Trends in Unified Communication

As unified communications (UC) becomes increasingly more ‘mainstream’ in the enterprise, its status as a platform for a rich collection of communications technologies is long past proven.

Trends in Unified Communication

Meanwhile, cutting-edge new technologies, such as the building blocks of social computing, are adding new dimensions to UC every month.

Current state of the art

UC already encompasses a broad range of technologies. To give a proper idea of what it constitutes, Gartner offers the following Technology Framework for Enterprise UC:

  1. Telephony and voice (voice and video telephony, real-time voice with UC)
  2. Conferencing (audio-, Web- and videoconferencing, tele-presence, unified conferencing, video streaming)
  3. Messaging (e-mail, mobile e-mail, sms, mms, voice mail and unified messaging)
  4. Presence and IM (including mobile presence)
  5. Clients and Endpoints (user interfaces and devices such as desktop and smartphone clients)
  6. Communications-Enabled Business Processes or CEBPs (communications from within business applications rather than standalone)
  7. Collaboration and social software (belonging to a different class of technologies, these applications may be enlisted to enrich UC functionality)

UC and Collaboration (UCC)

Among these, UC’s enhancement with collaboration deserves our special attention. Tellingly, Gartner predicts that distinctions between UC and collaboration will disappear soon enough.

For now, though, it is useful to separate them. While basic UC (telephony, conferencing, messaging, IM and presence) is increasingly accepted in the workplace, UCC is at an early stage of its development.

Nevertheless, the concept is already a transformative influence in the workplace, as various social/Web 2.0 technologies already offer communication and collaborative functionality. As a critical mass of enterprise vendors catch up, expect explosive opportunity for end-users.

CEBP

Just as communications and collaboration applications are traditionally separate, so are business applications and communications.

But this separation is patently inefficient. Quite often a business process warrants – even demands – communicating an outcome or a request. Not being able to do so directly from within the business process results in delays and missed opportunities.

Many communications vendors have begun to bridge the gap, such as Avaya, Cisco, Nortel and ShoreTel. Through integration of their solutions with business applications, they have made it possible to invoke communication functionality directly from within the business application.

Trend-spotting

The UC market keeps evolving, and it pays to keep an eye on it, to track the maturation of technologies over time.

But bear in mind that immaturity can manifest as technological immaturity or industry immaturity. With the constant addition of new technologies to the UC fold, some short-term supply difficulties may well arise, as vendors on different ends of the spectrum (for example social media and telephony vendors) move in on the same turf. But as these trends run their course and settle into maturity, the dust will settle on the vendor landscape too.

In a future column, I will advise on some of these aspects as I tackle vendor selection. Until then, enjoy watching the trends play themselves out.

 

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