No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Searching for the UI Grail

Watching all the moves IP PBX vendors have made and are making in their many attempts to provide the primary user interface for communications has been and continues to be amazing. Some of the moves are very creative; others look like desperate attempts to remain relevant on the desktop or mobile devices. Before we take a look at the different crusades underway, let's first jump to the conclusion.

A smart organization, of any size, should always be buying communications technologies that are integrated with, or integral to, the workflows and the software applications of the various roles (we call them usage profiles) in their operations. Communications is no longer a silo, but a function of a process or a workflow. Employees have figured this out; it's high time the telecommunications departments and IT organizations do so, too.

portable The net result is that the communications necessary for most workflows and processes are no longer based on the IP PBX or even on real-time voice. By observing most workflows, processes and related roles, the following hierarchy of communications usually is obviously visible, from the highest, most efficient mode down to the lower, less efficient modes.

For transaction-based roles (the vast majority of workers are in this category):

Some might argue that jumping directly from 1 to 4 would save time, but that's often not true when employees can multitask with IM and SMS and when they must provide documents or other information before a live voice call can be effective.

For collaboration-based roles:

Note these collaborative workflows include almost no voice telephony that is not part of a meeting. When voice telephony is included, the calls will often go to team members reachable by clicking to communicate from within the share workspace defined in 1 above.

In both transaction and collaboration workflows, the applications and workspaces will be accessible as apps (that would be business apps, not communication apps) on PCs, laptops, tablets, and (not or) smartphones.

Of course, for communications with persons outside the organization, the IP PBX can be an efficient and shared inbound and outbound gateway to the PSTN. Also, the IP PBX will likely include contact center tools for effective inbound call and contact management. In addition, external contacts can participate via federation through services such as Skype or NextPlane, or can be invited to securely join the collaborative workspaces.

If you think this view of communications is even close to right, then you'll see the IP PBX vendors' crusades in the light of searching to preserve something that is no longer needed. Sure, we see lots of creativity:

Perhaps Avaya is going to try being a partner to the leaders? Could its recent acquisition of Esna, a company that lived inside the Google Apps user interface, be a signal that it wants to bring its customers a tool that works with the applications already on user devices rather than trying to get the telecom department to squeeze one more client onto the user screen? That would be breakthrough thinking, if so. What company wouldn't want to be the provider of the real-time communications infrastructure for all of the user interfaces in use from the above-mentioned vendors? But you have to treat the leader really well, so it doesn't invent its own communications products; after that, it may be too late for the cozy-up strategy.

Anyway, we'll see how this search for the user interface grail proceeds. Like most such searches, it may be that the answer has been right in front of our faces all along.