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Brown’s Bytes – (Un)Unified Comms

Welcome to Brown’s Bytes! Your weekly insight from Mobliciti’s CTO Andy Brown. Follow #brownsbytes

14th June 2019

10+ years ago I worked for a large global organisation, and one of the things that was very noticeable was the myriad of ways I could communicate with my peers inside the organisation, and also with people outside it.

At that time, I had at my disposal:

  • Desk phone in the office
  • Cisco IP communicator soft phone client on my laptop
  • IBM (Lotus) Sametime for internal chat
  • Mobile phone for calls and SMS
  • BlackBerry Messenger for sending messages, when I wanted to know they’d been read!
  • Video calling and internal Video conference bridges
  • Voice bridge for conference calling
  • Cisco Webex for screen-sharing outside the organisation.

Deciding which tool to use for the job was heavy going sometimes… in particular, when you needed to include people from outside the organisation. And then it got more even convoluted when I wanted to throw in using a meeting room in the mix.

In every meeting room there would be Tandberg screens with video capability, and then also a separate conference phone on the desk. In theory, I could even hold a video conference with someone outside the organisation, but this was so complicated that a dedicated team was needed to help set this up and support it.

At that time, I was actually impressed with how effective all of this technology could be, but what I wouldn’t call it was intuitive to use! Almost all of it didn’t work on mobile either.

IT Users would find a way to bring this all together (sort of) – I have even been in meetings where a separate Webex was being shared externally, the same desktop shared over video internally, and then a speakerphone for external that had to pick up the audio from the video conference via the speakers from the TV booming into the room where the speakerphone was…

However, many business users just couldn’t be bothered. They would often have a voice call or voice bridge and just email documents around, so everyone had a copy to view.

Fast forward to today, and I’m struck with how little things have changed really. The names of the products have changed and the whole area now has the grand title of Unified Comms. There has been some harmonisation, but it is still a minefield with competing solutions from major providers all over the place.

This is possibly the most ironic title for a technology area in history!

And ironically the adoption of Office 365 is, in some ways, making the problem worse; there are multiple ways to collaborate within the O365 stack alone. Having said that, there are also ways to immensely simplify that world too. I personally think the key here is not what the technology that falls under the title ‘Unified Comms’ is, but how it is adopted by the business.

Otherwise, everyone keeps emailing documents around forever!

Find out more about our Fully Managed Services or get in touch if you’d like us to help with sorting this mess out.