Lately, that word ‘unified’ has been cropping up everywhere.
If you were in the workspace or telecoms business 10 or 15 years ago, or if you worked for a large corporate at that time, the words ‘Unified Communications’ would probably have meant something very different to what it means now.
“Unified Communications as a product is a bit 2000s,” says Tony Freeth, CTO of Hubcreate. “It’s a corporate voice and data product that was quite a buzzword in its heyday, but it’s fairly routine now. Technology has moved on since then.”
In its ‘corporate’ sense, Unified Communications, or UC, is a system that features a broad range of technologies, communication tools and applications on a single platform.
Some of the highlights of UC included perks like transcribing voicemail messages and forwarding them by email. Now of course, this can be accomplished by many different systems, some of which are free. That’s not to say the concept of unified communications isn’t useful, or important. It’s just that most workers, especially business centre and coworking clients, tend to do things their own way.
“People arrive at the workplace with their own solution, which means all they need is a smartphone and Wi-Fi,” Tony explained. “The original concept of UC was a kit that made workplace communications easier. Now you can buy those functions off the shelf, or get them free in the form of mobile apps.
“You can do so much with a smartphone and systems like iCloud, Google Docs and others. It can get a little messy, but it works. And it doesn’t cost anything.”
According to Tony, given this expansive choice of do-it-yourself unification, there isn’t a universal solution. Business centres shouldn’t necessarily buy into corporate products and packages that fewer and fewer workers are likely to use.
However, given the many different devices users carry around with them, the need for a more ‘connected’ or unified way of communicating across mobile and desktop is creating an entirely new meaning.
“We’re all going to have multiple personal devices that we use at work and at home. Technology is going to become more cloud-based, and more personal. This means that solid, reliable Wi-Fi is going to become more important than ever.”
One solution operators can do now, Tony says, is to focus on removing barriers.
“Just the other day I saw a passenger at the airport carrying 7 or 8 different devices. He was trying to charge them all so you can imagine the scenario – multiple cables and nowhere near enough plug sockets! People will continue to work from multiple locations, but they still want a base.
“So in business centres and coworking spaces, we should focus on making life as easy for them as possible.
“Remove irritations. Make sure there are plenty of electrical points that are easy to access. Who wants to scrabble around under a desk in a nice clean suit? Observe your clients. There are multiple ways to work, so get to know their ways of doing things. Then focus on making life as comfortable for them as possible.
“Technology comes up with remarkable solutions that will become increasingly sophisticated. The key is to let your clients make their own choices, and remove as many barriers as you can. Your customers will tell you what they want. The trick is to listen.”
Those that don’t will find their clients voting with their feet. And as for the future of unified communications, in its modern sense, Tony believes the consumer will ultimately design the solution: “The need drives the technology. Not, as per the case of UC, the technology trying to drive the need.”