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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Apple's iPhone and Enterprise UC

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 17, 2007

Microsoft/Nortel UC Progress Report and Apple’s iPhone Spotlights “UC Smartphones” To Drive User Demand!

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Well, it’s about time that the unified communication “industry” has moved up the technology food chain to the real point of visible value from converged communication of UC, the end point device interfaces that every UC user will need for their personal (consumer) and business needs! Up till now we have been just laying the infrastructure groundwork for the real payoff of UC, the end users and the different applications they will personalize UC for. And we wondered why there was little end user demand from the enterprise market!

Progress report from Microsoft and Nortel highlights need for interface demos

Microsoft and Nortel presented more details of their joint UC development roadmap, where they basically report infrastructure consolidation at the platform level, along with the flexibility to accommodate migrations to new application servers and endpoint software clients at the desktop and mobile devices. Nortel President Mike Zafirovsky pointed to the SMB market as their first target for UC deliverables this year, expanding to the larger enterprise organizations that need to migrate more slowly and “gracefully” after that. The demo they gave to their in-house audience highlighted the power of native SIP-based presence and UC to dynamically switch communication modalities (email to IM), which I describe as “transmodal communications”, in addition to the more familiar speech user interfaces and unified messaging capabilities.

In response to a question from TMC’s Rich Tehrani about the need to first educate the enterprise market, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer complained that “unified communications means everything or nothing” to customers and that the only way customers “get it” is by seeing a demo of an application from the end user perspective. This confirms our view that the value of UC will be reflected in the user interfaces of communication applications, placed in the context of a business process (line-of-business or vertical industry applications).

That is why Microsoft and Nortel will be setting up hundreds of demonstration centers around the world, as well as centers for collaboration as a key step in “educating” business customers about what UC means to end users. Although I asked the question over the web about the impact of new the Apple smartphone, the “iPhone,” upon UC adoption, there wasn’t time to get an answer, so here’s our view of an answer.

The new Apple bringing more innovation to mobile communications?

Well, Apple, no longer calling itself “Apple Computer,” got your attention, didn’t it?

The big splash it made with it’s iPhone announcement seemed to draw everyone’s attention to what we have been waiting for in UC - end-user demand. That demand will come from individual consumer needs (communications, entertainment, customer contacts) and individual work-related needs (desktop, roaming, traveling, mobile communications and information exchange). The common denominator between consumers and business users is the communications piece, and that’s exactly where application client software fits in with well-designed multimodal mobile devices and user interface form factors.

Industry pundits almost hysterically jumped on the Apple iPhone announcement, pointing out that most of the functionality is not really new, having been incorporated in legacy technologies like voice mail and cell phones. They also highlighted missing pieces like the lack of 3G cellular, speech interfaces for mobile users who might need it for hands-free, eyes-free situations, the fact that text input really benefits from a “hard” alphanumeric keyboard rather than a button-less screen, and that “visual voicemail” has been around for years for the few enterprise systems that moved beyond the desktop telephone TUI. However, they also grudgingly admit that the packaging was innovatively well done, the missing elements can be added in a variety of ways, and, last but not least, their device design success will be emulated by the competition.

“Different strokes for different folks!”

The bottom line for all coming mobile “UC smartphones” (a generic descriptor), is that they will come in many form factors and combination of features to support the different needs and preferences of the individual end user for business and personal contacts, including business applications, and consumer entertainment. Enterprise organizations will have to support such end user UC devices and UC in the same way they supported TDM/TUI telephony for universal phone access over the PSTN, except now it has to be multimodal communications over IP and wireless networks too.

The enterprise UC ball is in the business end user mobile smartphone court!

Ever since the IP telephony and messaging technology developers started touting “unified communications,” the enterprise market has been sitting on its hands wondering why, when and how they should start migrating to the converged world of UC. Well, the writing is on the wall, as handheld device designs become the center of attention for accommodating the complexities of converged communication applications, rather than focusing on just infrastructure cost savings to do traditional phone call and messaging functions.

In a recent column (before CES /MacWorld) I highlighted the role of mobile communications as a driver for unified communications in the enterprise. I pointed out that increased mobile accessibility would enable greater contact efficiency and therefore faster task performance by everyone involved in the business process. That would include people inside and outside of the enterprise organization, and to do that means making UC services universal, like good old PSTN telephony.

