I start this week’s blog in provocative mode crying out (loudly) for the retirement of the IT term “Unified Communications (UC)”. Why so passionate – whilst a very sound technical description for the outcome delivered when multiple communications technologies or channels work seamlessly together, there lies the problem – it’s a technical description. Users are unlikely to describe the communications devices or outcomes they embrace or desire in such a manner so now may be the time for the IT industry to let go of the Unified Communications (UC) moniker as a primary descriptor.
Currently it’s becoming hard to find a device not Unified Communications capable with even the most simplest of collaboration devices capable of more than one task, unified with another. For example a laptop can deliver a unified communications outcome due to the ability to act as a soft phone, video, fax, email, instant message and a multitude of other things. A smartphone can mimic a similar outcome to the laptop but adds a person centric rich mobile experience to the mix. And as we consider specialist user outcomes that may include tablets, telepresence units, video kiosks and the mass of current and future devices all will absorb the various and now common communications channels, unified to continue to evolve the next generation user communications and collaboration experience.
And there lies the most important component of all, “experience”. The various communications channels used in isolation or together are only of value when the user realizes the outcome or experience they expected. Therefore both vendors and solution providers must lead with a maniacal focus on the user experience(s) and reverse engineer it to sign post the technology required to ensure the term “Unified Communications” is required no more. Instead the outcome will be the outcome desired, described in the words of the user.
It may be time to retire the UC term and with it the historical viewpoints of poor user experience and flawed communications technologies. With the rich features now available on multiple device formats via on premise or cloud service delivery within the digital communications and collaboration technology portfolio, the only thing standing in the way of success is a lack of imagination.
Unified Communications (UC) has never been more relevant than now as the core technology fundamentals (even the traditional elements) are the transport for digital conversation in the 21st century world. But to make UC real for the user it’s essential to start by stopping any attempts to sell UC at all. Focus on the user outcome, discussed in the language of business and the technology will select itself. Then and only then will the end user realise a true Unified Communications “experience”.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist – Networking, UC and Security (Computacenter UK).
2014 really was the year that was. Information Technology (IT) has for quite a while threatened to play such a fundamental role in our lives that we would struggle to function without it. In my opinion 2014 was the tipping point year where the silos between “technology” at home, play or work blurred into one – “a SMART one”. Through 2014 something SMART with a processor, memory, storage and a battery at its heart became the secondary brain that the developed/developing world leveraged to optimise and enhance “living”. Personal & work smartphones became just “smartphones” as BYOD moved from a disruptive marketing fad to an important catalyst for end user behavioural change within organisations. Mobile working, once the poor relation of “working in the office” became the must have work mode through 2014 opening the door to transformed organisational working outcomes through 2015 – watch this one as it should be the biggest technology user led transformation yet.
The internet of “stuff” (I’m bonding the Internet or Things and Everything) with sensor packed connected devices always on and transmitting data across the wireless airspace emerged as the new battleground for customer service and market control. The IOT/IOE topic gained a head of steam through 2014 but watch it fly through 2015 as connected devices leverage harmonised data to really behave in a “human SMART” manner. And as I briefly continue with the key stories of 2014, I will be remiss not to discuss the shift from “cloud HYPE” to “cloud RIPE” as cloud service providers on mass utilising software-defined datacenter, network and security ideals presented an increasing portfolio of real world, customer validated services that deliver essential outcomes to a now captive and receptive enterprise audience. Cloud is now here ………..
Phew – all in all there was an abundance of IT good news through 2014 that should act as a springboard for greater things through 2015. But was it all good news? Back to the recap, an ever increasing population of mobile device users, generating masses of then stored or transmitted information, talking to sensors that transmit or store masses of information, that interact with enterprise IT systems that process and store a mass of information and so on and so on must be a good thing. When leveraged for beneficial personal, customer, enterprise or society based reasons the potential to drive value is unparalleled. However that same footprint of rich, relevant, always increasing data/information is equally digital gold for hackers who aim to utilise it in completely different manner.
The result, 2014 also saw a rise to unprecedented levels of one of the biggest concerns now at the executive top table, “security breaches”. With hacks now the norm within end user, offline / online enterprises and even nation states, 2014 and the mass of data moving freely around the heavily digitised world changed the importance personal consumers and enterprise organisations placed on information security. Since the dawn of the modern IT era, IT security has been just that “security for IT devices” often developed and managed by technologists. 2015 will see a major acceleration of a trend already permeating the enterprise with IT security a fundamental core of “enterprise information security” (that adopts a holistic view of enterprise end to end business security posture that includes IT). Security not a top priority through 2015? – not an option!
But no more talk about 2014, 2015 is here and its now. If 2014 was a dry run for the new face of people centric, end user fulfilling IT, 2015 is the year to make it happen. The end user is now king and long live the king (and queen). Stay tuned as we continue with this topic – (well at least for another 11 months).
Until next time.
As a recent joiner to Computacenter, it’s no secret I am no spring chicken. I have worked in this industry for close on thirty years so this has given me a great perspective on the changes we have seen take place. When thinking back I can recall the Car Phone morphed into the Mobile Phone , and then into the Smart Phone.
The Web has gone through numerous phases of development, at the start of this century there was a lot of noise about Web 2.0 and what this meant for Web Services. Unified communications is no different , we really saw this technology emerge in the early “noughties” and the big innovators were our colleagues at Cisco. They realized that being able to use the same network for both Voice and data made sense. It took a number of years before what was called Call Manager became widely accepted but today we recognise this as IP telephony (IPT) and we see this as industrial strength, mature and low risk solution.
Unified communications has reached the second major phase it is development. We should call this “UC 2.0”. This type of multi-media UC emerged from about 2006/7 but really has only become more widely recognised in the last three years. Microsoft were probably the first to move into the second phase of UC development. The same trend of increasing services and value is occurring, both Microsoft and Cisco recognise that the modern workplace can leverage a range of Collaborative services and this increasingly means in a mobile and remotely connected world.
“UC 2.0” offers Instant Messenger, Presence , Desktop Conferencing, Audio Conferencing , Unified In-Box, Voice Telephony and Video Conferencing. It can be accessed from anywhere where an internet connection can be made available. It still supports the traditional handset but many use a “soft phone” – as it is so portable! One key element is the ability to transition between these different media seamlessly, this is probably in my view one of the key ingredients of “UC 2.0”.
With further convergence of technology Smart Phones make excellent platforms for using UC, and both vendors support a wide range of devices. We also see a convergence of traditional Telepresence and UC platforms.
This multi-media world, supports a less hierarchical command and control style of organisation. Virtual teams can be quickly brought together, people can work from almost anywhere in the world companies can exchange a range of communications between each other securely, this helps strong business partnership and enhance the business value chain. At Computacenter many of our managed services customers can now contact us via Instant Messenger for example. As I said I like to refer to this as UC 2.0 , does this work for you?