Saturday, February 27, 2010
Email, the Internet, instant messaging, text messaging, search, social networking, broadband and mobility all gained traction in the consumer space and then were forced upon enterprises.
Has unified communications now been superseded by social media and mobile devices? For many enterprise executives, that is a rhetorical question, though it might not be so rhetorical for smaller organizations or individuals.
Contact centers remain the province of enterprise-class unified communications solutions and nearly all office environments, as well as for traveling workers who need access to home office communications features.
Global businesses likewise benefit from enterprise-grade unified communications more than small, local businesses and organizations.
Since supplier organizations tend to mirror the organizations they sell to, that means many large suppliers of unified communications believe in its value because they themselves are large, far-flung organizations in best position to leverage UC and other collaboration tools.
What is not so self evidently clear is that the same level of benefit is obtained by smaller, more localized user organizations and firms.
"These customers aren’t worried about presence and a unified portal," says David Burnand, a former Siemens enterprise communications executive. In fact, "many of them run their business using mobile handsets, simple PBXs, social media, Skype and Google Voice."
Many use elements of unified communications, including single number services, video-calling and instant messaging. They just don’t call it unified communications, or use those tools because they are "unified." They use point solutions because they solve real problems.
The point, says Burnand, is that "old school" definitions of unified communications do not hold.
UC is no longer about managing a desk phone, mobile, Windows PC and many other devices. The smart phone has made that view redundant for all except the power users, he argues.
Instead, it is evolving into skinny applications for low-end users and specialist applications for power users, mixed with a dose of social media, a splash of video and a few Web-based collaboration tools.
That will be an unsettling view for many unified communications or collaboration suppliers, as it suggests the "UC market" is far smaller than many would have predicted for hoped for.
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