Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
October 10, 2007
Maximizing The Benefits Of Unified Communications
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
As the definition of what everyone means when they say “unified communications” (UC) becomes clearer to the various business enterprise constituencies, it is also becoming more evident that the benefits of UC will be very dependent upon the technologies that end users can selectively control. If a user has NO device for communicating, then all the networking and application servers in the world won’t help a bit!
What is really happening, however, is just the opposite. End users are going after maximum communication flexibility with all forms of contact and media converged and interoperable on a single desktop or handheld endpoint device. Why? Because individual users have different communication interface needs at different times, depending on where they are, what they are doing, whom they are communicating with, and especially when they are mobile and must deal with a variety of “rich” information.
When we talk about the benefits of UC, we can look for specific enterprise business process efficiencies (“macro-productivity”), as well as at the benefits to the individual end users in doing their jobs (“micro-productivity”). Obviously, the latter will impact the former, so it is important to include both perspectives.
New International Survey Ties End User Interest in UC to Teleworking Benefits
One of the major factors holding up enterprise UC migration has been perceived as relatively low end user adoption or “demand,” for UC at the desktop. This, in turn, has forced business or IT management to find other justifications for implementing UC capabilities. A new survey of both end users and IT management sponsored by Dimension Data Holdings focuses the role of UC on facilitating work productivity in the “virtual” workplace. Because telework (or Flexi-Work as they call it) directly benefits individual end users in a very personal way, in addition to addressing basic issues of staffing and retention for the business organization, it may be the “secret sauce” that will drive greater user demand for UC implementations.
The survey involved 390 IT managers and 524 business end users who use a PC for work at least fifteen hours a week in thirteen countries. Although there are some variances in UC adoption between end users in different areas of the world (Europe, U.S., Asia, 3rd world countries), there are no surprises in seeing newer forms of communication gaining increased traction with end users.
More Real-time Business Communications Through Text
Now that text messaging has become real-time (IM, SMS), it is competing with voice telephony as THE most common form of real-time business communications. Not that conversational voice doesn’t have some useful advantages over text, such as being more efficient and delivering more emotional content for discussions, but like everything else, voice conversation has its place. That “place” is going to very dynamic, because increasingly mobile people can’t necessarily talk or listen all the time or in every environment. That is also where the most benefits of UC will be realized, when UC enables contact with people “any where, anytime, any how.”
The new survey reconfirms findings of an older ACM report I cited from last year that compared email and phone calls with face-to-face meetings, and showed email being perceived as equal in importance to phone calls. This new study surveys also covers use of both Instant Messaging (IM) and mobile text messaging and shows increasing growth of all forms of messaging over phone calls
Here are the reported and not too surprising end user results on leading business communication applications, for both usage and perceived personal productivity:
Communication type - % Using -% Helps “Productivity” Most
E-mail - 100% 70%
Telephone (Wired) - 80% 53%
Mobile phones - 76% 52%
Instant Messaging - 66% 27%
Note: Instant Messaging is not fully accepted for business use within many enterprise organizations.
The Two Kinds of Live Business Contacts – “Person-to-person” and “Person-to- Anyone Available”
Contacting people in business is not as simple as always knowing exactly whom you want to talk to. If it is a matter of getting up-to-date information, computer and network technology is minimizing the need for contacting a live person to get such information through online, visual and speech interfaced “self-service” business applications. If it is a matter of getting live assistance of any kind, then network and presence management is now bringing greater choice in locating and contacting someone who is qualified and available in whatever form of contact that is feasible at the moment for both the contact initiator and the contact recipient. This kind of contact technology has evolved from the sensitive demands of customer support contacts (call centers) to what is now useful to anyone doing business with or within an organization. That’s what we expect UC to deliver as benefits to both individual end users and the business processes they are associated with.
So, it’s not just a matter of changing the voice telephony “pipes” to VoIP connectivity, because that alone will do nothing to facilitate making contacts with people. You still have to know who they are, where they are, how available they are, and with what kind of contact modality that will work all parties involved at any given moment in time. Otherwise, as a “contact initiator” (caller), you can waste a lot of personal productivity time, but worse yet, delay the business process or problem resolution involved. That’s what UC ROI is really all about!
So, What Can Help UC To Be More Effective?
It should be very obvious by now that personalized wireless mobility is going to make a big difference in making people more accessible. That applies not only to “person-to-person” contacts, but also to “person-to-anyone” contacts and to evolving “automated business process (applications) –to- person” contacts, recently referred to as “CEBP” (Communications Enabled Business Processes). As individual users become more accessible through a variety of personalized mobile devices, pre-authorized business process applications will be able to selectively drive timely, proactive information delivery and notifications, which can be followed by a variety of self-service or live interaction options with the information recipients.
Again, it’s not just a matter of presence management (connectivity status, location, availability), but also the flexibility of mobile, multimodal communications which will allow the contact initiator to quickly and efficiently communicate, in real-time or asynchronously, in any modality acceptable to the recipient.
Communication mobility will provide the following kinds of benefits to UC:
· Make both contact initiators and recipients more accessible to communication contact (though they may not be available for every modality of contact).
· With multimodal mobile device flexibility, both the contact initiator and recipient will have greater flexibility of choice for messaging exchanges and transitioning to real-time conversations.
· With UC, which subsumes unified messaging capabilities (UM), the messaging options will also be improved, where the message originator can exploit the convenience of speech, while the message recipient can exploit the efficiencies of text retrieval.
· Responding to any form of messaging will also be flexible, since the respondent can choose whatever form of response is most convenient or appropriate for the respondent, regardless of the original message format.
· Mobility will also facilitate “instant,” multi-party conferencing when rapid decision-making is required and the appropriate people are physically located anywhere. This includes dynamically transitioning from messaging exchanges to multi-party, IP-based voice and video conferencing.
The bottom line of such flexibility stemming from the combination of mobile access and UC multimodal communication options will be faster contact initiation and faster response from people, both which are key to improved business process performance. For people who are not mobile themselves, the people they are trying to contact might very well be, so mobility requirements have to be viewed from both sides of any person-to-person contact.
Implications For UC Planning
It will not be enough to simply install just VoIP networks, IP-PBXs, Unified Messaging servers, or SIP-based desktop phones, because, without multimodal mobile devices, end users who are key to high-value business process will not be able to communicate as efficiently and flexibly as possible. Whether it is as a contact initiator, a recipient, or a respondent, when push comes to shove, maximum mobile flexibility can make a difference! (Think of emergency health care or other emergency situations.)
For this reason, all UC migration planning must also consider the individual end users involved and insure that they are equipped to exploit UC to the maximum required for their job responsibilities and for the priorities of any associated business process applications. This should tie in with plans for “mobilizing” the enterprise work force, as Nokia has noticeably done within its own organization and documented in their book last year “Work Goes Mobile.” What mobility migration shares in common with UC migration is the emphasis on business process values and priorities. You must “kill those two birds with the same business process stone!”
The mobility question of course also highlights the issue of fixed-mobile telephony convergence (FMC), where we have wide-area cellular networks for off-premise access, premised-based Wi-Fi and WLANS, and shades of wireless networks starting to appear in between (Wi-Max). The enterprise challenge is to enable any user’s endpoint device to be interoperable across such networks in order to insure mobile accessibility to key people in high-value business processes, wherever they may happen to be.
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or .
Are You Ready For Microsoft’s Big UC Launch on October 16th?
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: