Milton Keynes - 23rd November 2016 -‘Unified Communications’ is an empty promise. Communications have never been unified and probably never will be. While they are richer, our communications are more fragmented than ever before.

I wrote a longer version of this article for IT Pro Portal but in summary, Contextual Communication is now the main area which will generate impactful developments in business productivity and collaboration.

During a normal day, I can use any combination of: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Keevio, Hangouts, SMS, IRC or Slack, any one of Google’s three messaging apps, or plain old phone calls to communicate with friends and family, colleagues, business partners, customers. Each tool is successful on their own, but they’re all siloed and lack universal interoperability.

Each time we need to communicate or collaborate, we’re forced to context switch, which is both distracting and time consuming. The main way that most of us communicate, especially in a work context, is around specific tasks or questions where we are sharing a job context with team members or wanting to engage easily. These tasks invariably happen within a cloud-based web app that can be accessed easily by the team, or by people inside and outside of the organisation.

So it makes sense then to enable rich interactions where we can communicate seamlessly with each other and the application. I don't need your phone number or Skype/user ID - or indeed to switch out of a task - if I can just seamlessly message, voice, video or screenshare directly from within the page or app we are working on.

Today video conferencing, file transfer, chat and desktop sharing can happen from within web browsers, applications and even IoT and mobile platforms, without plugins. And this means a fundamental shift in how people communicate.

All of this will ultimately hide ‘communication’ as it will be integral and inherent within applications. We won’t even think about it as a distinct, friction-bearing operation. Rather, it’ll simply be something that happens as we move in and out of the collaboration or communication phase of a task. The best contextual applications will provide this in a work environment by meshing in all the information needed to effectively exchange real-time and non-real time communication flows which are appropriate to the phase of each task.

Author: Rob Pickering

Rob Pickering is founder and CEO at IP Cortex. Previously, he has held a variety of technical roles and fondly remembers the days when he was a proper engineer and wrote a TCP/IP protocol stack from scratch for a microprocessor vendor.