SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Tom Nolle | February 23, 2017 |

 
   

Taking 'Unified Communications' Beyond Unification

Taking 'Unified Communications' Beyond Unification If we want to explore what UC/UCC evolves to be, we have to focus on multiparty connections -- collaboration -- alone.

If we want to explore what UC/UCC evolves to be, we have to focus on multiparty connections -- collaboration -- alone.

Networking today is based on standardized (largely IP) technology. It's increasingly dominated by the universality of the Internet, an information platform and conduit that can underpin nearly any kind of communications or collaboration. It's focused on smartphones whose multiple apps let the devices seamlessly switch between the older "call" or "SMS" world and a host of these Internet communications tools. How much more unified does it have to be? No more, unless we're talking about "UCC" and not "UC."

If we're a typical smartphone-wielding consumer or worker, we might have a half-dozen ways of communicating with others, ranging from social media to legacy calls and SMS. Most of these ways will work either from our smartphone or from another Internet-ready device, including a desktop system. If I want to talk with John or Samantha, I probably know which of these mechanisms for connection we happen to share -- and if not I probably have that information in my Contacts app. Even if I have a dozen different communications options, all of them work on whatever I'm likely to be holding or sitting in front of. I have two different mail clients, a phone, and two message clients running on my smartphone, and I can manage the combination.

The point of this is that our quest for relevance in UC/UCC starts by taking the "UC" part off the table. If what we're talking about is pairwise communications, then further unification isn't at all required, nor will it likely ever be. If we want to explore what UC/UCC evolves to be, we have to focus on multiparty connections -- collaboration -- alone.

All About the Context
Collaboration is all about getting a group of people to share a context. It might involve only conversations, or it might involve sharing of video (telepresence) or documents. The variability in the context being shared pulls us away from some forms of connectivity -- you can't easily read a PDF as an SMS, nor can you contribute comments on something easily when others can visualize it and you can't. In addition, the practical resources for sharing context are different depending on the platform. Try to write code on a smartphone and you'll see what I mean. Collaboration, then, is about collecting people into a context using a suitable platform.

This fits with the way that Web conferencing works today. You can connect via a browser or app and have voice communications and document sharing. You can add your video presence. You can call in if you don't have Internet access or simply can't look at the screen because you're doing something like driving a car. But the Web conferencing experience shows where the concept of simply permitting multiple service paths to the collaborative center falls short of market needs.

You can record a Web conference, but what users would really like is to have the recording sync with the document, and have document change management be able to link changes to specific comments. A moderator could perhaps make changes to a document based on the comments of someone who had dialed in or was otherwise unable to edit directly. Then, as they review the document, users would like to be able to pull the page or-slide comments directly from the appropriate document editing software, not play back a whole recording.

Video presents another conference challenge. The number one reason people don't like videoconferences, as shown in my own surveys, is that they don't like how they look. In multiparty discussions, though, solid evidence shows that having a visual on at least the key players will move the group more quickly to consensus. That accounts for the interest conference users have in animated avatars versus direct video. That's especially true among youth or anyone with a strong gaming interest. The ideal is an avatar whose expressions and movement mirror the video image from the camera. Technically, an avatar system could reduce the bandwidth requirements for conference participation, too, and since a record of the movement vectors needed to sync an avatar with the person it represents is very small, that too could be linked to documents being reviewed.

Creating Collaborative Links
However we represent our collaborative team visually, we still have to link this to the scope of "documents" that might be involved. Yes, much of the collaboration is centered on the classic word processing, spreadsheets, or presentation tools, but even in this space a single vendor (Microsoft) doesn't completely dominate. Other graphic arts, video creation, and software development tools are also the center of collaborative work. What's needed here is a kind of metadata linkage, something that would allow the embedding of collaborative comments, video, avatars, or whatever. We have metadata embedded in almost every app, including the ability to reference URLs. Why not use that to create a collaborative link?

Making collaboration effective is very difficult if the things we're collaborating on don't have any explicit recognition of the collaborative process, beyond tracking changes or doing markups. Much easier would be to define a set of collaborative process links and make those a part of metadata, allowing us to create a common collaborative framework. If we do that, we can save at least the UCC part of "UC/UCC."

For more perspective on the role of context in collaboration, attend the Wednesday, March 29, summit on the lawn session at Enterprise Connect 2017, "Cognitive & Contextual -- Can AI Disrupt Enterprise Collaboration?" Enterprise Connect 2017 runs March 27 to 30 in Orlando, Fla. Check out the full Enterprise Connect conference program here, and register today using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event or Tue-Thu Conference pass, or get a free Expo Plus Pass.

Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!
Tom Nolle on Google+





COMMENTS



July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.