Organisations are turning their attention to the capabilities unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) offers in seeking the productivity promised by an ‘always-connected, always-collaborating’ and increasingly mobile workforce. ‘Cloud’ offerings are maturing, ‘bring your own device’ is becoming common place, the mind-set of ‘Is there an app for that?!’ is prevalent, and enterprises are increasing their use of social-media technologies for collaboration. All those trends – accelerated by the continuing digitisation of the workplace – are fuelling the move towards UC&C.
What’s happening in the enterprise market is a natural progression. It began with fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), which focused primarily on managing enterprise voice connections and meeting customers’ needs. It employed advances such as business telephone features on mobile devices, call control from the desktop, corporate directory access through a single number for both fixed line and mobile, and integration between regular and Internet Protocol (IP) phones.
Unified communications (UC) came next, and it built on the convergence of fixed and mobile by introducing collaborative applications. Those included integrated voice, email and instant messaging, audio conferencing, and corporate presence on mobile. The focus shifted significantly from voice to data and brought software providers into the solution ecosystem.
Next, mobile UC integrated multiple mobile and fixed devices, locations and applications to offer seamless communication at any time and place across voice, data and video. The features a mobile-UC solution commonly supports include integrated audio, web, and video conferencing, and integration with collaboration software, business applications, and Web 2.0-type applications.
Each successive wave of development has introduced more participants and more complexity to the value chain. The companies looking to buy hosted, unified communications services often think of those services as primarily software rather than connectivity solutions. UC&C solutions currently available from software suppliers and over-the-top players are subsequently perceived as more compelling and attractive than those from mobile network operators. And that opens up the risk of operators being left handling the ‘dumb pipe’ connectivity component of a rich UC&C future.