Communication systems continue to evolve from legacy voice-centric heritage to enriched multi-media collaboration sessions equipped with presence, IM, video conferencing, and desktop sharing.  IP telephony (IPT) has become the new foundation of communication with between employees, and increasingly across the entire supply chain. The growth of mobility, consumer devices, teleworking, HD audio and video expectations, and multi-media communication and collaboration demands have motivated organizations to centralize and manage all forms of communications in integrated systems.155171640

Traditional IPT vendors have added increasingly sophisticated features to their core telephony platforms, while Microsoft has extended its original UC-focused OCS product into a full-fledged telephony system in Lync. Visit Info-Tech’s solution set Vendor Landscape: IP Telephony and Unified Communications to see what leading IPT/UC vendors have to offer.

Cisco, with well rounded IPT/UC solutions for the mid-market and organizations of almost any size, and both a Champion and the Trend Setter in Info Tech’s IPT/UC Vendor Landscape, has demonstrated clearly how an IPT-origin solution can enable a full range of advanced UC features, including multi-media recording and analytics, fixed mobile convergence (FMC), web and desktop video conferencing, and out-of-the-box Lync integration.  Emerging Players like Interactive Intelligence and Digium have brought affordable alternatives to the table, generating stiff competition for more established vendors when specific use cases (contact center and open source, respectively) are an important focus.

Whether employees are on their desktops in the office, at the airport on their tablets, or anywhere in between, IPT/UC vendors are increasingly able to provide full multi-media feature parity across the ever-growing breadth of devices and platforms.  Info-Tech expects this trend to continue: Avaya’s top-rated IPT/UC solutions, coupled with its acquisition and integration of Radvision’s leading video conferencing systems, and the general move toward SIP across the IPT/UC market are an indication that it may only be a matter of time before we see a number of converged IPT/UC/VC solution providers.

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lifting puzzle pieceMany organizations look to deploy a video conferencing (VC) solution in order to better meet business collaboration needs, address rising travel costs, and reduce travel time. Often businesses neglect to take into consideration of the advantages of having advanced features for integration. Although affordability and capital costs are something to consider, organizations should look further into the future and realize sometimes the most value can be gained by paying more for features that will simplify use and make end users more efficient.

Pervasive video conferencing is nearing a reality: integration with UC solutions, clientless web conferencing services, and cloud/hybrid infrastructure deployment options all contribute to expanded opportunities for use of traditional room-based VC systems.  Similarly, enhanced options for high-quality VC across commodity internet connections – led by Vidyo and adopted by other vendors evaluated by Info-Tech – mean that video-based collaboration is no longer the exclusive domain of enterprises that can afford top-dollar vendor offerings.

As tablets and smartphones are further embraced (or at least accepted) by organizations, video conferencing and IPT/UC integrated solutions look to become more critical. Organizations are generally looking for full feature parity on tablets and smartphones if video conferencing is to take hold in the increasingly important mobile space: Avaya’s Radvision acquisition is a good indication of this direction, following a similar route as Cisco with their Tandberg acquisition and broader UC ecosystem.

All-in-all, Info-Tech sees a bright future for video-centric collaboration as part of converged communication strategies that aim to provide easy-to-use solutions that increase end-user productivity.

To compare different VC vendors, take a look at Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape: Video Conferencing.

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Avaya Evolutions was held recently in Toronto, and was a great look into the leading UC/contact center vendor’s direction. It’s clear that Avaya recognizes social media and mobile access as defining market trends, and they’re rapidly incorporating them into product offerings. Avaya’s Social Media Manager gives customer service representatives the ability to queue, prioritize, route and escalate inbound service inquiries from social channels such as Twitter. Social customer service capabilities are becoming increasingly important given consumer affinity for social media, and social media should be embedded as a key component of any multichannel service strategy. Info-Tech’s own research has consistently found that proactive customer service via social channels is the number one value driver for organizations (even surpassing more traditional marketing and PR use cases). However, Avaya’s major competitors are not standing still. Info-Tech has also seen robust social media integration into CSM products from Salesforce.com (i.e. Service Cloud and Desk.com) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Companies looking for social-enabled support now have a growing number of vendors to choose from! Mobile was another area of focus, with unified communications solutions like Avaya Flare providing full mobile support on smartphones and tablets. As knowledge workers are  freed from the paradigm of corporate workstations, having a robust mobile solution is quickly becoming a table stakes selection criteria for UC vendors.

