Survey reveals agencies' attitude toward unified communications

The convergence of voice, video and data is a popular concept, but adoption moves faster in some government quarters than in others.

Increasing numbers of government agencies are interested in adopting a unified communications platform, and those that have are lowering their costs and improving their organizational effectiveness, according to a recent study by CDW Government.

The poll, conducted in December 2009, surveyed 150 federal and 150 state and local government IT professionals, along with 615 IT professionals in business, healthcare and education. UC is the convergence of enterprise voice, video and data services and software applications to achieve greater collaboration among individuals or groups and improve business processes. 

The primary driver for government IT organizations' adoption is decreasing costs, and the study found that increased productivity is a top benefit. Federal IT workers also cited more reliable communications as a top benefit with state and local IT employees listing reduced operating costs as a second main benefit.

Federal government organizations are more likely to worry about network security than other organizations. Federal, state and local agencies alike are concerned about training requirements. State and local organizations were also concerned with operating costs. 
 
However, county organizations are more focused on using UC to improve cross-functional collaboration than their state and municipal counterparts

Seventy-one percent of all respondents that had fully implemented UC and tracked return on investment said their ROI met or exceeded expectations. Interest in UC for both federal and state and local governments is increasing: 75 percent of federal IT professionals have prepared a business case or strategic plan for the technology in 2010, as compared to 61 percent last year, while preparations from state and local governments has increased to 63 percent, up from 47 percent last year.

Federal agencies are more likely to have prepared a business case for UC than organizations in other industries, with defense agencies more likely to have a business case than their civilian counterparts. DOD agencies are also less likely to have difficulty securing budget commitments than civilian agencies, according to the study. 

Twenty percent of federal employees surveyed said they are implementing UC and 8 percent said that the technology is deployed. Fifteen percent of state and local employees said they are implementing the technology and 7 percent said it was deployed.

Overall, 8 percent of all organizations surveyed have implement UC, the same as a year ago, with the percentage of those that have prepared a business case or strategic plan for adoption increasing to 67 percent in 2010 from 55 percent in 2009.

Fifty-four percent of IT executives cited reduced operating costs as the top benefit of UC, followed by increased productivity (50 percent) and more reliable communication (44 percent). Organizations have also changed their approach and are reporting fewer concerns than a year ago. More are using an e-mail centric approach and fewer are concerned about network security issues.

UC component technologies include video, audio, and Web conferencing; presence; unified messaging; and instant messaging.  The survey identified several significant increases in UC component technology implementations year over year.  Today, 58 percent of IT executives have deployed unified messaging, compared to 46 percent in the 2009 study, and 45 percent have deployed presence technology, compared to 37 percent in the 2009 study.

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