Some time back we were handed over the list of seven themes applicable for the current year at the CTO office. I looked at the impressive list but couldn’t find UC in it!! Where is UC?? I demanded… I was told “Don’t you see collaboration over there, that replaces UC”. I was a little taken aback, because I had associated my existence with UC and mobility and felt deprived for a moment. I felt (and still feel) that UC is more telecom’ish than Collaboration. I have been a telecom guy all along and hence the deprived feeling.
Looking at the scheme of things around, it is easy to conclude that enterprise telecom infrastructure is being taken for granted. It is the “Application” that steals the show, no matter how much the equipment below works on the bits and bytes to make your life easy. I thought deeper as to why the telecom (at least in enterprise) is being trivialized. Everybody around today is more interested in speaking about what features a Google or a Microsoft or a Webex offers but very few ponder about how all this works!! That is a dramatic shift in attitude, at least for me, having been in telecom for about 20 years now. The exchange which was delicately and laboriously built earlier has made way to a completely software based pbx, refer MS OCS for instance. The feature phone which was a complex instrument is now trivialized into a headgear. Everything revolves around the PC and mostly on software. The ISDN is gone and is replaced with SIP and SIP trunks. All the communications happen over the ubiquitous IP/TCP and gone are the 4-wire and 2-wire balanced circuit wires. Also, gone is the 75 volt AC ringer that was strong enough to give you a shock of sorts on coming into contact. Today, it is replaced by a buzzer that sounds when activated by a digital trigger. A trivialization of complexity of function again.
I do not want to turn this blog into a mourning for the bygone years and wish to look forward instead. Collaboration according to me (and you can find as many definitions as the number of people in the world) refers to “People and Process working together to achieve a common objective”. The objective could be a project execution, a document creation, an event management or simply a meeting of common minds chasing a deadline. So then what was UC about? UC meant different levels of maturity. At one level it was meant to give productivity benefits for individual users and then at another meant to enable collaboration, and further allow business processes to use communication infrastructure. So why rename it Collaboration when UC already covered it? Well, here is the explanation. Collaboration is “catchy”. It somehow directly translates to “business benefit” and every one of us latch on without qualms. Collaboration is the key for getting most people working together and any tool – irrespective of whether it uses underlying telephony or not – is lapped up.
So much about collaboration and UC… and a lot of unlearning to be done to digest collaboration… just kidding.