Voicecon: UC Infrastructure Can't Be 'Start Fresh' Scenario, Says IBM

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"Half of us make a bad decision every week not because we're dumb, but because of bad data," argued Alistair Rennie, general manager, Lotus software and WebSphere Portal, for IBM's Software Group.

Speaking in a morning keynote session at VoiceCon in Orlando, Rennie said that a truly useful UCC solution enables collaboration across organizations, accelerates user adoption, takes into account the consumerization of IT, allows organizations to leverage their existing infrastructure, and seeks to achieve business agility through cloud.

Too often, Rennie said, UCC vendors are asking customers to "start fresh" with their infrastructure instead of building upon what they already have.

"Nobody I talk to wants to start fresh," he said. "That's now new to the communications sector, that's been true of IT forever. Nothing goes away. How do you build on it?"

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All UCC vendors should be able to answer the following questions, Rennie said:

-- How does your solution promote user adoption?
-- How can you help me make my existing systems work together?
-- Can you help me strike the right balance between delivery options?
-- Do you have solutions that make sense for both large and small organizations?
-- Where is the ROI coming from?

"Competitors are going to tell you to go to a common infrastructure -- that everything will work together because it's a single, simple stack, and therefore it works," Rennie said.

But that creates problems in the long-term, Rennie argued, because companies get acquired by other companies or fold, products change, and infrastructure models change. Locking an organization into a completely proprietary infrastructure with little wiggle room to scale or accommodate advanced is UC technology means a lot of rip-and-replace and a lot of spot solutions, Rennie suggested.

"The landscape doesn't stay the same," he said. "There's a better way and that better way is integration. The assets you have are valuable. They work. They're built by excellent people. Why don't we just integrate them?"

The right deployment model for the right situation is what drives UC and collaboration growth in companies, Rennie said. He urged VoiceCon attendees to consider the changing roles of carriers, cloud platforms, service providers and other UC and collaboration players and tailor solutions that account for each.

"We're talking about doing work more effectively," he said.

IBM earlier this week confirmed that ShoreTel for IBM Lotus Foundations -- a bundled offering combining IBM's Lotus Foundations Reach appliance with ShoreTel UC products -- would be available this spring. Rennie touted Lotus Foundations as one example of how IBM was looking to partner with other vendors and use their strengths to create better, smarter UC solutions.

Maximizing UC potential, Rennie added, will never happen "in a rip-and-replace world."