The Changing View Of UC&C Separating service providers and endpoint providers. By David Danto As I wrote in this issue’s introduction, we’ve been calling this unified communications (UC) thing by many different names over the past 20-plus years:
‘Unified communications (UC), unified communication and collaboration (UC&C or UCC), unified collaboration, universal communications (UvC) and the unified communication initiative (UCI). Then, there are the dozens of “email-killer apps” and “permanent solutions to the email problem” that we didn’t know we had. We’ve seen the rise of persistent collaboration rooms (launching with brands and names like CoSpace, Circuit, Slack, Square, Spark, etc.)—generally, first referred to as workstream communications (WC, not to be confused with the loo) and then as workstream communication and collaboration (WCC, definitely not the loo). Now, they’re somewhat universally referred to as Team-Chat platforms.’ Obviously, there is and has been a lot of confusion—not just in collaboration technology and platforms, but also in how we view and discuss them. It’s difficult to have an apples-to-
apples discussion about the providers and options in the space when all the terms and ser vices are nowhere close to being interchangeable. Partly for that reason, and partly because of the rapid pace of change to UC as a Ser vice (UCaaS) in general, the analysts at Gartner have decided that their Magic Quadrant for UC will be retired. They said the market has “matured,” and, as such, they will “refocus” their energies into a “Market Guide” going for ward. When it’s the expert analysts in the space telling you that even they can no longer make quantifiable comparisons between the vendors and ser vice providers, then you know the level of confusion is at its peak. Mature or not, the current market situation still leaves users with a lot of legitimate questions. The biggest ones are as follows: 1. What should end-user organizations do to develop excellent, futureproof collaboration strategies? 2. How should they look at the market and compare the providers in it? Thankfully, the answer to the first question hasn’t changed. As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the only process that works 100 percent of the time is “…to work with the users, understand their actual needs and develop a strategic plan based upon that information; only then can you go shopping for a [blended] catalog of solutions.” That’s as logical as making a shopping list before you go shopping. Because not ever yone in your house loves the pomegranate yogurt as much as you do (oddly enough), and the size-four black dress doesn’t fit ever yone the same way (with the potential bad results ranging from too small or too large to just plain inappropriate). That then brings us to the second question, which is an interesting one to examine. I believe—as many others do—that the world of UCaaS is in fact becoming the norm. Cloud-based collaboration is becoming a commodity. The providers in the space are moving toward a world in which, if end users want to collaborate with someone, it shouldn’t matter which UCaaS provider they are using. I believe (as we postulate in this issue’s “Viewpoint”) that it’s worth analogizing to the mobile telephony market to make things in unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) easier to understand. In that comparison, it doesn’t matter if I use AT&T and my friend uses T-Mobile; regardless, we can call each other using a simple, standard process. Sometimes, that involves dialing a number, and, sometimes, it’s just verbally asking Siri or Google to call my friend. Any necessar y gateways or interop ser vices are invisible to the user. So, let’s extrapolate this successful model to the UCaaS/UC&C world. Whereas some users might choose Zoom for ser vices and some might choose BlueJeans (or any of the others), those choices shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to calling. A user’s ser vice-provider decision (in a perfect world, at least) should be solely based upon cost, promotions, support, reliability, etc. The fact that I might have chosen one provider, whereas my friend chose another, should not affect our ability simply to call one another. Of course, that’s not how the collaboration world works—at least, not yet. If you choose to buy your ser vices from a provider that offers a complete collaboration suite, you’ll generally get good performance when staying within that suite. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s still a crapshoot when you’re invited to a meeting platform outside your norm (a situation that happens in most user organizations multiple times ever y single day).
David Danto has more than three decades’ experience providing problem-solving leadership/innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds. He now works as the Director of UC Strategy and Research for Poly, and he’s the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology.
What the future holds for unified communications and collaboration is featured in our fall edition of IT/AV Report.