Maybe it's time to start taking the same attitude to unified communications, or rather the lack thereof. Communications used to be unified, when there was only one way to do it: a phone call. The global telephone numbering system enabled anybody to call anybody else who had a phone number. Then we started e-mailing, texting, Skyping, liking, Instagramming, Tweeting and twerking. And since all that started, techies like me have been saying: "Let’s pull all this stuff together into one tidy timeline on the client and a unified infrastructure."
But the opposite has been happening. I guess we have a unified client device, the smartphone, but on my smartphone I can get phone calls on my cellphone number via the phone's native client, from my SIP system via a Bria client app, from Skype (News - Alert) and from Facetime – just for a start. I get textual communications by e-mail, texting, Facebook, various chats. With each innovation comes yet another fragmentation. In the real world, it looks as though users are comfortable with this. Sure it's sometimes a bit frustrating to hunt through two or three apps to discover what you said the last time you communicated with somebody (was it an e-mail or a text or a chat?), but how much are you going to pay to get all that in one user interface? And even if it's free, you probably won't take the trouble to download it.
So forget unified communications on the consumer side. And since BYOD is moving enterprise communications to consumer-style smartphones, forget unified communications there too.
There is, of course, one place where unified communications makes a lot of sense: in the call center, where all modes of communication should flow to the same pool of agents, and into the same customer timeline in the CRM database. But there seems to be no demand for this from call center operators, whose main motivation seems to be to discourage calls rather than to help the caller (cf, the 30-second exhortation to use the website that you must endure before you get routed to an agent).
So, suck it up. Get used to fragmented communications, because unification ain't happenin'.
Michael Stanford has been an entrepreneur and strategist in VoIP for more than a decade. (Visit his blog at www.wirevolution.com.)
Edited by Stefania Viscusi