I feel UC technology will be crossing a threshold of intuition in 2012. Tablet computers, spacious touch-screen smartphones and deskphones with dynamic color displays will help users understand how to use their new technology on a just-in-time basis. Given how busy everyone is today, technology will fail if everyone has to read a user’s manual just to use the basic features of a virtual phone—no matter how integrated and functional the phone may actually be for a well-trained user.
I am a big fan of plug and play integration. When I started consulting for a new client a year ago, one of the first things they did was send me an IP deskphone to plug into my LAN. I didn’t have to do anything to set up the telephony; it provisioned itself to the hosted IP PBX much in the same way that any IP deskphone would “call home” today. While it did not have mobile integration, it did automatically roll over to my cellphone when I did not answer the deskphone.
Unfortunately, despite the ease of setting up the actual deskset in that hosted IP telephony scenario, I gave up trying to integrate presence information with an open source instant messaging server (my client didn’t ask me to explore this technology, but I wanted to show them how “easy” it would be to setup and how productive it would make them).
The experience I had is a case in point about why it is so important for a hosted carrier to provide complete end-to-end solutions. I consider it axiomatic that new technology will fail to gain widespread adoption unless it is both easier to set up and simpler to use than previous technology. Plain and simple, new technology has to offer the path of least resistance for both IT professionals and users or it will not break through the threshold of widespread enterprise adoption.
Intuitive technology design is essential to this next era of technology. This is not just true on the device side of convergence, but on the infrastructure side as well. In the world of cloud computing, I expect to be able to look at a screen and intuitively know what buttons I need to click to create a new virtual Linux server in under a minute. If I need to double the capacity of a server, I expect that to take less than two minutes after a click of one or two buttons. If I want to cancel a server entirely, I expect a single click or two to take the server down and stop the billing — all in less than a minute.
With the advent of “apps,” end users are getting more and more spoiled by the idea of immediate plug and play. In less than three minutes, people are using their tablets and smartphones to purchase an app and then trying it out. If they are not completely satisfied, 60 seconds later they can return the app for a full refund. Never in history has the buying cycle been so compressed.
Any vendor out there selling hosted telephony has to bring a complete solution to the table that is highly intuitive. End users today expect applications to actually teach the user how to use the application on a just-in-time basis. For an IT staff, the burden of integrating hosted telephony with mobile telephony and collaboration tools like IM and web conferencing has to lie with the hosted provider. If an enterprise has to figure out how to bring all those things together, that’s not a complete solution.