Marty Parker
Marty Parker brings over three decades of experience in both computing solutions and communications technology. Marty has been a...
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Marty Parker | December 16, 2009 |


A Rose By Any Other Name

A Rose By Any Other Name Why spend time debating whether something is unified communications or not? Just look at the results.

Why spend time debating whether something is unified communications or not? Just look at the results.

Well, the debate on the definition of Unified Communications is raging again (visit the What is UC? Forum at As often occurs, vendors focus their marketing spending on differentiation, which means there is constant rebranding of products (or even entire market categories); thus we see many terms for "UC" such as CEBP, IPA, or Collaboration. Other vendors, wanting to link their products to the UC momentum, are applying UC branding to components of UC solutions; this linkage is certainly good marketing, unless the marketing material claims that the component, on its own, is a complete UC solution.All this is no surprise. It happens all the time and in many markets, so we should expect it here, too.

So, what to do about it? Again using the past as a guide, one approach is to focus intensely on the actual results in the market place, i.e. what the customers are buying and effectively deploying. Then, the categorization and naming will become obvious.

As a parallel historical example, the early automobiles had a wide variety of names: horseless carriage, autocar, roadster, tin lizzy, and more. The engines were electric, gas, and steam. And you couldn't even constrain the definition by listing components. Some early automobiles could be steered with tillers, while others used steering wheels. Some had three wheels, some had four; wheels were wood, iron, solid rubber, or tubes. But the point was clear that the horse was no longer the premier form of motive power.

It took almost three decades for that transition (the US Army still used mostly horse-drawn vehicles in WWI, 20 years after the first automobiles), but the change just kept coming. By the middle of the 20th century, the automobile had redefined most industrial societies, changing cities, services, and social structures. The results were more efficient business methods and more personal convenience, though with some generally unanticipated downside costs.

Now, we're faced with the same diversity of change in business communications. New methods for communications have arrived on the scene and we're struggling to organize and maintain them into neat categories. For now, one of the broadest general terms is Unified Communications. Yet, there are also adjacent or subordinate or overlapping categories, such as Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), or Collaboration, or Integrated Process Automation (IPA), names all currently in use in relationship to UC.

History suggests that we stay focused on what is happening more than debating the naming conventions. Some clear patterns emerge:

* Communications are moving into a multi-channel, multi-media format. Presence indication, often in an IM context, has many advantages over dial tone. Web conferences with desktop sharing are often more effective than e-mail.

* Users are expecting purpose-based user interfaces for these multi-channel communications. Thus, IM clients are expected to include "click-to-communicate" functions for any combination of voice, or web, or video. Texting becomes the preferred communication mode (even over voice) for mobile device users. The concept of "calls" is overwhelmed by social networks like Twitter or Facebook.

* Business methods and business processes get reinvented both by individual behavior (e.g. preferences for presence and IM vs. calls) and by business or management design (web sites with text chat as an alternative to call center agents). Those are unmistakable and undeniable changes. Thus, it seems the first emphasis can, even should, be on the changes and new solutions coming from these innovations in communications. Those changes and solutions can then be grouped into categories and names can be applied, as appropriate. The growing library of Unified Communications case studies from all the leading communications vendors provide a lot of definition--context and boundaries--for UC, and the adjacent categories. Take a look.

For the time being, Gartner publishes magic quadrants both on Unified Communications and on Corporate Telephony. They also have reports on CEBP, collaboration, and contact centers, to underscore the differences.

Inclusion of any specific communication component or solution in any specific category is based on observing the results. I don't know anyone who would argue that a multi-button phone is a call center, though a multi-button phone might be used in a call center. So, why spend time debating whether a Bluetooth headset, for example, is unified communications or not? Just look at the results. So, to close by linking back to the title of this post, almost everyone I know, with their eyes closed, can catch a certain floral aroma and know that they are smelling a rose. Someone might claim they're smelling a camellia or a freesia, but the name wouldn't change the aroma--it would still be the smell of a rose. Smelled any good Unified Communications lately?Why spend time debating whether something is unified communications or not? Just look at the results.


Check out this recap of Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017, and register now to join us in 2018 and save $200 off or get a Free Expo Plus Pass.

Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

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Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.