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The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2012 (reference article) says that to be included in this Magic Quadrant, solution providers must meet certain criteria. The first criterion on the list (pages 16 and 17) is:
In discussing messaging communications, Gartner notes that email “has become an indispensable business tool” (page 2). Despite that importance, only two of the 14 vendors in the UC Magic Quadrant offer an email solution. This is the “moose on the table” which the Urban Dictionary defines as the, “Expression for an issue no one wants to address in a meeting.” There are two versions of the moose:
Perhaps, in the plug-in case, the "moose" issue could be removed from the table if the UC plug-in is robust enough to deliver all UC functionality directly from the email client. This could make sense from an enterprise purchasing and user experience perspective, since it utilizes the UC plug-in vendor’s proven telephony functionality, while delivering a complete UC user experience via the email client. However, based on the low level of market adoption of email UC plug-ins and based on the telephony-based vendor’s marketing and sales emphasis, it does not appear that this plug-in approach addresses enterprises’ and users’ UC requirements particularly well.
It is important at this point to note that this is not just about email simply as a transport technology for text and documents. Rather this topic includes the functionality represented by email software clients, whether "thick" software clients on the PC/Tablet/smartphone or a "thin" browser-based client for network-based services. The email client includes some key functions which are important for UC such as rules-based message handling, message folders and filing, integration to document repositories such as SharePoint, and calendar functions.
First, voice communications have been outpaced by the volume of email and instant messaging (IM) in the enterprise. Here are some approximate daily global numbers for corporate (enterprise) users (details and reference links are in the end note):
The email volumes are not surprising, since email provides many features which are not generally available with voice, especially the creation of a written record, the ability to work asynchronously, and the economy when sending to multiple parties. On that latter point, it may take the sender longer to type than to speak on the phone (unless they proficiently use dictation software), but the recipients can read about twice as fast as that, so if the email is sent to two or more people, email is probably a net time saver. Maybe, too, since the sender has to invest time to create the message, there is an incentive to be concise, which is not always there in voice or video calls or conferences.
Also, for the reasons suggested above, most enterprise users spend far more time working with the email client on their PC or mobile device than they do engaged with their telephone or their softphone client. Note that the rise of smartphone devices essentially started with the delivery of mobile email, and that is still a priority for most mobile enterprise users. The implication is that there is a stronger argument to build UC capabilities based on users’ email client experiences than to introduce a new UC client built on users’ telephony client experiences.
The second reason for the "moose" issue is that the email client is very likely a more natural gateway to collaboration than voice or video calls or conference calls. Efficient collaboration and project management methods reflect the idea that the knowledge workers will perform their research, analysis, design work, creative work, and report drafting on an individual basis and then bring that into a group setting for review and comment.
To date, email has been the vehicle for sharing that work in advance of the real-time discussion. Beyond that, the trend seems to be towards collaboration workspaces and social software for business which will subsume many email client functions including document sharing and discussion strings, as suggested in this NoJitter article.
IBM and Microsoft have connected their email systems to collaborative workspaces (SharePoint, Quickr) and now the leading UC vendors are also building those document-centric links into business social products (e.g. IBM Connections, Cisco WebEx Meeting Workspaces (including Jabber and Quad), or Microsoft SharePoint (soon to add Skype and Yammer)). Others, such as Salesforce.com with their Chatter social workspaces are entering this market, as well.
So, whether you are an enterprise planner or buyer or are a Systems Integrator for one or more vendors, you may be well advised to take the "moose" off the table by having a proactive discussion about how the user experiences and the software clients for email and telephony should come together and evolve to collaboration. Even though each UC vendor will try to say they can "do it all," be sure to meet your users’ expectations nor your enterprise’s or your System Integration client’s business requirements. You may come to like this particular "moose" as you work with this issue.
Please do post your comments below. It will be surprising if there is not a rich diversity of viewpoints on this topic.
Sources for global daily statistics:
* Note that voice calls within the enterprise, over TDM tie lines or IP WANs, are not included in the number of calls above, but even a 100% increase would still show voice call volumes at a small fraction of combined email and IM volumes.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
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