Butler Group, Europes IT research and advisory organization, believes that organizations are moving from traditional hierarchies based on command and control to looser structures utilizing collaboration and team work, and there is a fundamental shift from one-to-one to many-to-many communication.
Organizations are beginning to expand outside the traditional boundaries found in the past. The extended enterprise now requires a common IP-based infrastructure to capitalize on information mobility and the need to be more flexible. There is a requirement for greater location independence, with remote working becoming more popular and many employees no longer remaining in one place for any great length of time. In order for this flexibility and changes in work practices to be catered for it is becoming apparent that the existing separate siloed infrastructures are no longer the answer.
The term convergence can be misleading. It is not a merger of voice and data networks, but the utilization of the existing data, fixed, and wireless infrastructure for the provision of IP-based services, including voice, data, video, and storage. Within this all-encompassing environment one of the most important building blocks is the establishment of voice as an application. This fundamentally alters the communications paradigm, enabling the development and integration of many new innovative services.
The reach and range of business processes continues to increase as organizations extend and expand their interactions with partners, suppliers and customers, and so the need to integrate geographically dispersed teams into complex business processes presents something of a challenge for the IT manager. Fax, email, pager, SMS, Web conferencing, video conferencing and conventional teleconferencing are all in use today, yet many business processes are still hampered by ineffective collaboration. Organizations must therefore re-examine their corporate communication and collaboration strategies in order to better support business activities and objectives.
Although reliability and security are among the most important factors in investment decisions, the cost of implementation is the leading inhibitor. While this is slightly more of a factor for small or midsized enterprises with tighter IT budgets, it is still an issue for a majority of the enterprises responding to a 2007 Datamonitor survey on communications convergence.
Another challenge is to securing the extended environment that most IT managers now need to support. There are many instances of successful attacks and loss of data, which includes finance companies and government agencies. The issue of security must be adequately addressed when contemplating utilizing an IP-based environment. Whilst the introduction of voice and video on to the network presents new security worries, it does not, however, add any new vulnerability that did not previously exist.
Effective management is a key capability in the unified environment where policies must drive availability, and visibility moves from individual point solutions to being system wide, along with the shift from fixed asset administration to dynamic asset utilization. A cornerstone for the provision of multi-modal channels is the ability to deliver intelligent central performance management, enabling efficient use of the available resources. The accessibility of end-to-end quality of service supporting data, voice and multimedia is an important first step in the evolution towards an automated solution.
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