UC – voice, conferencing, messaging, IM presence, clients and IT architecture.

When developing a wireless enterprise strategy, it’s important to consider every category and understand which functions within each category will be of interest to the groups and individuals you support, he suggested.

“Then you can back into a set of requirements and definitions and the value proportion and from there, start looking at the vendors and solutions that you might propose,” he said.

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For example, providing handheld video devices to remote participants in a video conference is useful for meetings where one participant is onsite with a streaming device, showing everyone else what’s happening in a particular location, he explained. “It’s not particularly intuitive why wireless solutions are important to [conferencing],” he said.

Think about the requirements from a user standpoint, he suggested. “If you start out from the bottom and the infrastructure and work your way up, then the solutions that you build are going to be those that are offered by the specific infrastructure that you built,” he said. “By approaching it at both ends, in a sense by approaching it both from the infrastructure and the usage side of UC, you are able to better define the requirements that you are going to want to build to.

“What makes mobile unified communications complicated is the features in mobility exist in multiple layers of the architecture,” said Elliot, pointing to fixed mobile convergence as an example. “To implement a fixed mobile convergence solution, you have something down in the in-building Wi-Fi LAN that does the network hand-off. You have something that’s in your PBX typically that makes a decision about how to forward the call. And then you may have something inside the layer of soft-routing and personal assistant that decides which numbers to actually ring,” he said.

A wireless strategy is executed at all layers of a communications architecture, said Elliot. The best method of approach is to decide which functionality you want, then where and how on the network you will implement it, he advised. “Once you have that kind of an understanding of what you need to do, you are in much better position to go and talk vendors about their solutions.

“We believe that less than 20 per cent of enterprises will have a specific business case to build or buy a total fixed mobile convergence environment…80 per cent of the enterprises will want to start bringing in fixed mobile convergence as part of their regular technology refresh when they get end-of-life’d or they do an upgrade,” said Elliot.

These figures are typical for other functions as well, he continued. “Fixed mobile convergence, the conferencing functions, the messaging functions, the IM functions – these are not capabilities that you are going to want to just rip and replace and put in. It’s going to be very expensive that way…instead, what you do is develop a road map for incremental deployment.”