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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Will the REAL DefinitionS of UC Stand Up: 6 Perspectives For A Single Definition

David A. Zimmer

David A. Zimmer, PMP
Chief of Staff
American Eagle Group

In a recent article by a colleague titled “Will the REAL Definition of Unified Communications Please Stand Up,” Blair Pleasant offered a definition of unified communications. Overall, I felt the definition provided insight and was comprehensive from a technical perspective. She included the many “moving” parts, the technical components, needed to support a unified communications (UC) infrastructure.

Ms. Pleasant’s real premise of the article was to provide that one definition we can use to effectively describe UC – the “elevator speech” of UC. This is a goal another colleague Art Rosenberg and I have attempted many times over the past decade since we coined the term “unified communications.” No matter what we developed, I always felt short-changed, incomplete, not totally satisfied.

After reading Ms. Pleasant’s article and talking with Art, I came upon the root issue to this lacking definition. We typically attempt to define UC from one perspective which leaves the other perspectives dangling. UC is a rapidly moving, and yet frustratingly slow, whirlwind of needs, wants and whims. A need to one person is simply a whim to another. So, to pin a single definition on UC is fruitless. As soon as we are satisfied with the definition, it is out
moded, just as a PC purchased yesterday is obsolete.

A Departure From UC

Back in 2002 or 2003, I took a departure from the UC market to provide training and consulting to companies in the area of project management and IT service management. Over the past several years, I have trained thousands in industry-standard project management methodologies and proper MS Project use. During these seminars, I refered to unified communications. I’ve learned, based upon the person’s job description, their definition and understanding differs.

Rather than a single definition, I believe there is and always will be multiple definitions. The definitions result from different perspectives. I’ve captured these perspectives in what I call, the UC Cube©. It is a specialized version of the IT Cube© specific for UC although it uses the same perspectives.

What is UC Cube?

Over the years, I have been involved in many IT related projects. During that time, I have observed many perspectives to the project. Some felt the project was a raging success while others, looking at the same information, considered it a flaming failure. Why? I realized they were viewing the situation from different angles.

Imagine a cube – a six sided, 3D object. In the center of cube is the item of
scrutiny. Depending upon which panel I am looking through to see the item, I see another aspect, a distinct surface resulting in “seeing the same thing, but differently.”

Let’s tie this to UC.

Any IT project, and UC eventually boils to technology implementation, has six different perspectives. I make some generalities to simplify the concept. There always will be grey areas and bleed-overs to other panels, but the following descriptions will help us understand our conundrum.

Panel 1: The Technician

The technician implements, maintains and upgrades the infrastructure that supports the features and functions of the UC system. He may have insight into only one portion of the overall system. For example, he may be the MS Exchange or Domino Server guru. He may not understand or be concerned with telecom stuff.

Regardless of how narrow or expansive his technical skill set, he is the one that understands the nuts-and-bolts. He must make the adjustments necessary to keep the system alive.

His perspective is technical. His questions and concept of UC is technical.

“What components must I implement and maintain to produce UC?”

“What widgets comprise a UC infrastructure?”

“Should I support VoIP or TDM?”

“What expertise do I need or certification should I possess?”

“What training best serves this area?”

And so on.

Panel 2: The IT or Technology Management

The IT or Technology manager, while concerned with the technology and its implementation, concentrates on uptime, stability, business support, evolution to meet future needs, etc. She reads different reports and magazines than the technician. Her concern is less day-to-day operations and more focused on providing the features/functions with appropriate availability to support the organization.

The IT manager’s perspective will be technical but with a “business” flavor added.

“Which set of technology meets the greatest number of needs expressed with the greatest uptime and lowest cost?”

“Can I prove ROI, TCO, ABC and XYZ the business slings at me?”

“At the end of the day, am I supporting their needs, wants and whims?”

“What metrics best prove I’m meeting my SLAs?”

“How do I really know the users’ needs?”

“Are the business initiatives being met by this latest technology implementation?”

