Tomorrow's Communication Hub is Already Here Today, Thanks to Mobility

The humble desktop office phone, far from being on the way out, will serve as the central hub for business communications of the future, according to four top technology executives, who each described different scenarios during a panel discussion at the CIO Event conference in San Francisco late last week.

While debating specifics, there was one point everyone agreed on: People have more communication devices today than ever before, and they want those devices to be more tightly integrated with one another.

“Pick up any device you want, or any application you want to use,” Avaya Chief Technology Officer Brett Shockley said. “Borrow your friend’s laptop and log into your phone. Log into your web- and video conferencing. It doesn’t really matter where you are anymore. The idea of being able to link them all together so that you can move from one [device] or the other–either between the communications experience or within the communications experience–all of a sudden changes the game.”

Shockley described the desktop phone as a communication hub, capable of tying into other devices via a number, or an account. Data synchronization across multiple apps and devices is becoming an increasingly easier technical problem to solve.

“There have been a couple of companies that have attempted to bring all of this forward in a white-label fashion, with varying degrees of success,” said Angela Yochem, Global Chief Information Officer at BDP International, a transportation and logistics management company.

Earlier this month, Avaya launched Avaya Messaging Service, which allows people to text one another using their work phone number. In doing so, the service helps bridge the world of enterprise and consumer communications, bringing the desktop phone closer to becoming to the communication hub of tomorrow.

Exelis Chief Information Officer Ray DeLuke described his company’s two-year journey toward adopting unified communication technologies, helping keep their 150 global locations better connected.

“On Wednesday, we actually launched our unified communications pilot for about 1,500 users,” DeLuke said. “It’s part of our mobility strategy and people are actually excited about it.”

Plantronics Chief Information Officer Tom Gill said his employees are shifting the way they communicate. While there is a generational gap between younger and older workers in terms of desktop and softphone usage, more people are gradually favoring softphones.

“It’s that increased collaboration that people can get, whenever, wherever, given the task at hand,” Gill said. “Whether I’m up here on the 27th floor in my hotel room, getting a ping from an IM, or whether I’m at home, or I’m just down the hall at the office, that’s really the big win at Plantronics.”

“Much like we start to see things coming together in the consumer world, mobile devices… differentiate what the communication hub of the future becomes, as opposed to that yellowed telephone of the past,” Shockley said.

Listen to the entire panel discussion below: