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Friday, December 29, 2006

When "Push Comes to Shove" for UC Implementation

Copyright © 2006 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

December 29, 2006

When “Push Comes to Shove,” Priorities for Migrating to UC in 2007 Will Be Found in the Macro-productivity of Mobile User Communications

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Almost ten years ago, we surveyed enterprise members of the old Electronic Messaging Association (Email) about their interest in “unified messaging” (UM) The majority of responses indicated that only 20-40% of their organizations, primarily traveling executives and “road warriors” (sales, field service) would benefit significantly from UM capabilities. Now, with everyone becoming more mobile, and UM maturing into “unified communications” (UC), that percentage is bound to increase. But how?

2006 will be remembered as the year that everyone in the telephony industry jumped on the moving train of “unified communications” (UC). This is causing business organizations, both small and large, to start thinking about moving to VoIP and IP telephony, but, perhaps more importantly, about converging their legacy business communications with the power of handheld, mobile devices. This will no longer be just about real-time voice communications between people, nor will it be only about intra-enterprise contacts. It also doesn’t mean that existing enterprise phone systems will be immediately replaced simply because there is something better available!

The ROI of business communications – “Macro-productivity” vs. “Micro-productivity”

The initial arguments for implementing VoIP, IP telephony, and unified messaging were founded on potential Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) reductions, which are important for budgets, do little for business process improvements (BPI) and enterprise productivity. At best, TCO comes into play when making “greenfield” purchases or replacing end-of-life legacy (“brownfield”) technologies. But, if you listen to the new pitch from all the major technology providers that are now capitalizing on open IP telephony as being part of UC, they are touting the business payoffs that will come from increased “productivity,” for both individual users (“micro-productivity”) and for the enterprise through efficient group task performance (“macro-productivity”).

Micro-productivity for business communications means that individual users can save time in doing their jobs by accessing both information and people more flexibly and faster because of converged interfaces and interoperability between the various modalities of person-to-person contact. For the latter, users should be able to easily switch between asynchronous messaging (voice, text, video) to real-time IM, person-to-person voice and video calls, and multi-party voice and video conferencing. This capability becomes particularly time efficient when users have “multimodal” endpoint devices on their desktops or as mobile handheld devices (smartphones), and contact initiators can exploit presence management to determine recipient availability before wasting their time in failed real-time contact attempts.

How do enterprise business processes benefit? - Group Macro-productivity

For enterprise business payoff, however, the productivity objective is to achieve greater business process (task) performance by all involved individual users as a group (“macro-productivity”). This means that the more people involved in a business process that can realize micro-productivity through UC technologies, the greater the level of macro-productivity performance that can be achieved by the business process. So, the value of UC to the enterprise will be highly dependent upon both the role of individual users and the value of the business processes they participate in.

What this also says is that the value of UC will not be the same for every end user in the enterprise for micro-productivity. So, from an ROI perspective, UC applications will be “nice to have” for some people, but “must have” for others. Because UC also means “personalizing” dynamic control of communication access across different modalities, individual user needs and preferences will vary. So, a practical UC migration challenge facing every enterprise will be to prioritize UC implementation for the specific macro-productivity ROI of high value business processes and the individual needs of associated end users.

UC at the portable desktops vs. handheld devices

Nothing will bring UC issues into focus as much as the user interfaces that different endpoint devices provide. This is where personal mobility must be differentiated between portable (wired or wireless) desktop devices with a large screen and keyboard, vs. “always on” handheld devices that can be carried everywhere for immediate contact accessibility. The latter will have smaller screens and keyboards that will limit their use for applications that require heavy contextual information displays, e.g. customer support “screen pops.”

Mobile handheld devices are not only becoming multimodal by accommodating all forms of media (voice, text, graphics, video) in their form factors, but are also becoming platforms that support multiple operating systems (e.g., one for business applications, one for consumer applications), each with multiple application software clients. In effect, they are becoming the “always on” handheld equivalent of the general-purpose desktop PC, particularly effective for personalized mobility, and being able to interoperate with both enterprise and consumer application services. This a key factor for maximizing user adoption and realizing UC ROI, where device independence is an absolute necessity for interoperability with a variety of mobile devices carried by different kinds of end users.

Business Processes, SOA, And UC

While we tend to think of voice communications and real-time messaging as primarily “person-to-person” contacts, the reality is that business processes that need to deliver time-sensitive information to people also have a critical need for the flexibility of UC to make timely contacts with people. Whether it is a group of people that need notifications, a specific individual, or whoever is most qualified and available, business processes must be able to proactively initiate contacts and deliver information to people, rather than passively wait for a person to detect a situation and manually initiate appropriate contact attempts.