Panel 3: Business Management and Executives

The business management focuses on company profitability, costs and competitiveness. If tin cans and string support the communication need, so be it. If it takes the latest advances and technology, that’s fine as long as it keeps us profitable and competitive. The goal is to manage the business, not the technology to support the company. The business defines the business requirements for profitability and competitiveness while the technology management translates those requirements into working technology.

The business’ view of UC revolves around reaction to market trends, business directions, customer responsiveness and so forth. If technology enables mobility, agility and profitability, they’re for it. Does the UC system integrate with our business processes and support greater productivity so we can do more with less?

While it is the IT manager’s responsibility to prove proper ROI and TCO, the business management factors those values into the equation for the cost of IT support. In other words, if the current system supports the business but doesn’t line-up with an industry definition of unified communication, who cares? If a UC system is implemented but doesn’t support the business, UC is no good. Simple.

The business perspective, therefore, looks at UC’s impact on the business itself and determines which “features and functions” are necessary. If IM does the job, it’s in. If UM doesn’t support profitability, it’s out. Yet, if the workers can get to their email, voicemail, fax and other communications just fine, they have “unified communications.”

Panel 4: The User

The rubber meets the road with the user. The user determines which aspects of UC he uses. Some might use IM. Others might use text/picture messaging from their mobile phone. One set wants iPhone® while the rest want Blackberries®. For business purposes, email and voicemail are required options, but their use might vary. Should we throw in calendaring functions and contact lists? Can they only contain business associates or will they contain family and friends? Does it support “presence” for all contexts so the user knows which device or medium to use?

Some users have a clearly defined boundary between work and personal life while others have no life outside of work – everyone is a potential customer. Some users are highly mobile requiring different types of security and equipment definitions while others might share devices because of their duties such as manufacturing shop floors and support desks.

Since each job varies drastically from one company to another, from one industry to another and from one country to another, a single definition will not suffice. Here’s the key: each user will define UC for himself or herself based upon his or her specific needs and job demands. The person across the aisle may want something completely different. Consequently, the IT staff must support a smorgasbord of features and functions, within limits of course, to cover the variety of definitions.

Which definition prevails? The business manager’s? The IT manager’s? The technician’s? The user’s? All will!

Here’s another aspect of a user, just to muddy the waters. Generational issues. Yup, this is one place age really does matter. Each generation has different ways of working based upon the technology available when they were young.

Not to give away my age, but I much prefer separated technology where my voicemail is voicemail and my email is email. Although I carry a Blackberry fully loaded with pictures, soccer schedules, contact information, email/spam-mail, I don’t do texting. I don’t like IM – too invasive. I don’t want my voicemail comingled with my email and overflowing spam. And my “find me/follow me” is fixed forwarding of my office phone to my mobile number. I don’t need more.

And I really despise presence. Why? Because, frankly, I don’t always want to be available. Worse, just because my mobile phone is on and the presence indicator says I’m available via that method, I’m not. I’ve left it behind because I needed a break. But for many, presence is the coup de grais of UC. Without it, UC isn’t UC!

While I have this older view of the world, my younger counterparts (and off-spring) are suffering carpel tunnel syndrome of the thumbs from texting/IM’ing/video-gaming, and more. They have a different concept of work and play from me. Their communications needs differ.

I have a problem with “communicating” with robots and systems that simulate humans helping me with my tech support while the younger folks like it better. I don’t want to speak to a machine trying to act like a human. I’m not a fan of tech support “live chat” while other love it – too slow and I know I am not the only customer of the tech, therefore, I have to repeat myself too many times and get inaccurate answers.

Therefore, the user defines UC to meet his or her need. It cannot be dictated by the industry.

Panel 5: Analysts and Pundits

The analysts and pundits will have a completely different definition for UC than everyone else – by definition. Our job is to determine the market size, advise our clients what’s best, apprise them of the future after we predict it, and convince them our guesses are just around the corner. Therefore, our definition will be a combination of technical specifications, market forecasts, customer requests and users demands (as determined by surveys). I’m not trying to be harsh, simply reality based.

We will ask,
“What are you current pain points?”

“What problems are you trying to fix?”

“What solutions do you think best fit your situation?”

“How many users do you support?”

“What purchases are forecast for next year, and the year after that, and five years out?”

“What functions do you foresee as important today that you don’t have?”

