Unifying the changes

Cisco's Peter Hughes muses on unified communications, collaboration and the effect of the iPhone on enterprise comms.

Today, it can be said that sustainable competitive advantage comes not just from how well we manage business data but from how well we navigate these global networks and accelerate distributed business processes. So if businesses can find a way of doing it, they will be able to successfully create the platform to develop a sustainable competitive advantage.

Collaboration technologies are heralding a new era of communications that not only allows companies to create this competitive advantage but also allows them to fully harness the benefits of Web 2.0. It is a move from silo communications to unifying communications, creating a new collaborative work environment, and only the companies quick to adapt to this new collaborative work environment will thrive in the new flat world.

Unified Communications (UC) is not just instant messaging or using Web 2.0 applications on your mobile phone, it involves bringing together a whole stack of solutions, services and channels - it is about people to people and people to applications - with the ultimate result being effective collaboration. With the increase in social networking sites and the mash-ups of applications happening so rapidly we will see this space change even more quickly over the next year, two years and three years.

It is most certainly not just traditional enterprise solutions driving the UC pathway, consumer applications are an equally important part of the mix. What we are experiencing in the industry is the consumerisation of technology - applications and tools we use at home and socially with friends are becoming increasingly prevalent in the enterprise.

Consumer applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Mail certainly have a role to play in most enterprise organisations; however, they need to be able to provide those services in a very scalable and resilient way. The demand is increasing to provide connectivity to whatever application is out there and is being used by both consumers and enterprise organisations.

As they move into this 2.0 world, enterprise organisations need to ask, ‘how do I take the applications and devices people are using and enable them for collaboration to accelerate critical processes, increase productivity and speed innovation?’

If you look at what is currently happening in the mobile space, Apple has changed the paradigms of the user experience. What Apple has done with the iPhone has very much transformed the mobile industry and Apple’s innovation of the user experience has ultimately set the benchmark. The iPhone is now being demanded by a lot of enterprise organisations.

This new environment puts additional pressures on organisations that are unable to give their workers the collaborative tools which allow them to innovate and adapt without compromising core IT responsibilities of security, reliability and policy. CIOs are going to be challenged because employees want to be able to use these consumer 2.0 applications like Facebook and Twitter. They want their iPhone to run on their corporate environment.

Solutions increasingly need to be inclusive, rather than exclusive, to provide interoperability and connectivity to drive innovation. There needs to an emergence of standards for interoperability to connect disparate devices.

What Cisco is about is providing enterprise grade capable solutions that are available, secure and scalable - while at the same time providing connectivity to the outside world. It is no good simply communicating within the enterprise organisation - there is a much bigger world outside.

About the author: Peter Hughes is the Cisco ANZ General Manager Unified Communications and Collaboration. He was appointed to this role in 2000, when he joined the company. Hughes works in the unified communications group on developing convergence solutions and go-to-market strategies that will improve customer success and help maintain Cisco as the leader in UC.

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