Unified Communications

12:05 PM
Curtis Peterson
Curtis Peterson
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Unified Communication Doesn't Mean Unified Interaction

UC is on the rise, but does it really solve the problem of communication disconnect? New systems must take UC a step further to support truly unified interaction.

The use of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) or unified communications-as-a-service (uCaaS) is expected to surge dramatically over the next few years, thanks to its ability to consolidate multichannel communications onto a single architecture across virtually any size of distributed enterprise. In fact, Forrester Research has predicted UCC to become a "standard communication infrastructure," with a market set to hit nearly $62 billion by 2018, driven by more than 15% annual growth.

Technologically, UC delivers on the promise of unifying vertical communication channels, bringing phone, voice mail, conference and video calling, chat, text, and fax capabilities under a single application. Some platforms even offer robust mobile applications that offer the same features and benefits of the desktop solution, making UC available anytime, anywhere on almost any device.

UCC: Not as unified as we thought
However, simply bundling these functions and presenting them as options to add within the technology stack does not go far enough. Communication threads still remain siloed, confined within the phone, email, text, or fax function, despite being accessible through a single application. Even within a uCaaS platform, conversations that begin as a phone call, jump to a text, then move to email or video chat become fragmented and scattered across the channels, losing continuity and clarity. Important details can easily be "lost in translation," vital team members unintentionally excluded, and loops left unclosed. Redundancy and repetitive communication hinder productivity and progress.

From a security perspective, there's also the risk of data and intellectual property loss, particularly in the BYOD environment. UCC solutions that leave out vital modes like text or fax force users to rely on device-native or "off the system" apps of their choosing, which removes the company-owned work product and data from outside the company's purview and protection.

Unified interaction: The next frontier
To overcome the shortcomings, modern businesses now need a new mode of communication -- unified interaction -- that takes the notion of UC one step further. Instead of forcing workers who are accustomed to multimodal communication to change the way they communicate, it's time we change the mode of communication to work the way they do.

With unified interaction platforms (UIPs) the ideas, conversations, thoughts, and evolution of a business decision no longer must be translated and reiterated across multiple channels. The conversation thread moves seamlessly from one medium to another, within the unified system, as naturally as it does in practice from the user perspective. What starts as a text can instantly be turned into an email and discussed via chat -- all while tracking and preserving the thread across each mode.

UIPs that operate under the auspices of the company network -- even on BYOD devices -- can be fully managed, secured, and controlled by corporate IT. Not only does this type of platform provide app standardization and data security, but it provides a fail-safe on several levels.

Company data, work product, and conversations within the UIP stay within the UIP, in the cloud, where they capture the evolution of ideas and initiatives and can be archived for future reference and to preserve institutional knowledge. If a device is lost or stolen or that employee leaves the company, data can be wiped remotely from the device to prevent the risk of a breach. When a new device or employee joins the network, their threads, archives, and other data stored in the cloud can be made quickly accessible on a new device by simply installing the app and providing credentials.

Closer to true unification
Ultimately, while UCC has represented a giant leap forward in efficiency and connectivity, particularly on the mobile front, there is still a tremendous opportunity for new unified interaction platforms to replicate the inherent, natural ways humans communicate with one another, rather than forcing us to adjust our communication habits to fit a platform.

New technologies are moving us closer. The advent of the cloud and uCaaS platforms are driving the market forward. What capabilities is your organization looking for in UCC and uCaaS platforms to meet its demands?

Curtis Peterson has more than 20 years of experience managing information technology and carrier-scale data and packet voice communication networks. At companies ranging in size from startups to Fortune 500 firms, Curtis has managed teams responsible for engineering, project ... View Full Bio
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MarciaNWC
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MarciaNWC,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 3:28:15 PM
Unified interaction platform
Hi Curtis -- Can you provide an example of how an enterprise might be able to start building this kind of platform?
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 4:23:36 PM
Sounds Good
It sounds good, since this approach doesn't require employees to change their workstyle -- unless, perhaps, an alternate tool (email instead of fax, perhaps) is more approrpriate. 
Susan Fogarty
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Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
6/20/2014 | 5:33:57 PM
Re: Sounds Good
Alison, right, it sounds good, but is very dependent on getting those tools right and matching the workers' actual workstyle. It seems like at least a few companies thought they were doing this already but have been doing a pretty bad job of it. I guess the proof will be in the pudding, as you say!
Pablo Valerio
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Pablo Valerio,
User Rank: Author
6/22/2014 | 12:01:53 PM
Re: Sounds Good
Susan, I did a couple of banking proyects for a Unified Communications company in Japan and China and our biggest concern was the use of the ATM networks.

Still today it is difficult to have a seamless experience over non-dedicated networks, especially when using mobile devices. That's why some high-end services are still using dedicated lines and hardware.

Mobile services companies such as Comverse have been introducing mobile tools to the UC market, and they are offering better tools to manage the range of devices people use today.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/31/2014 | 11:01:06 PM
Re: Sounds Good - What is Old is New Again.
One of the tools that I see being brought back under the heading of Unified communications is the "All Hands" meeting room.  Large spaces where employees meet in person face to face and communicate.  I have heard my clients call it a producttivity tool and true collaboration.  What is Old is New Again.
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