Do you yearn for less complexity? If asked could you explain in basic terms? Wouldn’t we all be better off to heed the wisdom of Thoreau and “Simplify?”
Google the phrase “First Rule of Marketing” and you’ll find no shortage of opinions. Results will include the importance of brand, the clarity of message, the importance of customer service, ‘focus, focus, focus’ and many other suggestions. Marketing Week writes, “The first rule of marketing is to segment your customer base and tailor your offering to them.” A common and seemingly self-evident theme is that the customer needs to understand what you are trying to sell them. As pedestrian a concept as this may seem, amid the offerings of the "communications" industry I find many categories that confound. It may be fun in the next few paragraphs to pick on Unified Communications.
Do you think that the term Unified Communications carries clarity of meaning? Try to answer this simple question: If I want to buy a Unified Communication, what would you sell me? A simple straightforward message is illusive. Given all the energies we industry types spend trying to explain the meaning of the term to people, a more important question is, Does the term Unified Communications really mean anything? Especially to actual users and buyers does the term hold a semblance of relevance? Few of us can answer “yes” with earnest confidence.
In search of an easy definition of Unified Communication I consulted Wikipedia. I learned that, “Unified communications (UC) is the integration of real-time communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence information, telephony (including IP telephony), video conferencing, data sharing (including web connected electronic whiteboards interactive whiteboards), call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). After a contemplative pause I read on.
If that mélange isn’t enough, the article continues quoting a principal of the company … wait for it … COMMfusion, clarifying that, “UC is not necessarily a single product, but a set of products that provides a consistent unified user-interface and user-experience across multiple devices and media-types.” Okay thank you, I feel a bit less queasy.
This is but one example of how, rather than simple sentences our industry seems to strive for complexity. As if scientists we accumulate components into categories. Not unlike botanists cataloguing so many flora and fauna into Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species we constantly expand our cannon. Google the term Unified Communications and you get more than 22 million responses. This number grows daily and we obsess over these somewhat subjective classifications.
As if biologists discovering previously unknown life forms, we also constantly generate new species. I just learned about one of the latest evolutionary steps: “UCoIP.” I viewed a YouTube video that taught me this stands for, Unified Communications over IP. If that isn’t an enigma wrapped inside a puzzle, I don’t know what is.
We publish wikis, multimedia presentations, magazines, web pages and all manner of digital and print documentation. Yet, we continue to struggle to extract clarity. We come across to the uninitiated as whispering an amorphous murmur. Don’t agree, here’s a test: How many blank stares have you encountered across the dinner table when answering the question, “What do you do?”
For us industry insiders, Contact Center, Convergence, Unified Messaging, Video, VoIP and other groupings become like our 50 Yard Line, Center Ice and Home Plate. We align ourselves against those categories, we toe the line, touch mitts and faceoff. We dedicate enormous energies to convince one another that often abstract ingredients coalesce into coherent concoctions.
At times there are revelations. Recently I’ve begun to learn that there may be a distinction between using unified communications and collaborating. If accused of collaboration in an earlier lexigraphy, one would have landed in a lot of hot water. Now the word carries a cache. Collaboration as an activity has somehow taken on a more virtuous connotation than simply communicating in a unified way.
I’m really not sure where the demarcation exists between the two acts. Or maybe they are behaviors? I sense that at some point in my communications journey I may cease to be engaged in unified communications as I morph into collaboration. Or maybe I pass through like phases. Perhaps collaboration is yet another transition not unlike adolescence that will yield to some later maturity. Am I on a mystical journey toward some new communications enlightenment? Maybe a mantra is required.
Perhaps unified communications and collaboration exist along a spectrum or do I engage in a completely different activity when I choose one or the other? Maybe these are more like separate phenomena? Maybe they are as if the states of a quantum particle existing both on and off simultaneously? Perhaps we live in a communications multiverse where what you are doing at any instant depends upon who is looking and from what vantage and speed they are viewing? So many questions.
Given that this topic has provided me with an excuse to consume the past few minutes of your attention, perhaps I should be grateful for the milieu. After all I have chosen a career in the “explanation industry.” A ubiquity of confusion only works to my commercial advantage. Maybe I should just close my mouth and not bite one of the hands that feeds me. I can’t help myself. My mild OCD on the subject makes me yearn for simplicity. I have a feeling I’m not alone.