Communications Blog • 5 MIN READ

Why your Unified Communication Needs Instrumentation

Darc Rasmussen

Written by Darc Rasmussen

Airlines long ago recognized instrumentation is vital to the safe and efficient operation of their aircraft. And yet corporations to this day manage their unified communications systems - many of which are just as complex as an airplane--with no instrumentation at all, flying blind from one white-knuckle incident to the next.

Yes, back in the early days, an organization could run its UC system without instrumentation and get away with it. At the time, the systems were relatively simple and did not require 24/7 monitoring and management. In those days, UC was really just a way for employees to talk over an IP-based phone system. Yes, there was voicemail and conferencing and the beginning of email and calendar integration with IP-PBXs but, basically, the UC systems of yore were still all about audio communication. What was seen as UC in the 90's and early 2000's, is very different to the UC of today.

The UC systems of today are as different from those early systems as a Boeing 787 Dreamliner is from a DC-7. For starters, we have advanced to an era when a cell phone is no longer just a phone. It's almost everything you need for complete communications. It's a phone, a mobile computer, and a conferencing system. And UC is no longer just about audio. It's about sharing my desktop. It's about collaborating on a document. It's about immediately elevating an instant messaging session to a video conference. It's about digital transformation.

This is why companies can no longer get by with manual monitoring of their legacy UC systems. If they want to avoid disaster, they need instrumentation. When issues arise, as they invariably do, companies need technology that can immediately figure out what's wrong and fix the problem. That may sound straightforward but it's not. As I've written previously, finding the glitch in an advanced UC system is not a question of finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. It's finding the needle in a field of haystacks -- in fields and fields of haystacks.

This is why even Microsoft, which is a leader in the new era of UC with Skype for Business, is now demanding instrumentation. In fact, when Microsoft recently laid out its best practices for implementing and managing a successful UC system, at the head of its list it placed an advanced performance-management and monitoring system. This is not because something is wrong with Skype for Business. It's because all UC systems now sit on top of a very complex digital ecosystem -- an ecosystem in which problems can come from a thousand possible directions and are virtually impossible to anticipate, detect, or fix manually.

Let's take a look at the everyday UC system -- and the comedy of errors that transpires when things go wrong. You fire up your UC client, but can't connect to your conference call. You connect but you can't hear anyone. When you do hear voices, it sounds as if they're underwater. You get halfway through the conference and people mysteriously wink out and drop off. You try to share a document but that feature suddenly stops working. Finally the video breaks down and the screen goes blank.

It would be funny, if it wasn't so frustrating, plus the time and productivity cost of such inefficiency is enormous. And it's unacceptable in view of the fact that 53% of organizations say their primary motivation for investing in a new UC tool is to increase productivity, according to recent survey by West Unified Communications Services. And, as I discussed in my previous post, "Collaboration and the Art of Meeting Productively," the impact lost time has on productivity and the U.S. economy is $37 billion annually.

And this is why an advanced experience-management and monitoring system is an essential element in any modern UC implementation. These systems deliver the instrumentation your company needs to visualize and maximize the digital ecosystem and ensure an optimal experience for all your users.

With the right instrumentation, you can look across the entire ecosystem and understand the throughput and capacity requirements of your UC system. Maybe you're paying too much money for capacity in areas where you don't really need it. Or maybe you're having quality issues in another area because you don't have enough capacity assigned there.

Let's go back to our airplane metaphor for a minute. The way a pilot flies a plane these days is almost entirely informed by instrumentation. If he receives information that a system is running inefficiently, he makes an adjustment. The same applies to your UC environment. You need the instrumentation that enables you to manage and tune your system in real time.

But you can do even better than that. The next step in UC instrumentation is an experience-management system that addresses issues automatically. You can't have teams of people running around in the background trying to fix glitches. That's not realistic. You need a tool that automates the management and problem-resolution process.

Then, if something goes awry during a video conference and you start losing quality, you have an expert system that can automatically look across your entire digital ecosystem and find the issue -- pinpointing the needle in those fields and fields of haystacks -- then understand what the root cause is and fix the problem in real time before any damage is done.

UC technologies are the engine behind today's digital transformation. For example, companies are now using video to interact with their customers. Developments like this mean that UC systems need to be more reliable than ever. And the best way to ensure the needed level of reliability is to implement an instrumentation solution on top of your UC system. This will give you the power to pursue your own digital transformation with confidence, make your people more collaborative and productive, and watch your business take off.

Topics: Communications Network Assessment

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