The real unified communications | Network World

A few weeks back, I wrote a post contending that, as traditionally defined, the term unified communications has no meaning. Since then, I have had many interesting conversations with people who have varying opinions on the subject. This post is to pass along some of what I have learned.


In alignment with my contention, most of the conversations on the subject have confirmed that when someone in a work situation needs to communicate with someone who is not within earshot, they typically use tools that are very, well, un-unified. If we need to talk to someone, we call. We still email as much as any other modality. Second to that, we text and increasingly group message. If we need to share or collaborate on information that is in a document, we webchat. Begrudgingly, we occasionally video chat. A few people do use a single tool for these functions, but more often we choose between a set of tools—applications that are specialized to the task at hand.

The elephant in the room is that there is a disconnect between the aspirations of the companies that are considered part of the unified communications industry and how customers use the products they sell. The term unified communications evokes a mental image of the mythical “single pane of glass.” 

Single pane of glass

Although “single pane” may be a great marketing term, in practicality it applies less to the UC industry than it does to other fields. When such a single pane exists, where users see a unification of communications applications, various services, and other applications, traditional UC companies usually play more of supporting cast member roles than that of star of the show. 

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