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

Take a long-term look at where the business is today and where it’s going over the next five years and base the decision off of that.

There are many choices today for enterprises evaluating Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solutions. The struggle for evaluators, though, is trying to determine which solution is best. Some solutions are oriented around the desktop, some revolve around the network, some lead with voice, etc., leaving decision makers scratching their heads as to which is the best for their organization.

To solve this quandary, I recommend that anyone considering or in the midst of deployment think of the solution as a platform and not a product. What I mean by making a “platform decision” is to take a long-term look at where the business is today and where it’s going over the next five years and base the decision off of that.

To illustrate what I mean, think about other enterprise platforms, such as Oracle or Java: The decision to use one of these is based on the needs of today but also what applications the organization will want over the next three to five years.

Similarly, with UC & C, it makes sense to look at the communication needs of today to try and made a decision about what solution to use. However, IT leaders need to ask themselves, how will our business change over the next five years? Will the communication needs of today really be the same as the communication needs of tomorrow? What new collaboration tools will workers be using? These types of questions will help guide companies to not only make a good decision, but the best decision with regards to a UC solution.

From my perspective, the communication needs of tomorrow are significantly different than the needs of the here and now. The worker toolkit today is made up of corporate issued desktops and laptops with premise based communications tools. Look out several years and we see a significantly different story, highlighted by the following:

* Windows no longer dominates the workplace. Instead, the operating system environment is highly fragmented, with iOS and Android having significant presence in the workplace. This means any UC&C solution must be optimized for an environment where multi-operating system is the norm instead of an exception.

* The cloud will be mainstream. Remote working and mobility drive IT departments to look to the cloud first. I’m not saying that 100% of a company’s communications and application strategy should be in the cloud, but it does need to be a significant part of every organization’s strategy. This means UC&C solutions must be at feature parity whether cloud or premise based solutions are chosen.

* Mobile computing evolves. When I look at mobile computing today what I see is really “mini” computing. Meaning, we’ve taken what we had on our desktops and reformatted it to make it fit on a small screen. To me, true mobile computing is based on the unique characteristics of mobile devices such as touch interfaces, GPS capabilities, accelerometers and location information. Over the next three to five years mobile computing will explode and we’ll see a wide variety of new applications created with these enhanced capabilities built into it.

* Social networking starts to erode e-mail. This one may seem hard for people to grasp, seeing how well embedded e-mail is in the work place today. Generationally though, many of the younger workers coming into the workplace do not use e-mail in their personal lives and will look to social communications when they make their way into the workplace. In many ways, this is how e-mail went mainstream in the first place. It was younger workers that drove the use of it inside organizations, and we’ll see that trend repeat itself with social.

* Visual communications becomes real. The interoperability barriers are falling fast with video. With the advent of camera-enabled consumer devices it’s easy to do video no matter where you are, and I feel we’re on the cusp of having video use accelerate rapidly within corporations.

Those are some of the trends that I see over the next five years that should have a heavy impact on what UC & C solution to invest in today. Remember, the decision of which vendor(s) to use should be based more on the upcoming needs of the workforce versus just that of today.

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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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