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Webified Communications: A Matter of When, Not If
Phil Edholm has an interesting post on UC Strategies, in which he discusses aspects of the coming "webification of communications." This notion has been around for some time, with Skype being among the most notable manifestations, and WebRTC now generating more momentum for the idea.
Phil describes the critical attribute of webification as follows: "With WebRTC, or whatever develops as the web communications technology moves forward...if I have the URL to your server or your personal page, I go directly there with my device (may be a browser or may be an app or HTML5 in the device). I do not go through my server, but, in the web paradigm, go directly to your server and have a communications experience that is defined by your server."
Elements of that description are familiar. Ever since IP began to replace TDM, communications has become more peer-to-peer, and architectures have flattened. But in the enterprise environment, peer-to-peer remains the exception; similarly, like our Earth, enterprise communications architectures are anything but flat.
Still, given the path we're on, the webification of communications is inevitable. For three decades, enterprises have been on a slow but steady march toward convergence. When that journey began, the web wasn't yet a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee's mind, but convergence made sense in terms of the technologies' capabilities, not to mention its underlying economics.
By the late-1990s, the Web and Internet had become the dominant frames of reference for networking, but real-time communications was just beginning the painfully slow process of migrating away from TDM. It would be 2005 before IP accounted for 50% of new installs, and it took until 2011-12 before the majority of enterprise desktops in the U.S. had made the transition.
The "long tail" that is endemic to enterprise investments also wags other relevant IT operations. I've seen estimates that anywhere from 20-30% of enterprise desktop computers are still operating on XP, and that is NOT the delivery platform for webified communications.
So what we're likely to experience is a gradual enveloping of communications by new webified versions. Like previous transitions, we'll evolve towards webification in fits and starts. When the technology and business cycles are aligned, it'll move quickly; when they're out of sync, the pace will slow down.
But make no mistake, this is coming your way. Every sign points toward a unified, web-based, communications-rich environment, operating in both our personal and professional lives. And the building blocks--converged networks, broadband--both wired and 4G/LTE/Wi-Fi--and HTML5--are either in place or moving into production. Skype and WebRTC are providing the DNA pool from which the new communications framework will emerge.
The question is what should you do to get your organization ready? There are three obvious early steps to take, all of which involve you learning more. Here are just some of the questions you'll want to explore:
• Who within your organization would benefit most from webified communications ? Which people and/or organizational units? What kind of benefit(s) would it yield--improved performance, higher revenues, lower costs, higher customer/employee satisfaction? How do they accomplish those functions now, and using what hardware/software/devices/networks?
• What can your vendors provide to meet those needs, and when will their webified communications solutions become available? You're going to need vendor partners, so figure out whether your incumbents are operating on the same timeframe as you to initiate and deploy this migration. If your incumbents aren't in sync with your enterprise, how ready are you and your organization to change vendors, and who is available?
• What changes will a transition to webified communications trigger within your IT organization? Who needs to get involved? Who should lead? How will decision-making be shared both within IT and with the affected lines of business?
This migration isn't going to be quick and it's not going to be easy, but it is going to be a big deal. The combination of mobility, broadband, and Web-based technologies enables a new generation of capabilities to be developed that will deliver truly converged and unified communications--both real-time and non-real time.