Human beings and they way they work and think are changing. For example, my children have been conditioned to rapid response due to their early interactions with information systems. As their brains continue to develop, they will be able to multitask in a parallel processing fashion that is far different than what I am able to do. What this means is that the circuitry of the human brain of this next generation is going to be different than anything that existed in the past—so Unified Communications is not a choice in the long run, it is an imperative.
Steve Jobs is probably one of the first people who understood this. I am not talking about the iPhone, but about his understanding of attention spans that he first articulated in the 1970s when Apple Computer launched. The story is legend; reportedly, Jobs timed how long it took a computer to boot and, based on sales projections, allegedly calculated how many human lifespan equivalents would be wasted waiting for the computers to boot. I have never owned an Apple or an iPhone, but I have always had great admiration for Jobs as one of the folks who “get it.”
Any company that wants to maximize the productivity of the next generation of workers will need to invest in unified communications technology. “Telephone calls” are becoming obsolete. About two years ago, I studied the interactions of 350 executives at a Fortune 100 insurance company. I was shocked to find that executives were sending as many text messages among each other as phone calls. That was a far different environment from five years earlier.
The next generation of workers thinks much differently about communications. They will start by thinking of the person, perhaps because they see a post that person added as a comment to a social network or an email or text that the person sent. The first question they will ask is what is that person’s “presence,” their availability to communicate via various modes of communication (text, chat, voice, video, etc.) based on what that person is doing at that moment (driving, sitting in a meeting, etc.) and where they are (at work, at home, at the mall, etc.) The next generation’s etiquette will assume that you check any presence information you are authorized to see before you contact someone.
As with any new advance in technology, this “progress” will have a downside. We will need to do a much better job of unplugging. We will have to be more proactive in teaching our children how to disconnect. That may even need to be a new status setting for UC: “Unplugged,” for when we consciously declare to the connected world that we are unavailable ... At least until we reboot.