By: Becky Bracken

You're busted. We know you've stopped answering your desk phone. You only pick up a mobile call if you recognize the caller ID. You haven't listened to an actual voicemail in about 18 months. And, really, the best way to reach you is by email. It's something people who work with you regularly know all too well. But what about the poor saps buried behind that blinking red light?

Now take out your business card and count up how many different ways there are to reach you embossed on that fancy paper stock. We'll wait. Five or six? But that's not really true. The best way to reach you is by email.

All of your different points of communication aren't making you more accessible, they're making it complicated to track you down. One day, your business card will have one number, one point of contact and you will be able to control where that information is directed across IP, voice and mobile networks in the blink of an eye. That's the dream and the promise of Unified Communications.

Don't Call it UC, Call it Collaboration

But the dream of the end-user is a potential nightmare for service providers tasked with delivering Unified Communications to business. To start, suggests Frost & Sullivan Analyst Elka Popova, it's important to understand what the term Unified Communications really means.

Three years ago, Popova said you couldn't go anywhere in the industry without hearing about Unified Communications.

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"You could go deaf from all the talk about UC," Popova said. Now, the terminology has shifted away from UC toward terms like "collaboration." "It's totally a marketing shift."

Popova adds that she suspects the reason for the decline in the term "Unified Communications" in the marketplace is because it sounds too technical and "backend-ish" to appeal to the enterprise customer, who is really interested in increasing employee productivity through efficiency and collaboration.

But what you're really talking about is an integrated set of capabilities accessed through a single point of contact. Whether it's click-to-call, click-to-message, or any of the other thousands of business applications available, all the enterprise customer cares about is that the services are integrated and accessed by a single point of contact, Popova adds.

SP Sweet Spots

Christopher May, vice president Marketing and Business Development with VOSS said he sees a "perfect storm" type of opportunity for Service Providers looking to deliver UC.

"SP's have a competitive advantage and the question is whether they can take advantage," May said.


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