Another key focus in this conference was Avaya’s acquisition of the Radvision’s Scopia Video Conferencing solution. This acquisition promises to propel Avaya’s collaboration capabilities to a higher level with immersive telepresence, video conferencing capabilities on mobile devices, and HD resolution. It is only a matter of time until we see Scopia’s anticipated integration with Avaya’s IP telephony and unified communication solutions, Aura and Flare.

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unifying the pieces

The nature of communication and collaboration is changing rapidly, and unified communications (UC) solutions can help, well, unify a variety of communication tools. We compared twelve UC solutions in our recently published, Vendor Landscape: Unified Communications. Use it to help choose the UC vendor that best fits your organization.

There has been a lot of hype about UC in the last decade, but don’t let that distract from the real improvements that have increased its usefulness. It’s no longer limited to presence and messaging; UC now includes rich communication tools like video, voice, and document sharing, all working together seamlessly (or at least with fewer and fewer seams every day). It’s more than just seeing if someone is on the phone: UC allows you to communicate in the right way at the right time, whether it’s through instant messaging on a desktop or video conferencing on a tablet.

Speaking of mobile devices, bring-your-own-device programs and the general rise in mobile device usage have driven the need for UC to support a variety of devices. Furthermore, the utility of UC is increased when communication no longer depends on being tethered to a desk phone. As the variety of supported mobile endpoints and the advanced UC features available on such endpoints both continue to grow, ever greater opportunities are available for keeping your organization connected, and enabling collaboration however, whenever, and wherever the need arises.

Deciding on a UC solution can be tricky. Many IP telephony vendors offer UC as part of their telephony product, or as an add-on (we believe IPT and UC will be largely merged in the near future). Other UC solutions are installed “over the top” on existing IP telephony deployments. Use our vendor landscape to help decide which features are crucial, which deployment method makes the most sense, and which vendors can meet all your needs at the lowest possible price. 

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dialogue bubblesCommunication and collaboration technologies are evolving rapidly, and video conferencing technology is no exception. We recently published a revised Video Conferencing Vendor Landscape, covering seven video conferencing solutions, along with an updated Video Conferencing Strategy that covers making the case for video conferencing, selecting a solution, and tips for achieving maximum benefit for your organization with the implementation of your solution.

Traditional approaches to justifying video conferencing based on travel savings are still important, but many organizations are finding even greater value from higher quality and more frequent communication, as well as collaboration experiences that are enabled by a strategy for pervasive visual communication. In that spirit, traditional video conferencing vendors – including both long-time players and newer arrivals – have extended their expertise in room-based systems with desktop and mobile video communication solutions. Thus, while there are now many options for seamless HD video conferencing available, there’s also far more opportunity to take advantage of lower-resolution video interactions.

At the same time, newer players are rocking the boat when it comes to video conferencing infrastructure. The days of limited choices among a few high-priced hardware MCUs to enable multi-party conferences are behind us – those devices are still available, and appropriate for some organizations, but newer, software-based approaches are emerging, with the potential to reduce both the cost of entry and the total cost of ownership for widespread video adoption. As well, when it comes to traditional room-based video conferencing systems, many vendors are promoting added-value opportunities such as digital signage and electronic whiteboarding: investments made in large, high-quality displays can improve communication and collaboration beyond when a video conference is in progress.

Whether through solutions directly from the video conferencing vendors, or through integrations with leading Unified Communications (UC) systems, it is important to look at the big picture before deciding on a specific solution. Consider how regular and reliable video conferencing – including dedicated rooms and executive endpoints, desktops and laptops, or smartphones and tablets – can improve communication across your organization, and with important business partners and customers, then use the vendor landscape to help select the solution that best meets your current and future needs, at the best possible price.

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