“What are your predictions for next year?”

We take the information and see how it matches current products and services, then illustrate the current gaps and the market potential. Of course, we have to define the problem we are solving in order to come to a solution. The solution, therefore, evolves into our definition with additional future-proofing. While this is a bit “tongue-in-cheek” of our services, our vision of UC differs from all the other groups, by necessity.

As analysts, we have to stand squarely in the past, the present and the future. The technology must support all three timeframes, the features must meet all needs expressed or at least in a prioritize order of needs, and so forth. Our view and definition of UC can be biased based upon the data collected, the reports read, the information mined and more. The good news is, we can be just as right as any other panel.

Panel 6: The Vendors

The vendors are in business to meet the needs of the customers. Their goal is to understand the definition sufficiently to produce the product or service supporting the definition. Of course, no one vendor can meet the entire definition, therefore, they express how their products/services are UC.

I once saw a vendor claim they had “unified messaging” because they could receive faxes on a PC. It did not integrate with a mailbox, email, voicemail or any other product, but that was their definition of unified messaging – PC fax.

The vendor’s definition of UC will be biased toward their product or service. In many cases, they will fit a square peg in a square hole, but sometimes, it will be more cylindrical than square.

They will be asking questions such as,

“How does our product or service fit this concept of UC?”

“Do we have some aspects that will work so we can make such a claim?”

“Can we state we are UC-compliant?”

And so forth.


Defining UC with a single, industry acceptable definition is impossible. No matter how inclusive, it will certainly exclude some aspect. We must define it from multiple perspectives. We must realize also UC is constantly moving and shifting. There are many moving parts which are evolving at various rates and directions. Users’ needs, wants and whims are never static and change like the wind. Market factors, economic conditions and business climates impact UC quarterly.

The six perspectives give us a clue as to the true complexity of UC. The complexity results from the various viewpoints, more complex than the technical aspect. Serving each angle will challenge us for years to come.

What Do You Think?

Do you think it is possible to have a single definition? Do you think I am accurate in articulating six perspectives? Does the concept of a cube help focus this amorphous collection of needs, wants, whims and technology into something tangible? Send me your thoughts. Either leave a comment to this blog posting or send me an email at

To learn more about my kick-butt Project Management 5-day boot camp or excellently rated MS Project seminars, shoot me an email or call +1/215-491-2544. Thousands have reaped the benefits of more project success from this valuable training.

UC Cube is copyrighted by the Unified-View. IT Cube is copyrighted by American Eagle Group. All rights reserved. Use of term permitted with credit citation to respective copyright holders.

Copyright (C) 2008 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Managing UC and Mobility Services For Business

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Although we start looking at unified communications (UC) from an end user perspective, i.e., who really needs which capabilities from UC, we must also look at IT’s role in planning, implementing, and supporting UC capabilities in a business environment. Even though the basic justifications for UC must come from the business users (individual end users and business process management), we must still rely on IT technology expertise to develop a practical UC implementation and support plan that is acceptable to everyone.

Drawing the line between fixing existing business technology that is broken vs. implementing new technology is a traditional challenge to IT management. For UC, it is further complicated by the need to support the new communication alternatives that will allow internal staff, outside partners, and most importantly, customers to communicate more flexibly and efficiently. Such flexibility will be increasingly required by mobile users employing handheld, multi-modal “smart phones,” to maximize both their business and personal communication accessibility.

UC and Mobility

Unified communications (UC) still struggles to be defined conceptually for its role in person-to-person communications and process-to-person interactions. The ability to use either speech or text communications between people was a starting point for more flexible business contacts, facilitating the choice of asynchronous messaging vs. real-time synchronous contacts (phone calls, IM). Now, with improved speech recognition and multi-modal mobile devices, the next stage of efficient user real-time interaction with business process applications is here – the choice of entering or retrieving information with voice or screen interfaces, or a combination of both. As the title of a white paper published by NEC at the beginning of this year suggests, UC may be viewed as the next stage of mobility. Right there, enterprise IT will face the problem of supporting both existing internal desktop applications, as a well as a variety of public and private networks, mobile communications services, and endpoint devices that end users will be deploying to communicate with different people and different applications. How will usage of such mobile services be managed from an enterprise IT perspective?