One of the key assumptions about such benefits from UC capabilities was that more and more people would be carrying personalized, multimodal, mobile devices that would be flexible enough to maximize real-time business communications in any form, not just voice. While UC is useful at the desktop with PC-based softphones and text messaging, UC will really pay off when users are “mobile” and need to switch modalities all the time.


The “UC industry” is making progress by consolidating infrastructure, application, and communication device needs. Until end users see everything at the interface level, they won’t understand the difference UC will make for them. Enterprise management must also see those benefits as well, otherwise there just won’t be much movement in UC migration based on cost reductions alone.

What Do You Think?

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

Everything You Want To Ask About UC

See Us at TMC’s Internet Telephony Show Next Week!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Read my article on what enterprise users want from UC in the new issue of Internet Telephony magazine.

UC-oriented Customer Contact Technology Articles

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

Monday, January 08, 2007

CosmoCom Unified Customer Communication Services

January 8, 2007

CosmoCom Adds “Unified Customer Communications”

Services To Enterprise UC

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

We’ve known CosmoCom ever since they were founded in 1996 to develop one of the first IP-based ACD systems in the industry. I was privileged to be invited to give a presentation to their development team to highlight the coming changes that the Web and email were bringing to traditional voice oriented customer interactions. Even then, they had a remarkably complete vision for applying what we now know as unified communication (UC) technology to customer communications.

As UC has shifted the attention of the enterprise market from IP network infrastructure (VoIP) to the converged communication applications that it will support, we talked recently with CosmoCom’s new President of CosmoCom Americas operations, Ben Eisner, about how UC will affect customer contact technologies. CosmoCom has been evolving their contact center software platform, CosmoCall Universe, as both a service provider offering and an enterprise product. They have adopted the term “Unified Customer Communications” or “UCC” to describe their customer contact UC capabilities.

1. The Unified-View: What do you offer today and for the future that leads the industry and is different and/or better than your competitors?


CosmoCom invented the all-IP contact center platform, and one set of advantages we have in the market comes from having the most mature and field-proven, all-IP technology. These include feature advantages such as agents anywhere, unified multi-channel queuing and routing, and ease of integration with the IT environment. IP is the key enabler of our UCC model, and for the rapid, low-risk, high-reward implementations we are developing a reputation for.

We also have a high capacity, high availability, carrier grade platform that provides multi-tenancy with tenant self-administration. This has given us a strong

position with top-tier service providers in the multi-tenant, hosted platform segment of the market, where the SPs can realize the greatest economies of scale. We now see the interest in hosted contact centers growing rapidly, and so our market position is supporting a growing revenue stream.

But what we are also finding is a groundswell of demand from large enterprises for exactly the same capabilities that have made us a leader in the service provider space, especially multi-tenancy. With its strong tenant self-administration capabilities, this feature allows enterprises to deploy our platform as a centralized, flexible, enterprise-wide contact center resource.

The key idea here is consolidation. One pool of licenses and one pool of skilled personnel can respond to a wide variety of distributed internal needs. Agents can be deployed and redeployed “virtually” as needed in any set of locations. Outsourcers can be effectively monitored and easily changed. And new applications can be implemented in a fraction of the time required in the old pre-consolidation model, where each application required its own dedicated local hardware system.

In conjunction with this growing demand from enterprises, our service providers are also becoming sales channels for supplying premise-based systems to their large enterprise customers. This means that in some regions we now have competitive advantages related to our channels as well as to our technology products.

2. The Unified-View: What does CosmoCom’s “Unified Customer Communications” (UCC) bring to the enterprise table?


Sometimes we use the playful tag line: “What’s U in UCC?” In other words, what is it that is really being unified? The answer is a very long list of things, more than we can cover in one interview, and we will be publishing a white paper on this subject. Of course, one of the basic items is the customer communication channel. As customers move away from using just traditional wired phones for information or live assistance to being multimodal users of what you have labeled “Consumer UC,” they can both initiate and receive any kind of business contact with an enterprise, using screen-based desktop or wireless mobile devices.

All such contacts, however, have to be tracked and managed in a “unified” way in order to maintain a responsive and consistent level of support by customer-facing personnel. We have therefore updated traditional call center operational and management applications and reporting to support such converged customer UC activities.

3. The Unified-View: Why is it important to distinguish internal or basic enterprise UC from Unified Customer Communications (UCC)?


Facilitating direct person-to-person communication within the enterprise, or even between enterprises, can increase productivity and reduce costs. We call this “Unified Enterprise Communication” or “UEC.” This is not the same as enabling customers to communicate via any channel with whoever is available and qualified in the enterprise. Customer satisfaction with the contact experience is more critical to the enterprise because it can directly impact customer retention and revenue generation. This is what we call UCC, and this is why we believe UCC is more significant from a business perspective than simply reducing communications costs.

