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The Fallacy of UC

There are three trends that are killing the UC dream: Messaging silos, mobile apps, and CEBP.

The whole notion of Unified Communications may be a mistake.

I first bumped into this term UC a decade ago. Working at a video conferencing equipment company, UC was the term du jour, replacing the term convergence.

Today, UC as far as I can tell, refers to communications within the enterprise from a single medium.

The ability of an employee to have a single application/service/channel/tool for all of his or her communication needs.

How has that been working for you so far?

There are three trends that are killing this dream:

1. The messaging silos
2. Mobile apps

The messaging silos
Whatsapp, Tango, Viber, WeChat, ooVoo, SnapChat, Line, Skype.

Each of these has north of 100 million monthly active users (MAU). Whatsapp crossed the 600 million MAU mark. If you sum up all of their monthly actives, you will get a number larger than the number of people with Internet access.

Each of these is a silo. You can either interact with the people within that service, or interconnect back to the PSTN network. These services monetize their silo. They have no incentive to federate.

For them, UC doesn't make sense. And if you think they are limited to consumers then think again. Think about the times you use one of them for business interactions.

Mobile apps
Instagram, Meetup, TripIt, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, LinkedIn.

These are but a few of the apps out there that aren't messaging apps, but provide messaging capabilities within the app. Communications is embedded inside apps as part of the user experience they offer.

The messages they send are an indication of their existence over email, but the message itself is also conveyed via push notifications across mobile devices.

These messages? They are specific to the domain of the app and they aren't going anywhere. And if you think they are limited to the consumer--then think again. These apps have business uses as well.

Communication Enabled Business Processes--a term that was used several years ago, left the scene and is now back.

When you take a business process, especially one ingrained in a service of an enterprise, and embed communication capabilities into it--where does that leave UC?

Examples include contacting the bank via a self-service app, booking a hotel room by chatting online with a sales agent, joining an online meeting of your fan club.

Where does that leave us?
We are working hard towards that goal of unified communications, but all around us, services and vendors are doing their best to "unbundle" our communications, and instead of placing them all in a single place, they are stitching them all over, giving them new meaning and new life. And they are doing it in a way that isn't unified at all, but in silos--each connected to their service offerings.

And the users? They seem just fine with it.

Does the emperor of UC have any clothes left? Was he ever dressed to begin with?