It’s not enough to design and develop new technologies for business end users; it is also critical to manage technology support and changes to keep in synch with the operational usage needs of different people and work environments. Now that telephony is joining other forms of business communications under the UC umbrella to support multimodal, mobile devices that are software-based, IT technology support for all forms of business application integrations has to be consolidated and structured as well.

Orange Business Services Offers Microsoft UC Plus ITIL-based Support

A clue to how enterprise UC mobility will be evolving through the use of managed services appeared in a recent announcement from a leading European service provider, Orange Business Services of France Telecom, targeting multinational, global business organizations. They announced they would be supporting the use of the following standard Microsoft software applications to business customers on a managed basis:

· Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

· Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007

· Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007

What Orange has also added to their business communication offerings is standards-based service management through ITIL, Information Technology Infrastructure Libraries, which is a set of documented concepts and policies for managing operational support and change procedures for information technology services.

To get some insights into that perspective of UC implementations, I talked with my old Unified-View partner, David Zimmer, who has been actively involved with educating IT personnel on the gospel of ITIL.

According to David, here are some key points about ITIL:

· ITIL is a significant cultural change for IT organizations in performing their responsibilities to support enterprise information and communication technologies

· It requires understanding and coordinating business management needs and priorities, individual end user needs, as well as the trade-offs between existing and new technologies to provide required technology services

· Most importantly, it requires defining all aspects of technology support as reflected in Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for different technology support services, i.e., break-fix problems vs. changes to existing capabilities

· The ITIL framework includes standardized procedures for:

- Service support

- Service delivery

- Security management

- Infrastructure management

- Application management

- Change management

- Continual service improvement (Metrics)

Finally, David suggests that IT project management still has to determine how to best implement any requested and approved application changes and that kind of expertise is very fuzzy at best. New implementation options can now include hosted or managed services, integrated with existing enterprise technologies.

Business management, on the other hand, has to understand its operational problems and priorities and the value of selectively solving those problems with UC technologies. Such solutions must be properly planned and implemented on an evolutionary basis at both the IT support level and the individual end-user adoption level.

“ITIL is a framework for describing the practical guidelines needed to align IT technology with business initiatives,” commented Zimmer. “UC is fundamentally a business initiative using supporting technology. Moving from current technology to UC and then continually upgrading or introducing new features in the rapidly changing world of business requirements is the crux of the ITIL framework. In the short term, companies go through cultural change, but come out further ahead because of the systematic methodologies employed to support the business,”

In the long run, proper IT management of UC technology implementations and usage will result in time-savings, avoiding expensive mistakes, and making new UC applications more future-proofed to keep up with the real-world of both business and end-user needs.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360. You can reach David Zimmer at or (215) 491-2544.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Contact Resolution Catches Up With “Customer UC”

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

The search for enterprise benefits from UC capabilities always seems to revolve around improving business results and that usually means communicating more effectively and efficiently with customers.

When real-time customer service was primarily focused on telephone call centers, a key enterprise challenge for customer satisfaction was to minimize caller wait time for live assistance. Although telephone self-service applications can be used to minimize such demand, there are always situations where live assistance is still needed to supplement the limitations of the telephone user interface (TUI) to efficiently satisfy caller information needs.

Even with fast access to live assistance from a call center “agent,” the need for particular expertise cannot always be provided because it is impossible to train all agents to know everything. As a result, agents would have to either try to find an “expert” to assist in providing necessary information during the same call, or require follow up calls to resolve the caller’s problem. This consideration led to a key metric for customer satisfaction, “First Call Resolution” (FCR), based on getting other personnel quickly involved in satisfying all the caller’s needs during a single call.

“Different Strokes For Different Folks”

Now that customers can easily access information on the Web without necessarily talking to a live person, the name of the FCR game is shifting from voice-only telephone contacts to multimodal contacts. In particular, live assistance can be invoked more flexibly, contextually, and selectively by customers than by manually initiating a phone call.

