Is Unified Comms not ‘sexy’ enough for the marketing community?


Connected business is mounting a challenge to UC as the catch-all term for the sector – Trefor Davies, founder of and former CTO of Timico is unsure of the need for change

Connected business is taking over as the term that businesses use to define their Unified Communications offering. One of the industry’s largest events changed its name from Unified Communications Expo and became Connected Business. When I visited, I struggled to find anything branded as UC on the exhibition floor but just what is driving this change?

It’s hard to believe but I’ve been working in the VoIP industry for around 15 years. At some stage in the distant past someone in a company marketing department decided that the term VoIP was too technical for the business community.

VoIP didn’t tell the customer what a certain service, product or technology did.

This was especially true in the PBX market where efforts to differentiate systems with hundreds of features from competitor systems with the same hundreds of features came down to branding. It’s a bit like car adverts.There is only so much you can do to make a car designed by a computer look different to another car designed by computer, which both meet near-identical performance ratings and with looks determined by the output of wind tunnel tests.

At some stage of the evolution of the market the word VoIP was replaced by Unified Communications (UC). The buzzword didn’t particularly gel with me. From an engineer‘s perspective at least “Business VoIP” told me exactly what was inside the tin, or so I thought. The marketeers knew different…

The term didn’t really do it for me. It was wishy-washy marketing speak designed to make buyers think they were getting something grander than they actually were. Significant effort went into explaining that UC did mean something. All your communications in one spot. Convergence of your email and voicemail. Fixed and mobile. It was all things to all men and used to conveniently describe an individual vendor’s offerings however they might differ from the next.

Over the years I’ve grown to accept that whilst UC has never been a perfect descriptor, I’ve not been able to think of a better one and at least it has built its own industry brand recognition.

I’d even class social networking under the umbrella of UC. That’s what it is. A means of communicating.

Now it would appear that it’s time for a change. The marketing pen twiddlers with time on their hands needed to think of something new. I’m not even going to start discussing what that replacement phrase might be.

At the end of the day I don’t really care. I suspect that the ecosystem that grew out of the old PBX world, and is trying to adapt to an uncertain future, will disappear. Attempts made to hold on to an old identity will be futile.

One stand I visited recently at a communications industry trade show was promoting its interactive screens at £14,000 each. This isn’t where the world is moving. It’s an anachronism. I recently bought a Chromebook. The rep at the store told me he had recently sold 20 of them to a business for less than £200 each. That is where the world is going. Low cost, global standards.

The term UC may be about to be consigned to the history books but so are many of those who have made the change. Bring on the new order.