Is communication unification just a pipedream?

A few decades ago, any self-respecting middle-ranking company executive had two phones on their desk.

No one was really sure why, but it symbolised the incumbent as an important key-worker, a status enhanced by access to the executive washroom or a seat in the directors’ dining room.

Times have changed, of course. We now have flatter, faster and more responsive organisations.

Two-phone Freddie may have left the building, but his modern-day counterpart is thriving. Desk phone, mobile, smart phone, tablet, laptop, email, twitter, texts, instant messages, Skype… the list goes on.

Maybe it’s testament to the multi-media, multi-tasking skills that dexterous directors now practice which means you can hold a phone conversation, send a text and reply to an email – all on different subjects and with different people – all at the same time.

But are we heading for communications overload? It prompted this on the forum.

“I’m starting to think that there are too many ways to communicate,” wrote Dave Sumner Smith. “By one means or another I’m receiving many hundreds of messages every day.” He was wondering if there was an opportunity to develop a tool that integrated and merged all these various channels.

Ryan Porstmouth agreed: “Companies that develop these communication channels need to start working more closely together to unify their platforms,” he said. “Mobility platform developers working on smart phones and tablets have a great opportunity here if they would realise it.”

It may suit many the end user to have all communications channels pouring into one pot, but is it practical?

“It really comes down to how to converge them,” said Mike Briercliffe. “Having a single presentation layer at which all the channels arrive (after due filtering) is the Holy Grail.
I’ve got as far as Hootsuite having most of the channels I care about appropriately displayed, though I haven’t yet found a satisfactory way to have an email alert column on it.”

Not all agree. Adrian Dixon said: “If all communication had a single purpose then there might be an argument. But we communicate for all sorts of different reasons so let the message dictate the medium.”

And while the likes of Hootsuite are fine for many communications platforms, it does not accommodate voice and video, he added.

How you communicate depends on what the message is and who it’s too, is the consensus view based on comments on this forum to the question: what’s your preferred method of communication?

Yet despite the newness of many of these channels, the idea to link them is not new, explained Paul Ellis. “Unified communications has been a market goal for many years; I can remember companies pitching in partnership with BT over 15 years ago,” he said.

He added that big companies such as IBM already have some degree of unification in place that links employees’ fixed, mobile, text and emails.

What he and others want is for that technology to be upgraded to include social media and other methods and then rolled out to the market. But it might be the scale and cost that prevents many from doing so, he added.

“The size of the market for communications means that competition will be strong and, as such, continual innovation will bring new platforms to market.”

All this talk of different communications channels left Yulia Rothetenberg slightly baffled. “There is still one more thing which all of your posts have neglected to mention,” she said. “Paper and pen. I use this in addition to all the virtual, visual and voice channels and I must say, this method still has a very strong appeal for me.”

Will we ever see one platform bringing together these disparate channels?

To discuss this and other articles please visit The Business Technology Forum group on LinkedIn.

Comments are closed.