With online search via Web browsers becoming the primary source of information access “on demand,” customer assistance is shifting away from ad hoc phone calls to contextual online contacts for customer. The latter includes:

· “Click –to-email”

· “Click-to-chat”

· “Click-to-call”

Not only can this be done at a desktop PC or portable laptop, but with the growing consumer adoption of personal “smart-phones,” multimodal customer contacts for both information access and live assistance will be the new order of the day for enterprise customer support. Now “First Call Resolution” will really be only one flavor of “First Contact Resolution.”

New Metrics For “First Contact Resolution” Through UC

A new market study by long-time voice expert, Walt Teschner, who now runs the GetHuman website, confirms intuitively obvious metrics for customer contact responsiveness beyond phone calls. Sponsored by Fuze Digital Solutions, almost one thousand consumers in different age groups, gave their opinion about what would be acceptable responsiveness to the different forms of customer-initiated contact with a business.

Although, older people are a bit more demanding, there was not much difference in service level expectations between the different age groups. However, a key concern for all consumers is to know what to expect before they try to make contact for assistance.

Response expectations averaged the following:

Email - 4 business hours

Text chat - 10-70 seconds

Traditional telephone callers expect a call to be picked up within three rings by a person, but with most call center systems there are other time delays before reaching live assistance, including preliminary call screening via an IVR interface, then waiting in queue for an available agent.

However, the study did not get into the issue of fully completing the customer contact, i.e., the “resolution” of the caller’s reason for calling. Apparently, that is not as much of a problem to a caller as it is to contact center management who worry about agent performance (call“ handle time”) and staffing requirements. Obviously, if the caller doesn’t get the results they want, they will be still be extremely “dissatisfied,” no matter how quickly they are serviced.

As new UC capabilities become available to customers, both online at the desktop and with mobile “smart-phones,” initiating contact via email, chat or telephone will not limit interaction with live assistance to those modes of interaction. Email contacts can be escalated to online chat or voice conversations and it is those forms of interactions that could make the difference for a satisfying “customer experience,” not just how long it takes to establish contact with live assistance.

What Do You Think?

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

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The "New Avaya" – Innovating Desktop Telephony For UC

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Avaya’s announcement this week of a new President and CEO, a Cisco and AT&T Bell Labs veteran, Kevin Kennedy, capped the theme of this year’s Avaya Global Analyst conference – refocusing business telephony applications under the umbrella of unified communications (UC)!

The analyst meeting was noteworthy, not just because the company has been privatized for about a year now and has been reorganizing itself product-wise and internally, but, as a leading provider of traditional enterprise telephony systems, Avaya is also in the process of reshaping itself as a key “UC ” technology provider. This means moving its traditional desktop voice telephony products and services into the emerging multimodal world of enterprise UC to support both Gen Y/Millennial employees and customers.

There were a number of newly hired executives in attendance, some so new that they didn’t even have their Avaya business cards yet, but are recognized industry experts who can help reshape the “New Avaya.”

Keeping Desktop Telephony Links With UC

While Avaya has joined the rest of the telecommunications industry in moving towards new and open software-based SIP telephony and multimodal UC, they have also updated their vested interest in premise-based desktop voice communications equipment with “touch-screen” IP phones that provide a richer user interface for applications and interoperate with desktop PC “softphones” and a variety of personalized end user mobile devices. They also have packaged up a convenient hardware/software UC solution for the large, untapped SMB market, to replace simplistic legacy key systems.

The “New Avaya” is still transitioning from traditional desktop person-to-person telephony by consolidating it’s product focus on “business user“ functions, i.e., “UC” (unified communications for internal users) and “CC” (contact center functions for customers) and restructuring its organization and market approaches accordingly as described by UC Strategies analyst, Blair Pleasant and a slew of other industry pundits. But Avaya is also moving beyond voice conversations into the realm of transmodal integration with business process applications.

Avaya To Provide Communications-oriented Business Software Solutions

Rather than offer just voice-based “horizontal” communication functions, Avaya is moving up the UC technology food chain to address the communication needs of “vertical” market business processes. That requires integrating their real-time voice communications capabilities with both online business applications and text-based person-to-person communications. While this means integrating IP telephony with the email, IM, and business application software domains of Microsoft and IBM and consumer services, it also means protecting its large legacy TDM telephony customer base, which will slowly but surely be forced to migrate to IP Telephony, UM, and UC.

