This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

Management and analytic tools are needed to help make decisions on who to give what tool to, why and what the payback will be.

Everyone at Enterprise Connect loves the shiny new things. The mobile video being done by Vidyo, Cisco’s new TelePresence system and Jabber, and new cloud offerings like Sprint’s Complete Collaboration solution grabbed much of the spotlight at the show. I understand why too. They’re new, they’re flashy and they make us think about the great possibilities.

However, there’s another part of this industry that needs some focus as well and that’s management and analytic tools to help make decisions on who to give what tool to, why and what the payback will be. This part of the market isn’t so sexy and tends to not gain focus inside companies until the pain is felt. However, it’s hard to have a successful deployment without it.

It’s a bit like watching the Red Sox come out of the blocks struggling this year as they did at the end of last year. Signing Carl Crawford and trading for Adrian Gonzales is great, but what about some solid middle relievers (no not Bobby Jenks) or the steadying influence of guys long gone like Kevin Millar and Orlando Cabrera? All the bling looks good and sells tickets, but you need the other stuff to win.

I bring all of this up because I thought the partnership between VOSS and ISI to develop the first enterprise oriented business analytic tool for UC deployments was a great stab at solving a real problem with where the market is going. Neither of these are household names so you may not be familiar with them. VOSS isn’t just the name of a great bottled water, it’s also a multivendor UC “OSS” system to let enterprises and telcos do multi-vendor provisioning, dial plans, etc. I’ve talked about them before as one of the many specialty UC middleware vendors. ISI has historically been known as a telecom expense management (TEM) that has things like audit tools, invoice management and other “exciting” TEM applications.

At the show, the two announced something they called UC-BAS (Unified Communications Business Analytic Solutions), and since I don’t have a better suggestion, I’ll call it that too. UC-BAS provides a rich set of business data to help companies understand what UC tool to deploy and to whom, based on utilization and other criteria.

This addresses a bigger need than many people fully realize. UC clearly isn’t a “one size fits all’ type of market. No company is going to give ALL UC tools to EVERYONE. That would be a huge waste of money. But how does one know what to deploy to whom? Many of the solution providers have created packages to address certain user types like mobile workers, executives, admins, etc. but is this really the right way of solving the problem? I agree it’s better than just throwing everything at everyone, but it still doesn’t optimize the deployment.

The VOSS-ISI UC-BAS solution provides a real time dashboard that tracks consumption of tools and utilization of UC services in addition to all that TEM stuff. Deploying organizations can use this to understand things like what is the company paying for UC? Who is using the resources? What devices are being used and how much do they cost? How should costs be allocated and to which business units? What is the company spending on third party applications? How do the SIP trunking costs compare to traditional trunks? Again, not exactly the stuff movies are made of, but certainly necessary nonetheless.

The oncoming wave of BYOD will actually work as a catalyst for this type of solution as well. In a BYOD scenario, users will be bringing in a multitude of different devices and then swapping them out as the consumer device companies continue to push the envelope and build even better stuff. I know that to help with this, many companies are looking to leverage some kind of “app store” type of model where users can just go get the applications they need, when they need it. Without the proper business analytic tools to help understand which users should have what tool based on usage–or non-usage–for already deployed applications, costs could get out of hand very quickly.

The other point of consideration is that UC itself is evolving at a rate faster than we’ve ever seen before. If the CEBP market actually ever takes off and we start to see more UC enabled applications it will accelerate the rate of change as well, causing IT leaders to have to make faster decisions around usage and licensing.

I certainly don’t think the problem that VOSS and ISI set out to solve is easy nor is it easy to explain, but I do think if companies don’t get a handle on it soon, they’ll start to feel the pain.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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