Currently, there is a large number of communication channels, and of different types, made available to technology users. To put a (indicative but by no means complete) list together:
- Telephony (fixed-line, mobile, VoIP-based)
- Audio/video conferencing
- Status (as an example, consider your list of contacts in Facebook, and the relevant icons that show individual contacts to be online or away)
- Social media (think Twitter, Facebook, Vines, Whats App, Instagram, and so on…)
Some of these communication channels are of the “store-and-forward” type, in the sense that the information is delivered in one direction, and remains accessible (almost) indefinitely for the remote parts to view it when he has the time; e-mail is the grand-daddy of this communication style. Others, however, are more immediate, and require rapid response (often interrupting other tasks); telephony is the obvious largest contender in this category.
Each of these different communication channels typically requires its own “app” to access the information being exchanged. As the number of channels we need to give attention to increases, the harder it becomes to manage them all efficiently.
So What is Unified Communications?
Unified Communications, often abbreviated to simply UC, is a generic hold-all term to describe the market’s efforts to integrate all the “apps” (and therefore the communication channels) to allow the user to have all this information easily accessible, irrespective of when or where he needs access (home, work, in a car, on a train…), and how he needs access (laptop, tablet, smartphone, internet cafe…).
UC effectively blurs the demarcation lines between the communication channels. For example, a user can receive a voicemail message and can choose to access it through email or any phone. The sender’s status can be seen through presence information, and if online a response can be sent immediately through chat message or video call.
The objective of Unified Communications is to unify and streamline those business procedures that involve human communications.
In summary, the term Unified Communications does not describe a technology, or even a group of technologies, but rather it defines the ongoing process of convergence that is happening in the market, bringing together vendors, technologies, applications, processes, and users – Unified Communications is the integration of all separate communications components into a homogeneous, efficient, productive user experience.