True UC will encompass both UEC and UCC, and in fact will unify them into a greater whole, one in which the entire enterprise organization is finely tuned to respond to the customers that make its very existence possible.

4. The Unified-View: What role does SIP-based presence technology play in customer contact activities?


Unfortunately, some technology providers have simply “bolted” on internal presence-based IM to a traditional TDM contact center technology; that enables a traditional call handling agent to accept a customer call, then use internal IM to find an “expert” outside the call center to collaborate with before returning to the caller. While this is better than putting a caller “on hold,” then trying to locate an available expert by dialing different phone numbers, it is still not the best solution for the customer experience.

For us, SIP is a lot more than presence management. It’s at the core of making the whole enterprise “virtual” for customer contact assistance. Because anyone in the enterprise who has to deal directly with a real-time customer will require a complete customer information context to make the customer “experience” effective and efficient, a “screen pop” will be a critical prerequisite. With “intelligent,” automated routing to anyone in the enterprise, we enable that flexibility to support efficient “first contact resolution,” whether it is a customer phone call or an IM contact. And by including every “expert” in the virtual, SIP-based contact center, we maintain complete tracking and control of all customer contacts.

If you need to shield some experts from getting too many calls directly, you can put them in an agent group assigned to queues that never get calls directly, but only via transfer from a first-line agent. When a caller needs a particular kind of expert, the first-line agent can then find someone in a particular expert queue to consult with, conference-in, or transfer to. If the transfer is completed, it's going to a full-fledged agent capability, with all the associated screen pops etc. Even if it's just conferenced, it will still come with all the information and “screenpops.” This is true UC capability for customer contact.

One of the things we are doing to support this approach is pure economics. We charge for a pool of usage-time shared by a many agents. This is much more cost effective than paying for concurrent agents for the UC environment, because you want these informal agents logged in and available all the time, even though you don't actually use them very much.

5. The Unified-View: How does your UCC relate to customer self-service applications?


In a UCC world, self-service applications will have to be consistent across all channels while selectively exploiting the benefits of the specific interface of the device in use. As multimodal devices proliferate, new usability challenges and opportunities emerge. Last year we introduced what we call “IVVR” – that is, Interactive Voice and Video Response – to answer this challenge. IVVR is a great example of UCC in the self-service realm.

Just as the self-service applications need to be consistent, the transition from self-service to live help should be consistent. In other words, whatever has been learned about the customer during the self-service phase of the interaction needs to be presented to the live agent with the call. This has to be a channel-independent principle. And this is where our technology really shines.

6. The Unified-View: Why is there going to be a greater need for hosted and managed customer contact technology, as opposed to traditional enterprise CPE?


The SMEs want the features offered by the large enterprises, but don’t want to make the same big investments they have made. Hosted contact centers answer this need. At the same time, the large enterprises are just getting sick and tired of what they are spending every year per agent just to maintain their old technology infrastructure, and they are beginning to see that hosting is a viable alternative for them to consider as well.

Still, hosting is not for everyone. That’s why we are seeing that groundswell of interest from enterprises in the same capabilities that make our platform suitable for hosting. Enterprises who are not ready turn over their infrastructure needs to an outside service provider can gain many of the same benefits by “self hosting” their own platform for all the various contact center applications within their enterprises. This approach adds another level of unity to UCC – unity of applications.

7. The Unified-View - What market segments are you targeting and why? (Vertical, horizontal)


Of course we continue to target service providers globally. This means not only developing new service provider relationships, but also supporting the growth of our existing service providers, which translates directly into growth for CosmoCom.

We also target the internal customer care applications of our service providers, because our presence on the network side of these organizations gives us a place to start, and of course because telecom service providers represent one of the largest segments of the contact center market.

More broadly speaking, we target the high end of the enterprise contact center market, which is found not only in telecommunication service providers, but also in utilities, the public sector, the financial services industry, and others. These are the customers most likely to benefit from our strengths in large, highly distributed, “virtual” contact centers, and in supporting multiple, enterprise-wide applications on one platform via multi-tenancy with tenant self-administration.

Bringing this conversation full circle, these customer-rich and increasingly customer-centric organizations are also the most likely to adopt the UCC model that we discussed earlier, and we believe that we are in the strongest position, technologically and commercially, to support this movement.

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