Raising a child has been one of the proudest moments of my life, and being a fan of technology and gadgets it was a given that my son would follow in my footsteps. Now my son is not even 3 years old yet, but give him an i-device and he is more than capable of navigating it to find and use what he wants. The thing is, he expects everything to work like an i-device. He touches and swipes on the TV screen and wonders why nothing happens and expects everything with a screen to respond to swipes and touches.
His frustration at the lack of continuity across devices reflects what I see and hear from customers with regard to unified communications and collaboration. I get questions such as “why can’t I perform what should be an easy task on device x that I can do on device y?” or “why do I have to do things differently at work from at home to get the outcome I require?“
The consumer world will always be more integrated and support a larger number of devices and features than corporate environments and this causes frustration, especially to the younger workers; this is for many reasons which we will not discuss here, but the way many modern businesses work restricts the adoption, interoperability or functionality of many modern collaborative tools and in turn their employees productivity, but thats a subject for another blog.
What I like about i-devices is their ease of use, my son at 2 years old observed me using these devices and picked up the use of them pretty much instantly. Much of that comes down to the way that the user interface works. The other factor which is not specific to i-devices is that the user experience appeals to the senses to engage the user; I see and then I touch and something happens, sometimes visually, sometimes auditory or sometimes both, pretty much like reality. The virtual environment on the screen responds to your interactions just as you’d expect from the real world.
If we extend that to a wider audience, we get a similar experience with most of the tools that we use today, telephones all work in pretty much the same way, numbers remain the same, dialling is the same, email, text messaging, facebook, twitter etc. All function similarly in that the backend infrastructure can be accessed on many devices, be they tablet, phone or computer to provide mostly the same functionality regardless of the device used.
You could argue that it really doesn’t matter what device you use to create or access resources and information, as today most devices are good enough, and the user experience created by the application user interface is what separates a successful platform from an average one. Forcing people to change the way that they are and the way they work is not conducive to productivity. From my experience, good applications provide the best user interfaces to suit the device that the application is being accessed from. This is where I believe the future of unified communications will be. The device will simply become a tool that allows us to do what it is we want and need to do. The user interface and how it allows the user to access whatever, whenever will be the differentiator moving forward. Personally I can use pretty much any device to access what I need, what bothers me is badly written user interfaces which prevents me from doing what I need to do or precluding me from accessing something because I don’t have the right device.
The challenge for application developers is to ensure that your user interfaces are usable and intuitive and that the backend protocols are interoperable with other vendors; the challenge for us? Making everything work seemlessly in the background so you don’t have to.