The people contacts for a business process don’t have to be only within an enterprise organization, but can include supply chain partners and individual customers. If urgent notification is a business process application requirement, then it is clear that mobile contact accessibility, along with desktop contacts, will provide a practical real-time contact solution through immediate voice or text message delivery. Such application contact may be tied to a “click to respond” automated process to accept application response inputs, display contextual information (“screen pops”), or initiate “instant” conferencing with other people, depending upon the user device available.

While Service-oriented Architecture (SOA) has become all the rage for more efficiently developing new business applications by sharing and sharing and reusing software functional modules, UC application capabilities can be developed in the same way, not only for “person-to-person” contacts, but also for the application-initiated contact to people mentioned above. The UC applications will allow maximum flexibility in making real-time contacts with people when business process priorities demand it. With a SOA approach, both the business process applications and the UC contact capabilities will be buffered from specific user endpoint device dependencies and resulting delays because of “contact latency.”

Customer Satisfaction and Productivity

In case you haven’t noticed that the power of enterprise UC is becoming more focused on customer contact applications, take another look because that’s where real revenue-generating ROI comes from. As we indicated earlier, business process macro-productivity is dependent upon all participants in the process. So, if it is a customer situation that needs attention, there will be much benefit if the customer is in the UC productivity loop as well. Since consumers are becoming both more mobile and multimodal with personalized handheld smartphones and desktop PCs, there is no reason to keep treating them as a telephone-only, primarily inbound contact.

It should be painfully obvious that any customer contact situation will benefit as part of a macro-productivity approach that UC can provide. Whether it is closing the loop between internal staff members during an initial customer contact to achieve “first contact resolution,” or in minimizing the time to resolve a customer need on an “as soon as possible” basis and proactively notify them accordingly. This also includes self-service business process applications that enable authorized customers to access information directly and perform business transactions without waiting for staff assistance. Communication accessible customers will then become more “productive” for revenue generation by being more satisfied with the efficiency of their interaction experience in resolving their needs and thereby remaining potential revenue contributors to the enterprise.


Business processes include both automated business applications that process and monitor specific business activity information and the ability to communicate flexibly and efficiently with people involved with such activity, both inside and outside the organization. The former increasingly includes mobile and remote employees, while the latter includes increasingly mobile people in partner organizations and increasingly mobile customers with multimodal devices. What ties them all together to facilitate macro-productivity efficiencies and eliminate “human latency,” are direct access to business process applications and flexible, efficient, multimodal communication services.

While it has been traditional for enterprise organizations to provide and control communication services only for their own employees working on premise (CPE), the reality of macro-productivity is that supporting all end users that are involved with a business process, but are working off-campus or are outside the organization, will be needed to maximize the efficiency and payoff of high-value, time-sensitive task completion. All this is part of an “open,” converged approach to business process applications and mobile communications. Maybe this is why Cisco recently acquired Orative and Avaya bought Traverse.

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our new blog. (

The Math of Customer UC: blog. (

Read our exclusive articles below on hosted UC services for customer contact applications:

Online Customer Contacts: Online Self-service Needs Are Evolving

Converging Customer Self-services: What Technologies Need to Converge Between Online and Voice Self-Services?

Customer Voice Contacts: Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Interactive Intelligence Migrates "Total" UC

Copyright Ó 2006 The Unified-View. All Rights Reserved Worldwide

December 24, 2006

Executive Interview: Interactive Intelligence Helps Enterprises Migrate to “Total” UC Faster

As I and my UC Strategies colleagues have been pointing out lately, with everyone in the computer-based information and telecommunications industry trying to become a critical part of the converging world of business communications, i.e., “unified communications” (UC), it is still difficult for both enterprise business management and IT management to understand what to do about it. Even though the legacy telephony network infrastructure is gradually being displaced by VoIP, the real challenge for every business organization, large and small, is the migration of existing telephony applications to multimodal UC.

We had the opportunity to talk about this market problem with an experienced member of the industry, Joe Staples, who joined one of the pioneering developers of software-based computer telephony solutions for the UC environment, Interactive Intelligence. Interactive Intelligence has also long been a working partner of Microsoft, supplying a software-based IP PBX that’s tightly integrated with Microsoft’s desktop applications. Joe is the Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Marketing for Interactive Intelligence.

For the purpose of this discussion, we assumed that Interactive Intelligence understands the concepts and the objectives for integrating IP telephony with both messaging and automated business processes in the same way as all the other providers in the “UC industry.” This includes the value propositions for increasing both internal end-user and “customer” productivity, as well as reducing future infrastructure support costs. What we were most interested in, however, is how the company is approaching the practical implementation and marketing issues for all aspects of enterprise UC.

