The Journey So Far
Communication Technology began at a time when Humans needed to communicate over long distances where a shout doesn’t help much. The Internet has plenty of interesting mechanisms used in ancient times ranging from smoke, water and stone followed by paper which dominated communication in the past 3000 years. Paper got slightly offloaded with electrical telegraph based communications for about a century and then came the Telephone.
With the coming of Internet and Global Communication over Internet Protocol, the floodgates of innovation opened and the past 30 years have seen huge waves of communication technologies. Broadly these technologies can be classified from a timing context as Real-Time (RT) and Non-Real-Time (NRT) Communications.
Real-Time Communications moved from the traditional rotary ‘Pulse Dial’ Phones to Dial Tone Multi Frequency (DTMF) Phones followed by Service Providers moving their backbone to IP based Next Generation Networking (NGN) Technologies like IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS). Now Peep-to-Peer Technologies unified by protocols like SIP exist that can bypass Carriers across all media of communication making NGN/IMS irrelevant.
Non-Real-Time Communication moved from Paper Mails to Telegram which was replaced by Telex. Telex had a very short lifespan and got replaced by Fax that allowed Pages including pictures & Signatures, which in turn got followed up by email which dominates current Non-Real-Time Communications. Email is now under threat from Enterprise Social Platforms but these are yet to mature enough to allow B2B communication.
Enterprise Communication Modalities
While both types of Communication Mechanisms exist in both the Consumer World and the Enterprise World…My Focus is on the Enterprise World and hence am going to hold back my views on what is happening on Consumer World. We will revisit the Consumer Side Modalities later as we look to the future but for now bear with me with the Enterprise modalities.
Enterprise Communication happens in terms of the various key players defined by their role in Business. This however is used in multiple contexts by different vendors and hence let’s have a look at the contexts used in this whitepaper.
Any Enterprise will have three main categories of employees:
Customer Facing – Retail Staff, Customer Service, Sales, Marketing etc.
Business Facing – Accounting, Human Resources, Manufacturing, Warehouse, Information Technology etc.
Supplier Facing – Procurement, Logistics, Supply Chain Management etc.
In this context communication between or within Employee Groups coming under the above heads can be referred to as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) communications. Just like the Reader’s organization, Suppliers and other Business Partners would have similar employee groups and communication between both enterprises will hereafter be referred to as Business-to-Business (B2B) Communications. Lastly Communications between Business and Customers will be referred to as Business-to-Customer/Consumer (B2C) communications.
Enterprise Communication Use Cases
No Architecture Development is complete without a clear understanding of the Use Cases that the target Architecture serves to service.
In the last section we looked at different modalities (P2P, B2B & B2C) but the universe of Communication has many more aspects to be considered as detailed below:
Usage Modalities : P2P, B2B & B2C
Media : Textual, Aural (Voice), Visual (Video) & Workspace Content level Interaction
Initiator and Receiver size : One-to-One, One-to-Many & Many-to-Many
Time : Real-Time & Non-Real-Time
Context : Creation, Communication and Collaboration
Every Technology we will encounter will serve one or more of these as part of the use case that they serve. As part of use case it is important that we understand how the Enterprise technologies have evolved in order to foresee how they might evolve in the future. Several Enterprise Productivity Technologies have in the past always started their life in Enterprise or Military Environments. For example Telephone was more of a Business Communication Device which entered homes as Carrier Backbone matures and capacity improved. Similarly Email started its Commercial life in Enterprise environment before it became popular as a consumer grade solution by Hotmail and Yahoo. Internet itself was supposed to be a Military solution but got moved to Consumer Environment further improving on its original objective. However in the past decade the trend has reversed and Technologies are first appearing in the consumer market and it popularity makes it get adopted in Enterprise Environment. Below is an almost comprehensive listing of all the possible use cases served by solutions available to consumers external to Enterprises.
What we will notice is that several of these may not make sense in your enterprise. This observation is correct as this list belongs to the Consumer market. However it is only a matter of time that with popularity these might enter your enterprise and hence considering them is not a bad idea.
However one learning from the consumer World is that the Users are consistently benchmarking the tools provided by IT with the tools available off the shelf on Offline Roadside Stores and Online Application Stores.
In my next article I will try to illustrate what is happening in the Consumer World when it comes to Communications, Collaboration and Customer Service Technologies. How this impacts the various stakeholders in IT ranging from IT, Finance, HR and Business. Then we will see how these can build into Key Requirements and Drivers that brings us to a Unified Architecture. In the Current State of the Market IT is forced to look at three main categories (UC, Collaboration & Contact Center) of similar but distinct technologies that over the years have become so interlinked that they are converging into a singular platform and hence my insistence of looking at them in a unified architecture. Till then rain your comments and lets just talk with what we have J