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Thursday, September 27, 2007

UC, Hyperconnectivity, Caller Text Messaging

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

September 25, 2007

Why UC Needs “Hyperconnectivity”

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Let’s face it! UC is not simple. It is more complicated than just voice telephony or any one particular form of messaging, because it is really a “mix and match’ of multimodal communication capabilities that individual end users will selectively exploit depending upon their personal needs. For person-to-person contacts, this means that both contact initiators and contact recipients will have choices in how they want to (or have to) communicate at any given moment in time.

UC, and it’s unified messaging components, is also forcing the convergence of wired and wireless network communications, because timely communications requires personalized, location-independent, mobile accessibility. This convergence is having a disruptive impact upon how business organizations support their end user UM/UC communication needs with a combination of internal technology and external services. It is also creating a lack of terminology to properly describe new communication infrastructure problems and their solutions. So, I was happy to see Nortel come up earlier this year with a good descriptor for the network problems that UC (and mobility) will be generating. They called it “hyperconnectivity,” which they define as the “state in which the number of devices, nodes, and applications connected to the network far exceeds the number of people using the network.”

This emphasis on providing adequate network capacity for the flexibility that UC will offer end users is probably one of the reasons that Microsoft has strategically partnered with Nortel, because network hardware management is not Microsoft’s cup of tea. They are more interested in the operating systems, business applications and user interfaces that will feed network traffic, and will leave network technology management to the likes of Nortel, Cisco, and other network infrastructure providers.

The “Chicken and the Egg” – What About “UC Traffic?”

While it is indeed necessary to plan for adequate network resources to handle the different types of converged communication traffic that will be flowing between people and application processes (let alone directly between applications), I have to agree with the concerns voiced by UC consultant Nancy Jamison in her latest comment on about ”What I Didn’t Hear Much of At VoiceCon.” Apparently there was a lot of emphasis on the future of UC applications and features, ROIs, and interoperability, etc., but little discussion of the impact of “UC traffic” upon network resources and how that will be handled.

To make matters even more complex, because the flexibility of UM/UC will really pay most importantly for mobile users, network resources will have to support all forms of wired and wireless connectivity between different kinds of user endpoints. However, because individual mobile end user communication needs will be dynamically affected by personal activities, their choice of contact modalities (i.e., real-time vs. asynchronous messaging, voice vs. visual text), may fluctuate wildly. This will affect end user behavior as both contact initiators and as contact recipients and change the kind of network traffic they will generate.

This is the problem domain that Nortel is addressing with it’s focus on “hyperconnectivity,” but, no matter what you want to call it, it means that IP networks will have to be device independent, very flexible as to what kinds of communication traffic they will handle, and as to how much capacity and priority they can provide to the various forms of voice and video communication contacts.

The flexibility of UC to enable users to easily choose any method of contact initiation vs. what contact recipients will choose to, can change network usage in two ways. Escalating the response to an asynchronous email or voice message by a “click-to-call” action will increase network demand, while downgrading a voice call attempt to an IM exchange or a voice/text message will reduce network demand. Similarly, converting a voice message to text will make message retrieval and storage more efficient, both from a user productivity and system resources perspective. Listening to a text message via text-to-speech will be convenient for eyes-free mobile situations, while preserving the efficiency of the original text message.

So, how much network capacity will be required to support all of the above? How can the enterprise plan for unknown future network traffic without first learning which users will be doing what with UC capabilities?

UC Applications – Increasing “Speed of Contact” vs. “Ease of Use”

Although the success of UC will be very dependent upon simplifying the user interface for managing multimodal communications, “ease of use” alone will not be enough for efficiently completing business contacts. For example, everyone looking at UC is excited about using a simple visual interface, i.e., “click-to-call,” to initiate a phone call, that is not enough to insure contact. It has always been pretty easy to initiate a telephone call (if you knew the number), but that didn’t mean the call attempt would be successful; in fact, the old statistics that around 70% of business call attempts “fail” might get much worse because it will be easier to initiate call attempts to people who are just not available. With mobile phones, call screening is also contributing to that increase of failed real-time contacts because users who are mobile don’t want to be interrupted by low priority contacts.

As UC industry attention increasingly focuses on satisfying the end user with easy-to-use application interfaces and simple procedures, the importance of “real-time” contacts has not diminished. This is especially true for contact initiators who now have plenty of non-real-time messaging options and will (hopefully) use real-time contacts more selectively when really necessary.

Presence management, along with the single contact approach of UC (“one number”), will be effective mechanisms to facilitate more efficient real-time contacts. This will be true for “person-to-person” contacts (phone calls, “push-to-talk,” or IM), or “instant” group conferencing by voice, video, or IM. This technology approach doesn’t necessarily make the calling procedure easier, but it will speed up successful call connections, vs. failed attempts, particularly for person-to-person call attempts. That, in turn, will increase what I will call the “speed of use” of IP telephony.

Increasing “Speed of Use” for Caller Messages

Legacy voice mail systems emulated telephone answering machines at the recipient’s end of the phone line, because there was no other way to quickly know the availability of the recipient without actually making a call. In addition, there was no good way to send a location-independent message before electronic messaging. (Remember the handwritten pink telephone message slips?)

One of the severe limitations of legacy voice mail systems, however, was that outside callers did not have the same privileges for initiating a voice message to a subscriber’s voice mailbox as another subscriber on the same voicemail/phone system. For one thing, outside callers could not directly access a voice mailbox without first attempting to make a phone call attempt through a voicemail auto-attendant or to a DID number. One would think that with new multimodal “smartphones,” universal email addressing, IP telephony, UC, and presence management, it’s time for a change!

Now that everyone is (1) already using electronic messaging, (2) will increasingly be using multimodal desktop or mobile “smart phones,” and (3) will soon be able to check a recipient’s (call) availability status with federated presence management, there is an opportunity to increase the “speed of use” for caller messaging too. Why should the “smart caller” continue to be at the mercy of a recipient’s “dumb” voice mailbox? Why can’t contact initiators quickly and easily create and send any kind of message as soon as they find out that the recipient is unavailable for a voice conversation?

Because short voice messages are easier and faster for callers to create, especially when they are mobile, voice will remain a convenient form of contact forever. This also applies to the ability to send voice messages as attachments to an email message, rather than typing text. However, retrieving and managing voice messages is still not so efficient for the recipients, and using mature speech recognition technology to convert voice to more manageable text messaging is becoming a new, more efficient “call answering” service for busy users.

Technology developers like CallWave, SpinVox, TalkText, and SimulScribe are driving consumer market interest in voice-to-text messaging through service offerings that provide greater personal productivity efficiency to contact recipients. However, as I pointed out in a previous article, it won’t be long before enterprise organizations will also want to exploit such services to minimize the drain on internal voice messaging resources.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

White Paper on UC ROIs and Transition Strategies

I authored a recent white paper describing UC ROIs and practical approaches to enterprise transition planning that highlight Microsoft’s UC product positioning for simplifying the challenge of evolving to UC. Rather than start with replacing existing wired desktop phone systems, the UC evolution can start with adding IM/presence management, unified messaging, mobile devices, and IP softphones. You can download a copy of the white paper by going to the UC Strategies web site at:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

UC Rubber Meets Enterprise Roads

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

September 14, 2007

Where the UC “Rubber” Meets the Enterprise “Road”

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

This is a follow up to my last article about low “demand” for UC. Although TDM telephone systems are very gradually being replaced by IP-PBXs and desktop IP phones, along with IP-based voice mail and “unified messaging” products, when it comes to full-blown unified communications (UC), market movement is still relatively slow. However, the telecommunications industry is going through a disruptive cycle of change, where it’s not just a matter of adopting new communication technologies, but also replacing some of the ways the traditional telephone is used.

We are still going through a “hype” cycle, where UC concepts are being promoted for all kinds of business and personal communication benefits, but, as real products and services are announced, business organizations have to get serious about how UC can affect the way they operate. This will require first understanding what UC technology will actually do for various end users and for those business processes that involve those end users. That means “UC applications,” and I don’t mean “VoIP!”

UC Applications

Using Blair Pleasant’s VoiceCon Fall presentation in San Francisco on the market structure of UC as a frame of reference for what functionality end users will see, the key UC application areas were identified as:

· Voice/Telephony (“VoIP”)

· Collaboration (conferencing, information sharing)

· Instant Messaging (IM)/Presence

· Unified Messaging (UM)

· Business Process/Applications (Communication enabled applications)

All of the above can support the flexibility of multimodal communications between end users within the same business organization, with individuals in other organizations, or with customers/constituents. However, there will be differences in how the various business market segments (and their customers) will transition to UC in the next few years.

The Barriers to UC Migration For Everyone

First and foremost, all business market segments are very confused about what UC is, what the benefits are, and how they should implement it. Clearly, the confusion is centered mostly around the telephony part of UC, since that is what is changing dramatically. This confusion is affecting both end users, who don’t understand what the changes will do to them as callers and call recipients, and business management, who don’t understand the benefits to their business processes.

IT staffs are another obstacle to UC migration for several reasons. They may not know what UC application capability to implement first, how to do it, or how to support it. They may also see such new technology as a threat to their job security, especially if UC comes in the form of hosted or managed services. Couple that with low demand from both business management and end users and there is obviously going to be resistance to changes to the status quo.

