Social Networking and Unified Communications: Catalysts for Change

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Unified Communications Converge with Social Networks

Results from a Yankee Group survey regarding the convergence of social media and unified communications.

There seems to be no doubt in anybody's mind that something powerful is about the happen around the convergence of unified communications, email, social media and cloud computing. All you have to do is look at Microsoft's $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype to figure out that something big is in the offing. The problem is that no one seems to be quite certain how this convergence will actually manifest itself from a technical perspective or how people will actually use it.

The problem with all of these technologies today is that they are in one way or another fractured. There are plenty of communications and email technologies, but none of them are truly unified yet. On the social networking front, there now too many places that people need to track conversations. And cloud computing is still in its infancy, which is one of the reasons that so many email systems are deployed today on premise.

But once these technologies do finally converge, Caleb Barlow, IBM director of unified communications and collaboration, notes that there will be a host of social issues that need to be dealt with related to managing policies, security, status, relationships and modality. For instance, just because someone uses a voice-over-IP (VoIP) call to reach out to someone doesn't necessarily mean the response should come from the same medium. At the same time, a communication from a business colleague is probably going to be more imporant than a random call from outside the company.

Barlow says that half the communications that people receive at work are either an inquiry as to whether someone can call someone or a request for a document. Presence technologies will help reduce the former, but as all this convergence evolves, it won't be long before people just publish the documents that are most-commonly requested by their colleagues. In essence, what Barlow is driving at is that it won't be too long before all of these technologies combine to fundamentally change the way we all work. Unfortunately, they may all have to converge in the cloud around a unified user interface before we really see it happen, which could take a fair amount of time.

In the meantime, IT organizations might want to start thinking through all the implications of these social changes, because, at this juncture, it really is simply a matter of when, rather than if, it's going to happen.

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