1. Unified View: What segments of the enterprise market has Interactive Intelligence been targeting?


Our primary markets are any organization that needs a solution for both customer-facing and internal IP telephony communication applications. We built our offering from the ground up as a standards-based “all-in-one” software platform that includes converged applications for both customer contacts and enterprise personnel. This applications-oriented framework cost-efficiently streamlines a big chunk of UC integrations, while facilitating business process integration and providing end-to-end SIP support for maximum contact interoperability.

2. Unified View: What are you seeing in the marketplace regarding movement to enterprise UC?


UC is a very nebulous concept for most companies and they don’t really ask for “UC.” On the business/operational side, they usually focus on specific communications applications that are important to them, such as managing customer interactions, supporting remote teleworking, and more recently, providing wireless mobility. On the technology infrastructure side, security has become a bigger concern because of the vulnerability of open IP communications, while network capacity is going to be more complex because of dynamic usage across modalities of communication. Finally, business continuity and the opportunity to use hosted applications services versus traditional premise-based systems, will make UC migration easier and more cost-efficient.

3. Unified-View: What impact has the growing mobile workforce had on UC migration?


Although mobility has always been a driver of UC, the current perceptions of workforce mobility are still too narrow. They don’t include key UC capabilities like wireless messaging flexibility, presence management, and business process integration. Also, mobile communications are often viewed only as an off-premise “road warrior” need, when there are actually many practical on-premise mobility needs, where users are just away from a wired desktop, such as “corridor cruisers,” people in meetings, hospital personnel, retail clerks, etc.

The dynamic availability of mobile users requires easy access and simple availability management by contact recipients. We see that happening through standardized “status” conditions that control basic accessibility rules that don’t have to be constantly changed by end users. This approach will simplify personal contact management, resulting in features such as “on-demand” single button pushes and automatic, preprogrammed rule changes based on time of day, location, or calendar information.

We see this kind of simplistic interface for presence and availability management as being extremely critical to gaining end-user UC adoption, which, in turn, is key to enterprise migration activity.

4. Unified-View: What have been the biggest barriers and issues for UC implementation within business organizations?


As mentioned earlier, the nebulous definitions and complexities of UC are a problem to everyone in the enterprise, from IT and business management to end- users. Not only is “UC” hard to put into legacy product and service perspectives, but it is also difficult to correlate with costs and ROI payoffs. Talking about implementing just “UC” doesn’t resonate with many enterprise prospects for this reason.

IT departments won’t go out of their way to promote these applications unless end-users start pushing for them, and that won’t happen until it’s very clear how these new capabilities will help employees do their jobs better, faster, etc. Enterprise IT staff just won’t feel comfortable about replacing technology that still works without such demand and, even then, there are strategic questions about how to make the migration to UC graceful and efficient.

While smaller companies and “greenfield” locations can more easily replace existing telephony technologies, larger, distributed organizations can actually realize greater cost benefits from the move to software-based UC applications. Since we have upgraded our platform for greater scalability, and since we didn’t have to re-architect it as a “UC” solution, we’ve been increasingly successful selling into this larger enterprise segment.

5. Unified-View: Many companies have standardized on the Cisco data network infrastructure, which often leads to the conclusion that an IP-based phone system from Cisco would also make the most sense. Why would a company that’s standardized on a Cisco network choose an IP telephony system from another vendor, such as Interactive Intelligence?


Cisco is trying to capitalize on its large installed base of data network equipment, which gives it account access. It also gives it brand recognition, as in the old days when you won’t get fired for buying from IBM. But IP telephony and UC are not just about a converged network infrastructure. They are also about converged communication applications that will sit anywhere on a data network and must be device-independent. This particularly affects the complexities of real-time telephony functionality, and, therefore, an applications software server architecture that is based on open standards to maximize both application interoperability and performance efficiency.

This is what Interactive Intelligence has already done with its “all-in-one” platform, and this has been the company’s sole focus since it’s founding in 1994. We urge organizations to critically evaluate UC technology providers based on both efficient application infrastructures and end user functionality, because that is where the business process productivity payoff will come from. Just because a vendor has a track record in networking infrastructure, doesn’t mean it’s a leader in all applications that sit on the network. Remember, from a user perspective, its becoming all about application software and endpoint device independence!

6. Unified-View: Despite the convergence trend, many still believe that a best-of-breed approach out-performs products designed as part of a single-platform suite. How does the Interactive Intelligence software suite perform against these “point” products, and why would a company choose a suite approach vs. best-of-breed?


The migration challenge for IP telephony and unified communications is whether “you pay now or pay later.” There really is no free lunch!

To maximize operational efficiency and application flexibility, tight integration between voice applications are a given and have always been a problem for proprietary TDM-based telephony solutions in the past. In addition to integration and performance issues, having different business process application systems also creates greater support and maintenance problems and costs. Interactive Intelligence successfully focused on eliminating that problem for core telephony applications with its standards-based “all-in-one” IP telephony software suite.

This focus includes traditional call center activities where most enterprise “customer productivity” payoff comes from, and which is now dramatically changing because of IP telephony, mobility, and UC’s multimodal communications. A recent Benchmark Portal survey of enterprise call centers with more than 250 agents found that, on average, with “best of-breed” point products, 14 technology administrators were needed for technology support, compared to only two for “all-in-one” software suites.

However, we do recognize that migration from legacy point solutions will take time for larger, more distributed environments, so we do integrate with existing systems, including PBXs, desktop telephones, contact center ACDs, dialers, voice mail, and IVR. This means that a customer can start with whatever IP telephony applications are easiest to install or replace, but still interwork with other existing technologies until it is ready to replace them. The key factors for such migration, however, must be the business process benefits that will be realized through new communications applications, not just future cost savings in technology support.

7. Unified-View: Interactive Intelligence made its name in the small to medium sized contact center market, and is now going after the large enterprise market. How has the company’s server-based software changed to deliver maximum reliability, scalability and resiliency? What about Interactive Intelligence’s ability to successfully service and support these large companies?


As the telephony industry shifted to VoIP and SIP, we were able to expand the integration flexibility and scalability of our “all-in-one” software platform so that the needs of large, distributed organizations could cost-efficiently be accommodated. We can now deliver a capacity of 5,000 users per server, and we can cluster servers for a virtually unlimited number of users. We achieved greater performance by separating media processing from application processing. This also means we have greater application reliability for business continuity.

Especially important to larger enterprises is our open, more flexible applications architecture, which lends itself to their varied business process customization needs, as well as ongoing business process changes brought on by UC and wireless mobility. We offer all of these applications on the same platform so larger enterprises don’t have to buy separate products from different vendors for a “complete” solution, then sink a bunch of money into costly integration projects.

We also recognize that, as important as the scalability of our technology is, we are also competing based on credibility. Interestingly, with all the big vendors now touting VoIP networking, SIP, software-based IP telephony, Unified Messaging, and Unified Communications, our credibility has actually grown significantly. We used to be seen as competing on our competitors’ turf – either the entrenched legacy telephony vendors or the data networking players. With SIP and UC taking center stage, however, the playing field has shifted to our turf – that of open, converged, and centralized software application solutions. We can now boast a longer track record for providing these solutions.

With large customer deployments under our belts, including customers such as Microsoft, Motorola, BMW and many others, we’ve successfully proven ourselves in this large enterprise market.

8. More companies seem to be considering a hosted service option for IP telephony and UC, rather than traditional CPE. What plans, if any, does Interactive Intelligence have for hosting UC and/or contact center services? Will you support service providers like the new AT&T or Verizon who want to offer UC application services developed by others?


We’ve also seen a growing interest in hosted services and are in the process of expanding our disaster recovery and hosted notification services to include direct support of a variety of applications. This model helps focus the responsibilities of enterprise management on the practical value of application usage, rather than on just supporting infrastructure technology. We see our distribution channels in the SMB market segment being very valuable for selling such hosted services as an alternative to purchasing our software products.

And, yes, we also see opportunity in offering our software as a hosted service through the public carriers, thus we plan on pursuing this model as well.

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our new blog. (

The Math of Customer UC: blog. (

Read our exclusive articles below on UC for Customer Contact applications:

Online Customer Contacts: Online Self-service Needs Are Evolving

Converging Customer Self-services: What Technologies Need to Converge Between Online and Voice Self-Services?

Customer Voice Contacts: Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP

Friday, December 01, 2006

UC Pays Off in "Customer Productivity"

Copyright © 2006 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

November 22, 2006

Unified Communications (UC) Pays Off In “Customer Productivity”

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

My wife never touched a computer and never will, but, when she wants to shop around for products or services, check for information, or send an email, she now asks me to go on the Web to search for what she wants, make a purchase or a reservation, or send a message, rather than make a phone call to a call center or put up with the limitations of old IVR self-service applications. For the growing population of consumers who do go online to the Web by themselves, there is even more such self-service activity.

Rich, Web-based customer services are continually increasing and displacing the limitations of the voice-only telephone as a first step for customer access to information and self-service applications. That’s a fact of life as consumers exploit the conveniences of both desktop PC’s and mobile, multimodal handheld devices for doing business over the Internet. The moment of truth, however, comes whenever customers need the added intelligence and flexibility of human assistance. That is where the power of UC will enable greater customer access to people resources, not only within an enterprise, but outside the organization as well.

From an “ROI” perspective, any technology that helps generate revenue more quickly or improves customer satisfaction and retention for future revenues will always be at the top of every business organization’s priority list. I would term this benefit of UC technology for customer contact applications as being an improvement in “customer productivity!”

Self-service Applications Driving the Need for Greater Selectivity in Customer Assistance Staffing

It used to be that telephone call centers used lots of “bodies” just to answer the phone traffic because most of the calls just needed simple information that an agent could quickly give to the caller. However, those kinds of applications became the first targets for simple self-service telephone IVR applications. New speech recognition technologies for telephone callers and online Web-based applications are now adding more complex information access and transactional capabilities to the menu of customer self-service capabilities. This fast-moving trend towards increasing the power and scope of self-service applications will further reduce the need for just “bodies” to handle simple customer needs.

While self-service applications will reduce the overall need for live assistance staffing, it is also creating a requirement for such staffing to be more selectively “expert” and “empowered” to make more complex decisions for the customer. There won’t be a “one agent fits all customer needs!” Multiple skills may become the norm for a customer contact while “first contact resolution” will still be an operational metric for customer satisfaction. In a global economy, language skills become an important qualifier for live assistance. So, while less staff may be needed quantitatively, the capabilities of that staff will be more varied and demanding, and will require more collaborative flexibility in servicing the new ways that customers will be contacting the enterprise. Enterprise “contact centers” won’t remain location-based “centers” where “multimodal” agents sit together and the telephone won’t be the only way a customer initiates a business contact to the enterprise.

Outbound contacts to customers, whether notifications and time sensitive “alerts” or deferred responses to customer requests, will also change as customers become more accessible via email, instant messaging, and wireless mobility. Not only will such outbound contacts become more automated, but also, when live contact is needed, personalized presence-based IM and mobile telephony will increase customer accessibility by enterprise staff.

We view self-services and live assistance as yet another “modality” of customer contact that will be supported by the power and flexibility of UC technologies. UC technologies will not only facilitate access to people through presence management technologies, but can also enable and increase more flexible contact with people by being “transmodal” across asynchronous messaging, instant messaging, and voice conversations. Embedding access to UC capabilities within business process applications will make access to live assistance from self-service applications more efficient and seamless for customer needs.

Migrating to the Future of “Virtual” Customer Assistance

It will take more than “two to tango” in moving towards the new multimodal world of IP-based UC and customer interactions. Both the customers and the enterprise staff will be changing their ways of accessing information and efficiently contacting the right people. The new software-based technologies will continually evolve and improve and the old communication technologies (telephony) will still have to be supported for a long time. So, it is going to be an evolutionary migration for the enterprise, and one that will offer new implementation alternatives besides the traditional CPE products, i.e., hosted and managed services.

As I highlighted in a “migration guide” for call centers that I co-authored for CMP Media’s CommWeb last year, step one in planning for migration to the next generation of “virtual” multimodal customer contact technology, is to “get organized” internally, put the right person in charge of customer contact migration planning, and start doing the homework on new operational and business requirements. The customer contact technologies have significantly improved since that report was published, but that first step has therefore become even more critical. It is not so much about what technology to buy and from whom, but rather, first things first, what will have to change operationally in how customer contacts will be handled for the future. Furthermore, UC-based customer contact technologies are not only about reducing implementation costs (it won’t be cheap to replace old technology), but the real payoffs in reducing customer support staffing costs, while at the same time increasing “customer productivity.”

New Objective Resource For UC Migration Planning – UC Strategies Web site

Since technology and service providers are still defining and developing the various components of ”UC,” it is difficult for enterprise organizations to keep up with the reality of today vs. tomorrow’s needs. I have joined with a group of knowledgeable and objective industry experts, who have helped pioneer many of the new concepts of “unified communications” technology.

To learn what is happening with new UC products and services, the impact on business processes including customer contact applications, and how your organization can more efficiently migrate to the UC future, visit our web site at:

My articles on customer contact technology are also now being published at CMP Media’s Call Center Magazine web site:

What Do You Think?

Let us know your opinion by sending us an email at, or by commenting to our blog. (

Some other exclusive customer contact insights may be found here:

Smarter Call Center IP Telephony Routing

Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP