Defining a Framework for Business Communications & Collaboration
It's time to focus on applying new and transformational communications and collaboration tools to the enterprise.
As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the term "unified communications," I think it's a good time to focus on a higher-level view of products and services that enhance enterprise communications and collaboration and ask ourselves whether the name -- and concept -- is still a good fit to describe these next-generation capabilities. Personally, I think it's time to move on, and I have a replacement to suggest: business communications and collaboration, or BCC.
Should we abandon UC? For almost 10 years, from 2006 forward, we have talked about UC -- first for its future potential and now as the current technology -- and today's reality is that we have a number of solutions that fit under the UC umbrella. That's because the very term "unified" presents a market challenge.
What are we unifying? For some, the unifying applies to devices, as in single-number reach, while for others, it is about bringing together text, audio, and video modalities (or in contact center parlance, "channels") into a cohesive solution. Still others think about unifying in terms of presence and context, or about adding communications to applications, whether for improved personal productivity or organizational process. And then there are those who think about UC in regards to presence, IM, and new features.
In other words, UC has come to include just about everything, with little way of discerning the variations. UC is the kitchen sink of communications, unifying everything into a singularity. All this unifying of this and that reduces the significance and value of the word in describing today's goal of communications and collaboration.
I won't belabor the point, but rather leave you to ask yourself whether the "UC" label is really meaningful any longer while I explore the idea of establishing a framework for the application of communications and collaboration to the modern enterprise or organization. With this framework, the focus should be on meeting an organization's communications and collaboration needs, looking at those requirements in terms of an event and its participants instead of on underlying technology.
What we need to focus on for the next 10 years is how to apply the new and transformational communications and collaboration tools to the enterprise. Whether they are IM and presence, video, Web collaboration, WebRTC, or social, the technologies are changing how we work. This is the BCC marketplace.
While BCC is all focused on communications, we cannot fall into the singularity trap we did with UC. To prevent BCC from becoming a black hole, we will need to segment it based on some factors of use and need. I propose using two dimensions in our framework:
Organization vs. user - This dimension of the BCC solution set defines whether the solution is for the organization as an entity or for a specific user within the organization. This dimension distinguishes those BCC events intended for a specific user, such as a phone call to that individual or a meeting the employee is hosting, from those that take place at an organizational level. The latter would include communications and collaboration as it applies to customer service and webinars, for example.
Meeting vs. representation - This dimension defines BCC event type. The first type of event is a meeting to which attendees receive invites and participation is pre-defined in terms of time and location, either by an employee or the organization. In a meeting event, the originator of the event is internal to the organization. This compares to an event that is initiated by someone external to the organization. In this case, the external party originates the event by "arriving" and requesting some form of communications or collaboration with the organization or a specific user.
For purposes of descriptions, a BCC event to which attendees are invited by an employee or the organization would be called a "meeting," managed by the BCC system; if the event is driven by someone coming to the organization or employee, the BCC system is "representing" the organization or employee. A representation event is essentially a defined mechanism for others to reach either the organization or an individual. Email addresses and telephone numbers provide current examples of representation, while Web pages and social apps are emerging representation designations. Social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook are examples of Web representation sites.
Quadrants of BCC
The matrix at right shows the two sets of categories defining four specific areas of BCC capabilities. Each category addresses a specific and very different communications and collaboration activity within the overall organization. While the areas will likely have some common capabilities, each will have different capabilities, too.
All four areas of BCC may be delivered by a single solution or different solutions based on organizational needs. Each category defines a specific set of capabilities by the communications initialization and the type of BCC event that is happening. Requirements for each category are very different. The chart shows some of the characteristics for the category, as well as the example of typical solution that applies to that category.
Continue to next page for more details on each of the categories