Among the usual chatter about “What do you think of the show”, at VoiceCon this week were comments about the need to modify some of the usual presentations that we have on comparing vendor offerings in unified communications, and where the industry is in unified communications. The vendors I talked to commonly voiced that for the most part, comparing the features of unified communications is a moot point, because almost every player has all the basics by now. That is pretty much what I saw too. The show was smaller, and there weren’t any tremendous new announcements this year.
This year VoiceCon was co-resident with Enterprise 2.0, which focused on social media, etc., with lots of smaller companies present. I didn’t focus on those individual players so much as the spillover of the theme of the inclusion of social media within unified communications and collaboration, or even the reverse, the disappearing of the term unified communications within a larger framework of collaboration that includes social media.
So, much of these tweaks in innovation I saw revolved around the inclusion of social media into UC. For example, highlighted in the keynote given by Mark Straton of Siemens Enterprise Communication Group, was Siemens announcement of “Socially Aware Unified Communications”. This announcement was about open, standards-based integration of social networking into the Siemens OpenScape UC platform. Rightfully, up until recently, the UC vendors had their hands full doing what I mentioned earlier – developing all the basic UC bells and whistles, but now, despite grappling with how to incorporate social media and all of its privacy and security concerns into the enterprise, the industry is now turning towards just that – bringing social networking into the fold, but with a focus on how to improve business with it.
One of Siemens goals along these lines is to unify UC and social media through innovative mash-up applications in the cloud. What Siemens announced and demonstrated was the inclusion of Twitter into OpenScape UC. Despite the fact that yours truly, is still personally blocked from Twitter – reasons unknown – I thought this was pretty cool.
Siemens is using OpenScape and Twitter to automate routine tasks. The reasoning behind this is that more and more users are updating their social status before attending to other basic tasks. So, for example, if a person is traveling and lands at an airport, what is the first thing they do? They turn their mobile devices on. The second thing they do if they don’t have to call someone to say that they have arrived is to read emails, update FaceBook or they tweet. Therefore, if you have a socially aware mash-up application within UC that can follow what a user tweets about, and get information from those tweets that can be used to do a task – such as update the person’s presence status based on knowing that the person has landed and is reconnected with the world, then that saves the person time, and makes them more efficient, without them having to do anything. Yes, the user would have to pre-define words or phrases, or hash tags, that the application would use to search for, but that is not a big deal in the long run for the benefits they would gain.
Similarly, from a user perspective, I loved the fact that Siemens has incorporated the Twitter feed onto the user screen, but then added OpenScape presence status next to the name of anyone that the user is following that is an OpenScape user. That is very cool.
Many other hallway conversations with vendors mentioned Twitter, FaceBook and other applications and how they applied to UC. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year that Enterprise 2.0 and UC are combined as one theme at the show.