Multi-vendor UC is still a struggle for many enterprises. UC federation products claim to fill the gap, so why haven’t they taken off?

The IT team at American Public Media, the second-largest producer and broadcaster of public radio programs in the United States, didn’t have anything as lofty as a “unified communications strategy” on its mind when it deployed its Avaya telephony system 14 years ago. It simply needed the phones to work.

Over time, however, more types of enterprise communication tools emerged and matured, and the broadcaster’s IT team realized its users needed more than just a phone line to get their work done. American Public Media has since subscribed to Cisco’s WebEx Connect service for instant messaging, WebEx for Web conferencing, and Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 suite to manage some of its communications in the cloud, including email.

“We are a classic example of a mishmash of a whole bunch of different things without any real integration,” says Jess Probasco, senior network engineer at American Public Media, based in St. Paul, Minn. The broadcaster’s unified communications (UC) tools “are all disparate platforms,” he notes.

It’s a dilemma facing many enterprises with multi-vendor UC strategies that have grown organically over time. Employees started asking IT for tools and services like IM and video conferencing, or sometimes just downloading them on their own, to get their work done. Meanwhile, vendors began building up their UC portfolios similarly — gradually adding new tools through acquisitions or having disjointed product teams develop them à la carte — without much thought to a wholly integrated, interoperable platform that offered everything in one package.

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Author: Gina Narcisi