The Next Act: Stage Set for Business Communications

As our industry continues to evolve, so too must the terminology used to describe technologies, markets, and so on.

Some terms once the key focus for vendors and IT buyers are out of fashion, while new monikers (and of course, acronyms!) are now part of our lexicon. Terms and technologies that didn't exist a decade ago are now standard fare – from IoT, to huddle rooms, contextual collaboration, and, of course, bots and anything with "smart" in front of it.

While the PBX was the star of the show for a long time, its time in the spotlight has come to an end. Most businesses no longer look to purchase a PBX, as they can get PBX functionality in more modern ways. Most vendors, consultants, and resellers I speak with agree that they no longer have conversations with customers about the PBX. While still in early days, embedding communication capabilities into applications, workflows, and business processes is becoming the new preferred method of communications. With ubiquitous mobile devices, more and more interactions start in a mobile app or mobile browser.

The key question is: What happened to unified communications? UC was the darling of our industry for the past decade, but is it still the star of the show? Is UC a has-been? The answer is" "Yes"... and "No."

A Bit of History

Let's start with a bit of background and history. UC, as we know, premiered around 12 years ago, when Microsoft, Cisco, and others introduced products and platforms that supposedly tied together various communication modes. The idea was to integrate call control; instant messaging and presence; audio, video, and Web conferencing; and basic mobility (find me/follow me, etc.), all from a single user interface on one vendor platform. At that time, the UCStrategies team defined UC as "communications integrated to optimize business processes."

We identified two types of UC approaches:

  • UC-U, focusing on end-user productivity
  • UC-B, focusing on business process integration

Most vendors and enterprises focused on the end user or personal productivity aspect of UC rather than the business process integration piece for various reasons. Notably, these include the complexity involved, the need for professional services, and the lack of business process expertise.

Vendors also soon found that they could easily prove and quantify the return on investment of the UC platform's collaboration capabilities. For example, businesses were able to identify the cost savings of using Web and video conferencing compared with traveling to a meeting, as well as the ability to use the UC system's conferencing capabilities rather than spending additional money on a third-party conferencing service. With the collaboration element of UC providing the largest hard-dollar benefits, vendors began highlighting the value of collaboration. Many vendors (and analysts) began using the new term, UC and collaboration (UCC), while some vendors tried to differentiate themselves and dropped the UC part and just used the term collaboration.

Continue to next page: An expanding stage, a new audience, and saying hello to business communications