One of the best things about writing a regular column is maintaining an ongoing focus – it ensures I’m up to date, and over time, it affords the kind of perspective that analysts stake their reputations on. This is particularly relevant here, as UC is very much a moving target. The amorphous nature of UC is equally challenging for vendors – like ADTRAN and many others – as it is for IT decision-makers and the businesses that end up deploying UC.
This is a theme I will return to regularly, at least as long as UC remains a work in progress. I don’t see that changing any time soon, and that itself should be food for thought. Let’s run with that idea. The core concept of UC has been with us for the better part of 10 years, and depending who you talk to, even longer. In the beginning, there was the phone – and it was good. Simple, but effective, and businesses managed just fine. We had fax too, but leave that aside for now. When PCs – and later broadband – came along, email changed the landscape and truly opened up new vistas for communications. Cell phones came along around the same time, but there weren’t really part of this landscape until much later.
Other modes soon followed, and to address the challenge of managing them all, we got Unified Messaging. Given the available technologies, this worked pretty well, but as our needs evolved, it wasn’t the answer. UM really was a stepping stone to UC, however you want to define it. Is UC the highest form of communications evolution? I highly doubt it, and am increasingly of the view that something will supplant it, possibly before UC reaches its potential. There are a few ideas to explore here, but I’ll just focus on one for the balance of this post.
If UC is such a great idea, why hasn’t it become the standard by now? Why has it taken almost 20 years for mobility to become part of the UC value proposition? Vendors have a pretty clear idea of what UC means them, but that hasn’t translated into mass adoption yet. Clearly, technology develops on its own timetable – sometimes ahead of market demand and other times lagging it. That’s where I see the root of the problem here. Cell phones were a great innovation, but until mobile broadband came along, they weren’t in the UC conversation.
The key takeaway for this post, then, is the idea that to whatever extent you understand UC, use UC, or benefit from UC, the solution will never be complete. The communications landscape is constantly changing – and morphing as new modes come along. Think about how we’re shifting from being phone-centric to desktop-centric, and regardless of where you are on that spectrum, there’s an even bigger shift happening as all modes start finding homes in the cloud. The concept of UC will keep evolving with these shifts, but I can guarantee you that whatever you’re experiencing today will be different – and hopefully better – sooner than you realize. I’ll continue this thread in my next post, and until then will leave you with a simple question – what do you think UC will look like 2-3 years from now?