Want to see an example of an industry that understands the consumerization of IT and is BYOD-friendly? Look at the unified communications industry—because of what UC solutions do and the way they work, the industry inherently “gets it.”
A few weeks ago, a PR representative from unified communications provider Avaya sent me an announcement about a new iPad app that they recently released. Great, I thought, another company that thinks that just because they have an iPad app that now they’re part of some consumerization of IT revolution.
A search at BrianMadden.com shows that this just hasn’t been our area in the past, but I wanted to know more. I talked to Lawrence Byrd, Avaya’s Director of Collaboration Solutions for Unified Communications. We talked about their iPad app a little bit, but since it was all new to me we talked mostly about the whole industry. And it hit me: these folks (the UC industry in general) have been at the forefront of CoIT/BYOD/device independence for a decade!
The actual app that they wanted to show off—called Avaya Flare—is basically the iPad version of their desktop communicator software, previously only available for their Android-based Desktop Video Device. Flare aggregates text messages, video conferencing, contact lists, email, and VoIP phone calls into one device. It's great that this is available for an iPad instead of for a proprietary tablet; that’s always a step in the right direction. What I was more interested in, however, is how Avaya's other products—such as softphone applications for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS—enable BYOD and consumerization.
What does UC do for BYOD?
Using a unified communications solution in conjunction with mobile devices means that all forms of communication are on all devices—both personal and corporate. I already do this on my own using Google voice. I only have one cell phone, provided by my company. The native number on that phone is my personal number, and the number that I give out for work comes from Google; both numbers end up in the same voicemail inbox. Messages are transcribed and forwarded to my email account, and as well I can do Google chat instant messages from my computer or from the app on my phone. That way, no matter where I am, I can be reached by two phone numbers (or make the work number go straight to voicemail outside of work hours), voicemail messages from both numbers are in my inbox, and I have all of my email and chat accounts on hand. (Brian wrote about this type of solution a while ago, too.)
Of course, none of these capabilities are new to anyone in the UC industry. What I did with Google Voice essentially amounts to a (mostly benign) version of FUIT. My company didn’t provide the capabilities that I needed to do my job, so I got the tools myself. If I was in an organization the utilized a unified communications solution, all this would have been much simpler—just download the app.
What’s great is these UC softphone solutions is that they are contained within an application, making managing the device itself unnecessary. They can provide the second phone number without having to resort to a handset with two SIM cards or using a mobile hypervisor with two virtual machines. Finally, underlying all of this is the idea that the communication taking place is not dependent on the form factor of a device. Device-independence has been built in from the beginning of the cellular era when the thought would have been “Having two phone numbers is a pain. Wouldn’t it be great if I only had one number, and it came to both my desk phone and my cell phone?”
Here you have all the elements of the future of consumerization: the same data is available everywhere, on any device—personal or corporate—and in any form factor. And all this has been around since before anybody was talking about the consumerization of IT.