The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
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Looking for a great ice breaker? Try, “what’s your definition of UC?” It’s a favorite topic covered on this site and many others (never gets old). I myself have written many a posts along these lines. In the past, I took an evolution of voice stance. Before I shoot this down (for the first time), let me explain it. People love to say the PBX is dead - that UC changes everything. The PBX was about voice, and UC is about voice, IM/Presence, mobility, CEBP/APIs, video, and collaboration. So if the conversation was about CEBP, using APIs to, for example, route the call to the right agent - someone would invariably say “this sure isn’t a PBX anymore.” I never agreed with that because it assumes the PBX is some model of technology frozen in time. But the PBX has indeed evolved for nearly 100 years and it isn’t about to stop. The orginal “PBX” was corded - switchboard operators would physically connect or switch people to complete calls. In the 1934 movie “Blind Date,” Ann Sothern mentions “the PBX.” The PBX evolved into an electro-mechanical device and in the 70s moved to digital computer technology (firmware, solid state), and around the 2000s began a transition to packet networks (VoIP). During that journey there were plenty of evolutionary stumps abandoned in the dialog. We “dial” phones because they once had dials. A turned off phone was “on-hook” because placing the receiver on a hook turned it off. Even today, we still often describe the size of a phone system in terms of “ports” even though ports were effectively phased out starting 20 years ago. Today’s PBX is software driven, packet switched, and carries little to no resemblance to the “Blind Date” co-star. Nor does a 9” black and white television with 13 channels from 1970 share much with a current 62” Plasma - it’s called evolution. So my position was that the PBX continues to evolve - and that evolution now calls for things like presence, IM, video, etc., to be included in the solution. Low and behold nearly every “PBX” manufacturer in the 80s that still offers solutions today just happens to include those in their UC solutions. The “UC” moniker effectively means voice is no longer the only form of communications we need to address, and use of the term implies a broader set of communication tools. So my position in the past was UC was nothing more than PBX evolution; not replacement. Cisco and ShoreTel entered the voice business during the disruption of digital to VoIP. IBM and Microsoft are entering it during the disruption of VoiP to UC. All industries evolve, some faster than others, and UC is nothing more than that. I also felt that voice was the cheese pizza base of UC, and everything else (video, IM, presence, etc.) were the optional toppings. In other words, voice was the core. This has given many traditional players an edge. But as I’ve alluded, my position is changed. I feel now that the core (the cheese base) of the UC pizza is collaboration. Collaboration is where the potential lies and where the focus needs to be. Collaboration is far from new - the notion of people working together is about as obvious as they come. Technology enables us to communicate - email, phone, etc., but the tools of collaboration allow creation and learning. That’s why IBM bought Lotus back in 1995, declaring Groupware was the future. What is new is the simultaneous revolutions around mobility, broadband, cloud, and the web are all requiring and providing a totally new world of collaboration potential. Working and learning together is rapidly becoming the key to business survival due to the ever shortening half-life of knowledge and the increasing distances between our work-mates. Consider the current situation:
I also took a fresh look around the industry, consider this:
The list goes on. The conclusion is knowledge flows that used to take place in conference rooms and near water coolers are being replaced by new critical tools of collaboration that break distance barriers. Knowledge flows occur in social and fluid environments where learning and collaboration take place increasingly in the form of virtual communities. This includes Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. As organizations become increasingly decentralized, they must leverage strong foundational technologies to promote and preserve cross/inter/intra-enterprise communications. The shift afoot is our needs for communications are changing more rapidly than our communications systems. The prior shifts, analog to digital and digital to VoIP, were technology driven, not user driven. This time, its the users shaping communication needs - and they will meet those needs even if the organization doesn’t. Users are demanding better tools for collaboration. Screen sharing, document sharing, conferencing, polling, white-boarding - these are now the core components to UC. Proverb: There once was a conference room and many great ideas were born. Then came the conference saucer which enabled timely great ideas as attendees could call and pester those late to come to the meeting. Soon the conference saucer was used to include remote workers and then came the great idea of more remote workers. Soon the conference room becomes empty, but the ideas that flow continue with even greater frequency.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?