The Small Business - The “S Market”

I took advantage of my participation in TMC’s Internet Telephony Expo in L.A. this month to discuss some of the barriers facing business migration to UC. In particular, I was concerned with the “Small” business market, since that is a big market segment, as shown in the chart below provided by one of my panelists in discussing IP telephony as a hosted service.

Theoretically, small businesses should be easiest to migrate to UC for several reasons:

· They don’t have big investments in legacy TDM phone systems to protect

· They don’t have big IT staffs and are therefore good candidates for faster implementation through hosted and managed services

· They already probably use hosted email services

· They probably are extensive users of cellular services to be always accessible to customers and business contacts

· UC capabilities will enable the small business to enjoy the same competitive technology benefits of IP communications as larger organizations

· Decision-making can be much simpler and usually made by business owners management

While it would appear that the “S” market should be moving forward quickly into UC, the fact is that they are not moving that fast. There seem to be a number of barriers that are getting in the way.

For the small business market, which is dependent on value-added resellers (VARs) to give them advice and support in implementing telephone systems as CPE, the convergence of telephony with all forms of IP communications (email, IM, mobility) from multiple technology providers under UC, is challenging because of new expertise they don’t have yet. Furthermore, because software-based UC applications are moving towards hosted subscription services, the VAR’s haven’t adapted their thinking about generating income from equipment sales and maintenance to software maintenance and subscription sales.

Larger Business Organizations Have More UC Homework To Do

For the bigger companies (Medium, Large enterprises), things are a little more complicated because they have more locations, more customized business process applications, greater investments in legacy telephone systems, and larger IT staffs who will not be experienced with IP telephony technology, nor with application convergence and mobility issues of UC. All this will require greater justifications for change, as well as practical priorities for a selective transition to UC application technologies.

One major planning obstacle will be the operational Line of Business management, who should be able to identify the important business process problems that can be alleviated by UC capabilities, the relative ROI value and priority of such solutions, and which key end users really need UC capabilities (e.g., mobile, customer-facing users). They should also be able to identify pertinent, high-value business process applications that can integrate with UC capabilities (Communications Enabled Business Processes) to achieve faster workflow performance. But who is educating their thinking about requirements, UC capabilities, and benefits for their business operations? The CIOs? Vendors?

“Alignment” of IT With Business Management in Large or Growing Companies

A recent study by Bain & Company found that companies grew faster and lowered costs by making their IT staff more “effective,” rather than through simple “alignment” with business management. Their definition of “alignment” has been primarily to simply give individual business units raw IT resources to throw at their different problems. But if neither business management nor IT knows what their end users need in terms of communication flexibility and work flow efficiency, this will be like the “blind leading the blind!”

In one of my panel discussions on the role of “SIP In The Call Center,” which is a pretty technical view of IP telephony and UC for customer contact applications, my panelists from both Nortel and Genesys agreed that getting business process management involved in defining operational application needs was a key prerequisite before asking IT to plan any SIP-based contact center implementation. So, my definition of “alignment” for UC implementations includes the following steps:

  1. Educating both business management and IT about the operational work flow benefits that UC can provide.
  2. Having IT understand what work flow and communication problems both business management and end users currently have, their relative priorities for business activities, and which specific end users will be involved (both within and outside of the organization).
  3. Having IT research pertinent new technologies to supplement or replace current technology that meet business and end user requirements, including hosted and managed service offerings
  4. Pilot and test UC applications that are high priority to determine how effective they will be and what the transition impact will be for those users that will be affected.
  5. With the results of the above, IT can then justify practical implementation recommendations because they have been exposed to practical experience pertinent to their own operational environments.

Needless to say, since UC technology is still evolving and “best practices” can’t replace the steps mentioned above for any business environment, it will be practical to enlist the services of independent and objective consultancies, which can supplement internal resources with their UC implementation experience and awareness of available UC solution alternatives. One newly formed consultancy that has both long-time telephony and messaging experience and now specializes in UC planning and implementation is UniComm Consulting. (

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

White Paper on UC ROIs and Migration Strategies

I authored a new white paper describing UC ROIs and practical approaches to enterprise migration planning that highlight Microsoft’s UC product positioning for simplifying the challenge of moving to UC. Rather than start with replacing existing wired desktop phone systems, the migration can start with adding IP softphones, mobile devices, and unified messaging. You can download a copy by going to the UC Strategies web site at:

Attention CIOs: Watch this great recent Webcast from Avaya and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!

Go to:

This discussion with the two leading enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the need for identifying individual business user requirements for UC.