Unified Communications Featured Article

The Power of Social Media in Unified Communications

August 02, 2011

The past year has introduced a number of key technology trends that are changing the environment for a number of businesses. To gain insight on the impact of these changes within the telecommunications space, unified communications’s Rich Tehrani recently spoke with Mike Ross, President of 4PSA in anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO West event in Austin. The biggest impact for 4PSA has been the growing popularity of hosted Unified Communications solutions. As for the next disruptive force in technology, Ross points to social networking and mobile technology. 

The acceptance and adoption of the cloud model allows 4PSA to employ agile methods to keep up with trends in the market. The company is also seeing a growing demand for better all around value, integration and an alternative to the “all in” strategy. Social media is impacting the industry by changing the definition of Unified Communications to include social media. When asked if Google+ will be bigger than Facebook, Ross believes it’s fair to say no, at least in the near term. 

With 4PSA’s cloud platform strategy, the company can address some of the integration issues with the addition of enterprise mobility. Ross believes the Android and iPhone will continue as leaders in the mobile market for some time. He also believes that HTML5 is an important step in the evolution of Web development. At ITEXPO West, Ross is looking forward to getting a pulse on what startups and small business needs are and determine what tactical adjustments need to be made. 4PSA’s presentation at the event will provide a clearer understanding of how the enterprise is reshaping itself to make better use of current human resources. 

Their entire conversation follows:

How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?

Hosted Unified Communications solutions have been growing in popularity at an accelerated rate in response to two key evolutionary trends.   One: The Cloud Computing model is aggressively being adopted to reinvent deployment and add efficiencies to IT related services and reducing CAPEX. Two: Mobility with the dramatic consumption of smart phones and pads at the enterprise level, has created a demand for faster and more efficient, anywhere, anytime, any device communications.

What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?

Social Networking and Mobile technology have created a form of direct and indirect communications that delivers a more effective and efficient way to interact with clients, colleagues, or friends. Integrating this with Unified Communication creating “Social Unified Communications” is the equivalent of adding ball bearings to wheels in order to reduce friction and speed things up.

How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process? 

From the beginning, our product development has reflected a vision of the cloud as the simplest and most ubiquitous mechanism for users to get an improved user experience from all of their IT services including Unified Communications. The cloud allows us to employ agile methods to rapidly develop and deploy in order to keep up with the trends in the market. 

What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers?

There is a demand for better all around value, better integration, and an alternative to an “all in” strategy and more efficient and responsive communications. This along with security guarantees.

How is your company addressing these demands? 

Creating even a more comprehensive product with an “Open API” and a acquisition model that allows more flexibility than ever before. The web delivers content, but not the direct touch that most enterprise customer have come to demand in order to win and keep a business relationship. They want answers now not later. By creating a more robust self service model, we can reduce the time to service the customer and improve their perception of our commitment to service.

How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies? 

Social networking sites are already an important part of consumers’ lives and are also becoming a powerful business tool. It is feasible that there may be a time when it is easier to engage in communications with one or more people on Facebook or Twitter than through making a traditional phone call. This has already resulted the changing of the definition of Unified Communications to include social media as well.

Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?  

At this point it’s a fair guess that Google+ won’t become bigger than either at least in the near term. Both Facebook and Twitter are well established with their paradigms and highly specialize in them. Migration to another product would indicate that there was some basic user dissatisfaction with the existing model and I don’t think this is the case. Google+ will offer a degree of filtering, spam protection and integration that Facebook and Twitter will have to compete with. Google’s approach (albeit logical) is a little confrontational to human behavior with their desire to give order to things when the masses are completely satisfied with chaos. 

As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility? 

With our cloud platform strategy, we can address some of the basic technical issues that reduce the need for an “either or” decision on integrating mobility into existing businesses. With a pay as you go no commitment product and an evaluation model that conforms to the timing of a business, we can allow them to test drive a communications solution and shape it the way they want to. 

What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?

It is still the fear of the unknown and a presumption that the legacy giants will give customers what is best for them. Neither of these are arguments hold water when it comes to technology. Getting on the technology bandwagon early is always better than waiting. The only reasonable motive for not adopting mobile strategies is the lack of proficient technology. Companies that delay migrating to a mobile communications focus or refusing to consider them will be less competitive and are likely to face extinction.

How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out? 

The Android and iPhone will continue as the leaders in the mobile market for a long time to come. They have the experience and the most competitive features along with their well established application marketplace. The other two competitors are well behind and will find it difficult to keep up. The OS isn’t the only significant factor in determining the winner. It will continue to be a tactical battle between the leaders. We like Android’s strategy to cover the widest range of smart phones that accommodate the needs of a greater number user demands. The iPhone’s powerful hardware infrastructure is still unmatched and this gives it a huge advantage. 

Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?

Yes. It is an important step in the evolution of web development. Making the APIs and DOM part of the main specification is a wonderful enhancement. Once browsers will support HTML5 completely, it will definitely improve the workflow. In fact, 4PSA's next generation web framework is built using HTML5.

What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West  in Austin?  

With an economy that seems to have partially stabilized, getting a pulse on what startups and small business needs are is important in order to make tactical adjustments to bring our business to the next level.

What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?

I think cloud offerings will dominate as well as mobility solutions. 

What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session and why should attendees be sure to attend?

Social Unified Communications will be a hot topic this year. Our session will be providing a clearer understanding how the enterprise is reshaping itself to better utilize its human resources. Social Media, mobility, virtual workers all have a lot to offer the emerging structure that is evolving for business. Executive and strategic planners stand to gain some fresh insight into the do’s and don’ts while navigating toward this new horizon. Our session will provide the attendees with a “speed shifting” experience that can thrust their companies ahead of their competition or at least allow them to get ahead of most of the traffic.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for unified communications and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell