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?
The Math of Customer UC: blog. (http://unified-view.blogspot.com/)
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