In my experience, this isn't an IT project, this is a COO or CEO project. I would also venture to guess that most back-end systems cannot be hooked together to provide the necessary data for Unified Desktop. Another guess would be that this type of venture would likely fall under the 70% of failed IT projects. Why? Unless the CIO is financially compensated for a project of this magnitude to be delivered, it will lose priority and die. A project this massive (actually any BPM project) requires inter-departmental cooperation, many meetings, a lot of man-hours, a strong project manager, the backing of the C-suite, and a 2-year timeline, where it stays in the spotlight. UC becomes UD."Routine customer-service interactions may require agents to interact with five, 10 or even 15 or more systems. Much of the time, these systems are ignorant of one another, requiring agents to log on each time they access a new system.... Unifying the agent experience into a single, consistent desktop takes the complexities out of the training process and job performance...... Management is also more clearly able to see the impact of call resolution because call closure procedures are uniform, no matter what back-end functionality comes into play during the course of the call..... The universal desktop view also makes it considerably easier for constituencies such as sales, marketing, and finance to understand the customer-service business processes at play and tailor their own activities accordingly." [from a Cincom guest column]
At medium sized businesses, UC can be defined as VoIP plus email plus collaboration and conferencing. For Cisco, this is the sweet spot: Call Manager with Webex. Unfortunately, Cisco doesn't have that email piece. That email piece is missing from most PBX and VoIP providers. For Microsoft, this is exactly what they hope UC comes to stand for because that is what OCS is designed for. The downside to MS OCS is reliability, TCO, and E-911.
At the small business, I don't think they know what UC is at all. Why would they? UC is a term the industry can't define, so what would a small business owner know about it? The SB Owner is looking to cut costs, but even at 15% savings, is he going to move to a hosted PBX platform? Probably not because of the big changes that come with that migration. What changes? Blinking light syndrome for one. That being the changes the workers will deal with daily from the previous set-up. The blinking light is call park, which most PBX systems do not include. So immediately the workers have to make a big change in how they handle calls.
There is a capital expenditure (CAPEX) to move to VoIP in the LAN. Cabling, POE switches, battery back-ups, IP Phones, and a QOS Router. And now there is a very different looking phone on the employee's desk, so we have training and re-training.
To move a small business over to UC, there has to be a sound business reason, which can only be uncovered if you spend the time to understand the prospect's business. (This is why working in a niche is most profitable). You have to understand the call process at work in the business environment. That may have to start with "I'll-save-you-10%" but then needs to quickly move to a discussion about the business, its workforce, and its relationship to the phone system.
Overall, people do search for "unified messaging" and "unified communications" but I'm not clear on what the universal meaning of those terms are. We have a show (IT EXPO WEST 2009 in Sept.), but I think that the definition of the acronymn varies. Maybe we can discuss that in Sept.