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CIOs Extend Unified Communications to Mobile Devices

The huge influx of mobile devices into the enterprise is getting CIOs fired up to invest more in unified communications (UC) and collaboration systems, according to a survey by IDG Enterprise, CIO's parent company.

The survey of 1,105 respondents was only open to IT leaders who have already deployed UC systems or plan to do so within the next three years. UC technologies include IP telephony, email, instant messaging, video conferencing and enterprise social software. Now the catalyst for UC investments is extending those desktop capabilities to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, according to 67 percent of the survey respondents.

Chris Zegers, CIO of law firm Lowenstein Sandler, says he is looking to switch from Cisco Communicator to Microsoft Lync because he thinks it will be easier to use on mobile devices.

"It's pretty simple," Zegers says. "I want to have an IM client that works well on every possible device that my attorneys have."

Zegers says he's hoping the shift to IM will reduce the use of email, boosting productivity. Sixty-one percent of respondents said their top reason for investing in UC is to boost employee productivity; the second-most-popular reason was increased flexibility for employees (42 percent).

Jerry Johnson, CIO of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, agrees with those sentiments. He says the organization's Lync system makes it very easy to set up a meeting or find a person's location, for example.

UC deployments often cost at least $250,000, and can top $1 million at large companies. Asked in the survey about the biggest obstacles to UC investments, respondents cited the high cost (54 percent), followed by systems integration headaches (47 percent) and lack of in-house expertise (33 percent).

Johnson says getting vendor support and training his own staff make the task of implementing a UC system a challenge. "[The technologies] are not particularly easy to deploy; they take a bit of tweaking," he says.

Follow Editorial Assistant Lauren Brousell on Twitter: @lbrousell.

Read more about unified communications in CIO's Unified communications Drilldown.

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