That concern may be what has prompted Avaya to place its UC focus on business end user needs for communications, particularly where real-time, person-to-person contacts are involved. Now that UC has opened the door for such contacts to be more “contextual,” personalized, and integrated within online business applications, Avaya is moving its telephony and messaging offerings to fit the particular needs of different kinds of users in different vertical markets. With new desktop and mobile devices becoming more flexible, screen-based and speech enabled, the path to customized multimedia user interfaces for UC is now open.

While there are lots of online software application offerings in the vertical markets today, Avaya believes its long-time expertise with real-time voice communications, a key component of UC, will give it a competitive advantage as a strategic partner for enterprise UC migrations. Avaya’s traditional telephony product reliability may also help preserve its future software role in UC against the likes of Microsoft, which is already aiming to displace enterprise hardware PBX functions with its new OCS R2 software server.

A Few Things I Didn’t Hear Enough About

The Avaya Global Analyst meeting was crammed full of information as their new executive team tried to lay out all the changes that would be taking place in their product lines. Jorge Blanco, Vice president, Product Management, Unified Communications, almost lost his voice in racing through a long overview of Avaya’s new hardware and software product roadmaps, all converging on UC and CC needs of different sized organizations.

CEBP - While Avaya’s earlier move into “communications enabled business processes” (CEBP) was never viewed as a “UC application,” it’s role in initiating contacts with people was definitely viewed as a driver for UC, particularly for mobile users. However, there was little mention of CEBP at the Avaya meeting, either in the context of UC, nor as an important element of “CC,” where I see it playing a strong role in “proactive” customer care applications for mobile users. Maybe when the reorganization settles down, and the new managers that Avaya has brought on board have had a chance to develop their plans, we will see some missing pieces in marketing strategies.

Hosted Services – While Avaya did talk about their new emphasis on “Operations Services,” (formerly called “Managed Services”) and “Co-Delivery” of customized solutions for vertical markets, their presentations emphasized premise-based hardware and software for business organizations. However, given the growing shift in business applications to SaaS, on-demand “cloud-based computing,” and most recently, Microsoft’s announcement of their Windows Azure, etc., I heard very little about Avaya’s plans to exploit their new business UC applications as hosted services, particularly for the SMB market. This could be done directly, through application partners, through service providers or sales channels, as some competitors have been announcing.

However, Avaya did indicate that it would be offering voice–to-text messaging services to enterprise customers as a proprietary service provided by SpinVox. Furthermore, Avaya’s new president and CEO, Kevin Kennedy, comes on board from his role at Cisco as Senior Vice President of the Service Provider Line of Business and Software Technologies Division. That certainly could be helpful to the “New Avaya!”

What Do You Think?

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UM Will Be Biggest Piece of UC

October 12, 2008

UM Getting More Complex But Key Gateway To UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The term “unified messaging” (UM) first showed up in the early days of electronic messaging, when email and voicemail were the only kids on the block. All that UM tried to do then was to have a voicemail system emulate an email user to check for new email messages and then report that those email messages were waiting to be picked up, i.e., simple email message waiting notification. The definition of UM has changed considerably since those early days, as has the world of messaging in general.

As information becomes readily and instantly accessible on the Web and people become more mobile for both information and communication access, real-time person-to-person contacts will really become more difficult because people will become overloaded time-wise. The highly touted “presence” capabilities of UC won’t make busy people more “available,” it will just give them more intelligence for managing their real-time priorities. As a result, asynchronous multimedia messaging will become more prevalent for business communications and UM will become the biggest, practical cornerstone for UC flexibility, especially for mobile “smart-phones.”

Voicemail Has Always Been Confusing

Ever since its birth in the ‘70’s, “voicemail” was torn between doing mailbox-to-mailbox voice message exchange and the “telephone answering” function of caller voice messaging. Since email quickly outpaced voicemail for the former, voicemail quickly became even more focused on incoming call management and caller messaging. (Enterprise voicemail statistics even way back then showed 70% of the voicemail messages were caller-generated)
Voicemail systems had even moved into the realm of sending fax messages to be sent to stored and forwarded to printers and telephone-based caller self-services through IVR technology, but, today, online information portals and increasing adoption of personalized 3G multimodal mobile “smartphones” are starting to displace legacy Telephone User Interfaces (TUIs) for such interactive applications.

UC Power to Asynchronous Messaging

Caller messaging will be affected by several aspects of UC, including telephony presence, which will let callers know if and when the callee will be available for a voice conversation. However, presence has not been of much value for asynchronous messaging, because there is no “real-time” availability required. When it comes to asynchronous caller messaging, there are still practical problems of person-to-person message delivery that need attention. These include:

· Enabling the caller to control message delivery parameters such as “deadlines,” after which there a message that is not picked up should be handled in alternative ways, e.g., returned to sender, sent elsewhere, etc.

· Enable message “importance” to be changed dynamically (increased or decreased) by the sender after it has been sent, but not picked up by the recipient.

· Provide the caller with the option for using voice input for message content creation, but sending in text format. (Current new voice-to-text messaging services are a recipient-controlled option, not caller-controlled.)

· Enable the caller to be aware of message notification capabilities that the recipient has enabled, so that they can be comfortable with sending a message that may have time sensitivity. This may allow the sender to choose the most appropriate form of notification, including “none.”

· Enable the voice message recipient to avoid having to manually back up or skip voice message playbacks or having to transcribe important information in a voice message to text notes. The latter is also important since voicemail systems don’t let you store voice messages for very long and the information cannot not easily be passed on to others in voice form. (New speech recognition technology now allows voice-to-text messaging delivery as service offerings, but they haven’t yet been fully integrated under UC.)

Sender Message Delivery Management and UM/UC

With so much information accessible on the Web, along with “always on” mobile accessibility, people will become less and less available in real-time for person-to-person contacts. That leaves asynchronous messaging as second prize for people who want to initiate those person-to-person contacts. What presence will increasingly do is let people know that people are just not available at the moment for an ad hoc voice conversation.

We don’t need presence to let us send a message, but as described earlier, it would be useful for senders to have more control over the messages they do send, in terms of mode of notification and delivery.

There is also the old issue of who owns that message. Ever since the early days of postal services, English Common Law had the “Mailbox Rule,” which gave ownership of a letter placed in a public mailbox to the addressee, not the sender. Email and Voicemail systems generally still use that rule for sender messages, but with the power of “virtual” IP communications that are not location-based, it may be time to change that rule.

The bottom line is that unified messaging will play an increasingly important role in UC for business communications, especially when messages become contextual UC gateways to voice conversations, conferencing, and self-service business process applications.

New Report On UM Solutions

So what is actually happening in the world of UM technology products?

My colleague at UC and COMMfusion, Blair Pleasant, just updated her market report on Unified Messaging (UM) solutions for 2008. She did a great job of rounding up the technology offerings that have been labeled as unified messaging (UM), but, just like what has happened with “UC,” “UM” has gotten more complicated.

Not only are the offerings different from each other in various ways, but Blair even had to come up with new subcategories of UM (e.g., “Enhanced UM”) to encompass the new “voicemail” functionalities that are part of both the voice messaging and call management playbooks.

Included in the extended user capabilities of “Enhanced UM” are things like:

· Cross-modal conversion from voice to text message content
· Visual, screen-based user interfaces for voice message retrieval (“Visual Voicemail”), caller information and call management (call screening)
· Speech-enabled user interfaces instead of traditional Touchtone TUIs for input
· “Find me, Follow me” personalized call routing to several phone numbers
· Call return to reply to a caller voice message with a contextual call initiation (like “click-to-dial”)

It seems that this new UM report leaves real-time (synchronous) message exchange, e.g. presence-based IM, in the UC, not the UM domain. However, immediate notification and delivery of messages is a real-time aspect of UM.

UM flexibility would support what is now being labeled as “communications enabled business processes” or CEBP, where either calls or messages can be contextually initiated to a specific person on behalf of another user (“person-to-person”) or for an automated “self-service” application process (“process-to-person”). We do have to start thinking about business process applications as if they are unique individuals that we communicate two-way with too!

