Bill Pray

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Bill Pray
Research Director
2 years at Gartner
16 years IT industry

Bill Pray is an analyst in the Collaboration and Content Strategies ITP team. He covers communications and collaboration solutions — e-mail, calendars, instant messaging, and web conferencing…Read Full Bio

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Marrying E-mail, IM, and Web Conferencing

by Bill Pray  |  September 17, 2010  |  1 Comment

When evaluating or discussing unified communications (UC), one of the first marriages of communications and collaboration technology that resonates with IT and users alike is that of e-mail, instant messaging (IM), and web conferencing. However, there are issues that an enterprise needs to consider when choosing to implement this integration. So, I thought I would have a little fun with some quotes about marriage and the technologies:

“A first-rate marriage is like a first-rate hotel:  expensive, but worth it.  ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic’s Notebook, 1966”

The integration of e-mail, instant messaging, and web conferencing generally means an expensive communications and collaboration platform purchase from one of the major vendors (e.g. IBM, Microsoft) for the best working relationship. Web conferencing and IM vendors often provide connectors into the e-mail client environment, but these do add complexity for upgrades and support.

The bonds of matrimony are like any other bonds – they mature slowly.  ~Peter De Vries

The integrations for e-mail, IM, and web conferencing have been around for years – but getting users to take advantage of the integrations within their normal workflow and making it easy for them has taken time. The current integrations have matured slowly, but are getting solid and sophisticated in their ability to deliver.

Marriage means commitment.  Of course, so does insanity.  ~Author Unknown.

Once enterprise users embrace the integration of these three technologies and incorporate them into their workflows, then it becomes very difficult for the enterprise to change any of the technologies and the supporting platform. The enterprise becomes committed to the solution set, which can lead to some insanity in future decision making for IT. Lock-in is something nearly every IT shop tries to avoid, but invariably encounters at some point in their delivery of services.

The difficulty with marriage is that we fall in love with a personality, but must live with a character.  ~Peter Devries

The commitment means that the enterprise has to live with the product and vendor choice, potentially for a very long time. Agility, particularly when it comes to e-mail solutions, is not easy. On the other end of the spectrum, other than user training, it is really easy to change SaaS web conferencing solutions. Selection of each of the three technologies is often done because of the perceived benefits and functionality. However, once you learn the true character of the solutions and you decide you want change, it may be very difficult if they are integrated.

Marriage halves our griefs, doubles our joys, and quadruples our expenses.  ~English Proverb

While users may embrace the integration and find it makes their work life easier, quantifying that value in a business case that justifies the expenses of implementing and integrating the solutions can be very difficult. These technologies have numerous “soft” benefits when integrated that are difficult to assign monetary value. However, it is generally not difficult for the executives to see how expensive it is to provide these technologies.

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