Did Social Just Make UC Irrelevant?

If you are working with a phone system maker who isn’t innovating rapidly, beware – their days could be numbered.

I hate to be sensational but you have to wonder, with real-time video & voice communications embedded into social networks where a billion or spend a good part of their day, is standalone unified communications now much less important? And with Google+ tying together all of Google’s activities from voice to video to Gmail and chat, will people prefer to make calls from their Google toolbar or something a PBX company provides?

Obviously Avaya with its Flare interface and Cisco’s Quad are examples of being ahead of where the consumer market eventually evolved to. But again, will consumers prefer social networks they use in their personal lives or the ones mandated by their companies?

Consumerization of IT is a serious and very disruptive threat to organizations who long for the days of being able to manage all tech decisions from the top down. Obviously we know those days are over and one wonders if social communications with UC integration won’t push the boundaries of consumer and enterprise tech causing them to seemingly lose control altogether.

Of greatest concern to smaller PBX players has to be the lag there is between their UC offerings and what the competition has. Avaya and Cisco for example are already integrating social into their platforms and now Microsoft owns Skype and Skype is integrated into Facebook. Does this mean Facebook can soon become an enterprise phone system replacement? Then there is Redmond’s Lync and SharePoint – with Skype and a friendly Facebook where Microsoft is part-owner, what new revolutionary solutions might the company roll out tying it all together?

On June 20th I mentioned a threat to Quad was Facebook becoming a player in the collaboration space and sure enough, a few weeks later they have taken a baby step in this direction. Of course, Facebook would have to “grow up” in terms of its enterprise controls to get through compliance departments but again, we are in a BYOD world nowadays.

So the bottom line here is how does UC change as a result of social – does unified communications become a subset? Will there be a market for Quad and Flare or are Facebook and Google+ going to steal the it? And LinkedIn has distinguished itself as the enterprise social network – people use it essentially as a business Rolodex – isn’t it surprising they haven’t beefed up their collaboration options?

The enterprise communications market has evolved incredibly over the last two decades. Avaya and Nortel had a lock on the market for so many years and slowly, the CTI revolution allowed a host of small players to utilize the latest technology to gain large amounts of share. Many of these companies such as Inter-Tel and Comdial got rolled up and more or less destroyed but it proved to the market that you could differentiate yourself by riding the leading edge of technology and take share from the big guys in the process.

Towards the tail end of the CTI boom, VoIP came onto the scene and companies like Inter-Tel embraced it and benefitted. Selsius Systems was a start-up subsidiary of PBX maker Intecom launching a novel new product in the IP-PBX space and Cisco acquired the company shortly after its launch. And just like that Cisco seriously disrupted the telecom space.

The question we have to ask ourselves in the communications space is whether social networking will kill UC systems and phone system companies or whether they will rise to the occasion and leverage this tech transition to one-up the big boys who now are Microsoft, Avaya, Cisco and Facebook. One thing is for sure; if you are working with a phone system maker who isn’t innovating rapidly, beware – their days could be numbered.

For more check out this piece written by Gary Kim on TMCnet titled: Is Social Software a Substitute for Unified Communications?

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