“Unified Interactions” –More Than Just Communications

“Unified Interactions” –More Than Just Communications

By Art Rosenberg April 7, 2014 3 Comments
Art Rosenberg JPG
“Unified Interactions” –More Than Just Communications by Art Rosenberg

Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft’s new head of Lync and  Skype, came up with yet another label for where business communications technology is heading, i.e., “Universal Communications.” It doesn’t seem to be much of an improvement over what we at  UC Strategies have been calling “unified communications” (UC). So, I decided to see where the problem really is, and I think it is because of the term “communications.”

If you look up the definition of “communications” in Wikipedia, you will find that “communications” is bounded by contacts between people.

  • Communication (from Latin commūnicāre, meaning "to share" [1]) is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, written, or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more living creatures.

It used to be that the only way a business transaction could be performed or information could be gotten was through a live person (telephone, mail), but that has really changed with direct consumer access to online applications through multi-modal mobile devices. Rather than just person-to-person contacts, users can now get or give information by interacting with online applications, and, vice versa, people can receive alerts, reminders, and timely notifications from automated applications. So, “communications” as commonly defined being just between people is not adequate for what is really happening in business activities.

Time To Upgrade “Communications” To “Interactions”

Don’t get me wrong! We still need person-to-person contacts, but now we need to include contacts between a person and an automated application. The way I see it, both types of contacts may be considered as interactions – interactions between people or between a person and an automated application. In addition, either type of interaction can be two-way, i.e., a person or application contacts you or you contact a person or an application. Since there are many efficiency benefits to be gained by minimizing the need for involving another person in accessing/delivering information, or performing a routine transaction, that choice should now become a flexible option of any self-service application.

If we now look at what we are “unifying,” “optimizing,” or “universalizing,” it’s not the old definition of “communications,” but rather any interaction with people or with automated online applications. What is also most important, is that the flexibility to dynamically choose the mode of interaction is now practical with increasing end user adoption of BYOD multimodal mobile devices that can support all the mobile user’s situational needs. Further, when one user wants to talk but the the user can’t hear, or one user want to type text but the othe user can’t look (e.g., driving a car) speech–to-text and text-to speech conversions can be brought into play for contact exchanges.

“Unified Interactions” (UI) Hits The User Interfaces On The Head

As BYOD takes hold with multinodal mobile device use by all kinds of end users, the flexibility for more efficiently exchanging information and conversation in different modes becomes more practical. Now we are hearing a lot more about the “User Experience,” which really depends on the User Interface (UI) with both person-to-person contacts and interactions with online applications that are rapidly becoming more mobile than just restricted to desktops devices.

What “Unified” means is that the different modes can be dynamically used by people involved with any form of interaction with other people or with an automated application process (inbound or outbound). In a real-time videoconference session, some people can be “on camera” with video, while others can only see the “video,” but still participate in the voice conversation; all participants may also be able to see any form of information that is exchanged (document, messages, video clips, etc.) If you want to call that “Universal,” fine, but I think the real focus should be on whether interactions will be just between people or between both people and online applications.    


3 Responses to "“Unified Interactions” –More Than Just Communications" - Add Yours

Tim Banting 4/8/2014 2:24:32 AM

If the industry needs another acronym I would settle for SBP- Solving Business Problems. enterprise social, collaboration, UC, UCC... no wonder customers are confused!

We just need vendors to explain simply and concisely what it is all this "stuff" can do for a business. That takes expertise, familiarity with the product and real world examples.

I am not sure the industry needs more marketing fluff- just better business results.
Art Rosenberg 4/10/2014 7:25:36 AM


Your "SBP" is too general a term to describe any practical tools or functions that will help accomplish that objective. Someone has to understand the problem before it can be fixed, either by others, or by themselves.

When it comes down to "solving business problems," we all know that there will need to be communications between the people involved. We now have many ways to do just that, and UC platforms brings them all together for end user flexibility and choice. When it comes to solving a particular end user's problem, we have have ways to do that with self-service online information, transactions, and notifications. The latter is important because it makes solving those kinds of individual and personalized business problems more efficient.

My point is, that we have to recognize that both kinds of interactions may be needed to solve specific business problems, either between people (communications) and/or with self-service applications (interactions). Also, the gap between the two can now be closed with capabilities like WebRTC and UC enabled smartphones, tablets and desktops..
Brad Bush 4/24/2014 2:30:32 PM

I do believe that contextual business processes that connect machines/Computers/things with people in a way that redefines both the problems and the communications are where we are headed. Great article.

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