Friday, July 2, 2010

Unified Communications? How About UNBRIDLED Communications?

In the 1970s, companies bought a bunch of computer equipment -- when what they really wanted and needed was computing.

In the 1980s and 1990s, companies bought a bunch of networking equipment -- when what they really wanted was connectivity to business-critical technology resources.

More recently, many vendors are selling, and noteworthy numbers of companies are buying, stuff that's referred to as "unified communications."

With all due respect to those worthy sellers and buyers, I'd like to submit that "unified communications" is not really what users want or need.

As I see it, the term "unified communications" is focused a bit too tightly on the underlying enabling technologies, and not tightly enough on user and business goals and needs. No more than a cursory look at how business is evolving reveals a bit of useful detail about those goals and needs.

So, what does business want and need? I'm glad I asked. Here's one answer. Business wants and needs the ability to deliver the right information to the right people at the right time in the right form, anywhere and anytime, in ways that enable and sustain high levels of user productivity, constituent care and business success.

From this perspective, businesses and their users, I believe, need "unified communications" far less than they need unbridled communications -- anytime, anywhere and secure access to accurate, consistent, timely and actionable information.

It may be a minor semantic distinction, but I mean for it to speak to a larger difference in perceptual focus. For almost the entire 30 years and change I've been in the information technology analysis business, vendors have tended to focus more on what they have to sell than on what users need to accomplish. Vendors have gotten better in recent years, to be sure, but every time a new spin on technology appears, the initial focus all too often reminds me of a popular Talking Heads lyric -- "same as it ever was."

I think that vendors would sell more solutions in less time, and that users would see meaningful, measurable ROI faster and more consistently, if each focused more on users' needs and goals. Smart resellers and integrators are making fairly nice livings by basically doing nothing but this. It's time that more of those companies and the vendor companies that supply the building blocks of those solutions followed suit. And given the business criticality of agile, secure, flexible, integrated communication and collaboration, there may be no better place to pick up the pace of the transition than the market currently -- and soon formerly, I hope -- as "unified communications."

Shameless Self-Promotion Department: One of the things I see helping to move things closer to what users need and care about is that whole "cloud computing/software-as-a-service/SaaS" thing. In fact, two of the areas in which cloud-based and SaaS business solutions are seeing their most rapid growth are in collaboration and communication. But I worry that some IT people at some businesses may be sabotaging the adoption of such solutions, intentionally and/or otherwise.

I've posted a blog entry that goes into a bit more detail about my concerns, which you can read here. I'd like it very much if you'd offer your opinions about this in a discussion going on now at Or you can feel free to write to me directly at with opinions on anything about which you care enough to write. Thanks in advance!

No comments:

Post a Comment