How will Unified Communications evolve? Now that we're at a point where more and more organizations are embracing UC, it's worth looking at its future. What will UC look like next year? In five years? Will we even recognize it in 10 years?
Michael Finneran, writing at Webtorials, offers an interesting point of view on the future of UC. In his view, basically it gets absorbed into the social media vortex and disappears. Its functionalities and purpose will remain, but UC won't be recognizable as a technological or operational entity. We're not fully convinced, although there's no doubt the advancements in social media will have a tremendous effect on UC.
He postulates that UC can be broken into two general categories, tools that users adopt to improve their experience and/or results, and tools that are integrated into defined processes. The first category focuses on knowledge workers, with a client that gives users access to a presence-enabled corporate directory and the communications and collaborations functions needed to increase their efficiency and productivity. The second category integrates communications into a broader range of applications, and ideally the communications tools are automated when needed.
Finneran's view is that over time, UC tools will become ever more seamless, so that users will need to take as few steps as possible to incorporate communications into whatever it is they are working on. He notes:
As UC continues to evolve, my guess is that it will essentially become invisible. Certainly the capabilities like presence, multi-modal communications and collaboration will be offered, but they will simply be built into every application. We are already seeing a lot of this with smartphones that allow the user to highlight a telephone number or email address in virtually any application and immediately launch a communication.
Finneran observes that most social media providers have effectively integrated presence, location information, and communications, with mobile apps that are more successful than the current crop of mobile UC apps. But what these consumer-oriented social media outlets lack is any sort of collaboration tools. We agree, and in our view, if social media is ever to truly absorb UC, that form of social media would have to be a very enterprise-oriented one. It would incorporate other social media, certainly, but serve as a more business-centric hub, one targeted to that enterprise and its business needs.
By the way, Finneran references a terse definition of UC as "Communications integrated to optimize business processes." While brevity may have its appeal, we're not sure six words fully capture the essence of UC. We're still partial to the Sprint definition, which we haven't brought up in quite a while. So we'll dust it off and present it as follows: "Unified Communications is the integration of wireless, wireline and collaboration solutions enabling a business and their end users to control how, where, and when communication occurs through a consistent interface regardless of mode or access method."
Perhaps in that distant future when (if?) UC is no longer recognizable as such, the six-word definition will be a better fit. But by then, people might not have the attention span for 36 words anyway, so six may be their practical limit.