With the dust settled on last week’s annual Gartner Symposium and ITxpo in Orlando, I scoured news reports to see if there was anything to glean about unified communications from the event.
I didn’t expect to see any “pure” coverage of UC, of course. As anyone who has attended the event knows, Symposium focuses more on the road ahead; UC is far too last decade to get much play, even if folks are just now making good use of it. (I’d put UC somewhere between the “slope of enlightenment” and the “plateau of productivity” on the Gartner Hype Cycle.)
That said, I could see where some of the trends and technologies highlighted at the event will have an effect on UC in years to come. Following are a few examples.
Number 1 on the Gartner’s annual list of strategic technologies for the year ahead is “computing everywhere.” As Computerworld reports:
To Gartner, this simply means ubiquitous access to computing capabilities. Intelligent screens and connected devices will proliferate, and will take many forms, sizes and interaction styles.
So, just as today you need to factor in all manner of smart phones and tablets into your UC plans, tomorrow you’ll also likely need to include everything from Google Glass to wall-mounted intelligent screens.
Context-rich systems may also play a role in UC. According to Network World, here’s what Gartner analyst David Cearley had to say about such systems:
The use of systems that utilize “situational and environmental information about people, places and things” in order to provide a service, is definitely on the rise. IT needs to look at creating ever more intelligent user interfaces linking lots of different apps and data.
I suspect this will be of most interest to marketing types so they can hit you with a coupon as you’re approaching a Starbucks. But I can see it playing a role in UC systems as well.
We already see it in consumer applications. For example, I use the traffic app Waze fairly religiously. I love when I fire it up on a way to a meeting and, because Waze has access to my calendar, it offers as a suggested destination the very meeting site that I’m on my way to – no need to enter in the location myself.
The trick will be figuring out ways to apply context technology for business use. Perhaps the systems could add value to existing presence capabilities, for example, by providing additional context beyond whether someone is simply available at any given time.
Forecast: Continued Cloudiness
A number of speakers hit on the topic of cloud technology, including Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella. According to InformationWeek, Nadella was speaking about Microsoft’s licensing policies, which he said have grown too complicated:
He said they need to be replaced by a model that is user-centric, rather than device-centric. He tied this approach to his "mobile first, cloud first" strategy, stating that mobility is about using software and the cloud to empower people to be productive at any time and from any location.
Gartner VP and cloud expert Daryl Plummer likewise talked up cloud technology while invoking the spirit of Yogi Berra, according to Network World:
``When you come to a fork in the cloud, take both,’’ said Plummer. In other words, there is no one cloud computing strategy or cloud computing adoption rate that works across an entire company…
What companies can and should do, however, is build a cloud decision framework, and methodically apply that framework to specific workloads. The applications that might be in that first batch could include email, development and testing, Web servers, social, collaboration, consumer-centric applications, then maybe human resources or CRM.
Indeed, cloud-based UC services are coming out fast and furious. Developing a framework for methodically figuring out when they make sense for your company strikes me as good advice.