Real Time Communications Featured Article

The Evolution from UC to RTC - and Back Again

June 30, 2015

Unified communications (UC) continues to evolve, with real-time communication (RTC) appearing to be the latest concept that will be adopted and rolled into UC's all-encompassing umbrella.  The latest challenge/conquest  for UC is the threaded messaging application, keeping all communications in one string and making all of the archived string searchable.   RTC elements are being incorporated into threaded messaging apps, holding the possibility that traditional UC might be on the way out and replaced with a combination of instantaneous, intuitive and seamless real time human interactions. Maybe.

The best example of the threaded messaging application is Slack, the current darling of Silicon Valley . Slack is used in an always-on fashion, enabling teams of workers to organize conversations (threads) in channels. Team members communicate back and forth by posting content to the thread, including group messages and files to be distributed and shared.  

Everything within Slack (and other threaded messaging apps) provides instant messaging as a means for project management, with the ability to set notifications to computer or mobile device based on priority and where you are.  If you are going into a meeting or working on a deadline for a specific project and don't want to be interrupted, put everything else in the background so you can focus on the immediate task.


The advantage to threaded messaging apps is they automatically build and link communications and content into one stream, giving them an organizational and structural advantage over traditional email communications -- one that new wave email apps such as Google's InBox and Microsoft's revised Outlook app are trying to address -- and UC solutions that are only "unified" in the respect that they have all communications tools in one app.   Traditional UC solutions don't provide unity in terms of linking together communications by topic or subject, an area where Slack, HipChat, and other upstarts are gaining ground.

Slack's core "weakness" that is being addressed with RTC is the ability to immediately interact with people outside of IM. It can be easier and faster to talk via voice or video chat to resolve issues more quickly than having to go through a series of IM or email.  Slack acquired a RTC company earlier this year and is in the process blending in voice and video.

Talko, created by Ray Ozzie, takes the next step in threaded communications and UC by enabling speech to be next data type that can be recorded, tagged, amended, and even augmented with photos, providing search capabilities to recorded calls. It also includes messaging and conferencing, but doesn't hang with Slack in terms of melding with things like Slack's channels (threads); a point Talko understands well since they worked to integrate their product into Slack, using Slack's APIs.

The key here is that both threaded messaging apps and Talko provide deeper and more useful functionality than the traditional UC umbrella of individual pieces.  Threading makes sense for project management since all communications can be linked to a specific topic or task -- or will be, with a generation of development for voice and another for integrating videoconferencing.  The bits and pieces of UC end up getting rolled into the threaded messaging space for project management, along with the ugly stepchild of email (The future of Email is another column all together).

What emerges will be deemed "The New UC" by pundits and the media, since it (finally) unifies individual communications types with workflow and project management.  But it doesn't  kill the need for the existing set of UC tools. People won't need to start up channels or threads for everything they do, so they will still need the ability to make phone calls, IM, and email to get their job done during the course of the day.  However, it will give businesses a more interesting gauge on how work is done, since managers will be able to measure time spent within/on threaded projects verses stand-alone communications. 

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