UC Is Free

by Dave Michels

Phillip Crosby published “Quality is Free” in 1979, and it became a key contributor to a global revolution in manufacturing practices. Previously, “Quality” was associated with goodness, or luxury rather than conformance to requirements. Quality was also considered intangible. Crosby both defined and explained how to measure quality leading to huge gains in customer retention and profitability. The conclusion was obvious, despite the costs of quality (process management, inspectors, sampling, etc.) that the ROI was compelling – at a minimum it was free.


Extra legroom … Supersize fries … In a world where we’ve gotten used to paying for upgrades, it’s rare that an extra feature doesn’t bring extra cost.

Initially, telephony vendors positioned UC features as optional and expensive bolt-ons, but the complexity of multiple servers limited its suitability to larger enterprises with extensive IT skills and budgets. UC was considered a “luxury” item for aggressive early adopters rather than organizations with real budget constraints. Plus, UC was loosely defined and took on a slippery “I know it when I see it” flavor.

But the costs and perceptions of unified communications are changing – and today you can get for cheap what used to cost extra.

At Enterprise Connect 2011, 11 major vendors presented UC solutions, each with the four UC building blocks: IM/presence, conferencing (audio, web and video), mobility and extensibility. Each supplier presented its UC pricing for the standard configuration. The per-user-per-year average prices for the UC-only configurations were down more than 50% from last year, to $38 per user per year (software, hardware and maintenance for 2,000 users for three years). Costs are dropping while the solutions are becoming more integrated and more extensible.

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