Unified Communications And Collaboration 2020 A sneak preview of what this issue has in store. By David Danto In the early 1990s, we were happy to call things what they were: videoconferencing (newfangled), telephony (mature), etc. Then, tools that could detect presence were inserted into the mix at firms such as IBM, and the histor y of unified communications (UC) was initiated. The concepts that formed UC were understandable: having all the methods of communication and collaboration come together and share information so that users could easily “escalate” to a more robust offering, whenever the need arose. Going from messaging, to voice, to content sharing, to visual communications—all these are aspects of the same process. I often speak and write about the factors that make UC the only technology that has been “launching” for (by my count) 21 years. There are many reasons for how dragged out all of this has become; central among them are outdated, silo-based management at user organizations, as well as intentional obfuscation and technology incompatibilities caused by manufacturers. As we approach the year 2020—marking 22 years of this “launch”—it’s fair to look at where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going. That’s the theme of this issue of IT/AV Report. With regard to terminology, this industr y has experienced more marketing obfuscation than you’d see in the movie “Wag the Dog” (highly recommended viewing, by the way). In the last 20 years, we’ve seen analysts and experts throwing around new terminology for collaboration in a manner akin to an explosion at a baloney factor y. First, there are UC, unified communications 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. (For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with the original UC&C here for ever ything.) Throughout all the changes in terminology, the biggest obstacle to achieving successful UC&C has always been the inappropriate technology-first focus, as compared to having a people-first approach. The only way to achieve successful UC&C at an organization 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 catalog of solutions that is usually a unique blend of offerings. Selling “the paint that’s on the shelves” without this analysis only helps the manufacturers and ser vice providers. Any solution that locks the user into one way of doing things only helps that solution’s creator; it doesn’t help the users. This issue of IT/AV Report will look at UC&C 2020 from many angles. David Maldow attempts to explain what a “workflow” is; Darrin Caddes shares his vision of how beautiful technology design can and should support human collaboration; Simon Dudley explains why this is really the year of UC; Joe Manuele walks us through digital disruption, then and now; Catelyn Orsini makes sure we don’t forget about the importance of voice; Ir win (continued on page 40) David Danto has more than three decades’ experience providing problem-solving leadership/ innovation in media and UC 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.
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What the future holds for unified communications and collaboration is featured in our fall edition of IT/AV Report.