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: or .

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"Virtualizing" Applications for UC Security

October 10, 2008

Comments on Common User Devices For Both Business and Personal Use

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As you probably know from reading my articles since the year 2000, I have been a big proponent of a single handheld mobile device (with multiple access addresses) that will allow an individual user to manage all their communications for both business and personal needs. We are slowly getting closer to that capability, but there are some enterprise security roadblocks still in the way.

I have suggested that enterprise IT management should concentrate on protecting access to information on a “virtual network” basis, not on a premise-basis like the old days of filing cabinets in office buildings. My view is having the individual business process applications, which are the access gateways to databases, be the security guardians to information entry and retrieval. That means that the transport networks and even the computer platforms should NOT be the real protectors of different kinds of information for different kinds of people.

I most recently wrote about Citrix practicing what it preaches about securely virtualizing enterprise information with its new policy of “Bring Your Own Computer” (BYOC) for its employees. By “virtualizing” their business applications, they now feel comfortable in letting their employees use any laptop of their choice BOTH business and personal applications. The concept is obviously applicable to more personalized, handheld mobile devices and “smart phones’ that will be popping out of the consumer woodwork in record numbers in the course of the coming year.

Some Comments

I enjoyed reading your blog. A couple of thoughts:

1) Multi-device communication is another key enabler to the cell phone becoming all things. Today, we use bluetooth headsets. Tomorrow, bluetooth speaker phones, using our TV sets for the display, a wireless pen as the keyboard-interface... So in the future, we walk into our office (at home, at work, at a 3rd party) and a key board, screen, and speaker phone are waiting for us and we no longer need to fuss with laptops. This plays into the cloud computing future too. Quick, I need to sell my Dell stock.....

2) Customers want to communicate with a company, the way they communicate with each other. This means that companies should be quick adopters in the multi-channel world, but should not try and drive user adoption faster than critical mass within the market. More and more company networks will look like carrier networks and they will need to peer with the cell phone providers in order to take care of full 4G/IMS/SIP/WS capability. ISDN will not cut it any more.

3) Training and rewarding customers on which channel to use when, will also become important. Most companies offer self-service on the web as their cheapest service offering. Calling by phone, email, chat, letters, fax, texting, .... are usually a lot more expensive channel to service a customer. By rewarding customers who first try the web and then still need to call, chat, email, ... by putting them in front of the queue and bypassing an IVR or another screening mechanism, then both the company and customers win. Same with teaching customers to use your web site if you think they will be frequent users. This will have to be balanced with effectiveness per channel, not just efficiency.

4) Presence, Location, and Identity will add to the context of the communication. Presence is your state of communication ability (device, channel, availability). Location can be proximity based, exact lat/long, or association based. Identity is the cell phone (something you have) along with a password (something you know) and is the basis for all security.

5) No data at rest in the field. This core security principle means that we should not have our source of truth data with in the PDA. To overcome lack of universal connectivity, data can be cached on the PDA (songs, movies, contact list, important files, ...). So the library of songs, movies, information, should reside within the cloud.

6) Fixed Mobile Convergence breaks an enterprises security model. Most companies will continue to treat mobile devices as an external device, even if you are within the company building. For an enterprise to enforce security, they need to control and log everything. One thing the Blackberry server does is enable this on the data/email side. God forbid if someone watches porn on their cell phone while at work....

At some point, the big software companies are going to get real serious about communication, vs. the dabbling that they are doing now. Hey, Nortel is now worth <1B.

Sorell Slaymaker


My fear is that the U.S. will continue to lag in innovation/capability.


I felt compelled to respond to your posting on Unified-view - smartphones. Good to speak to you again (I was the Mitel guy on your UC panel at ITExpo and we spoke).

This is a very interesting technical evolution to watch. As an enterprise communications vendor, we definitely have a vested interest in this, and enabling integration of mobile devices to enterprise applications, including communications is very valid. Mobile device vendors are certainly supportive and support APIs and are active in partnerships with vendors such as ourselves to do just that.

The big key as you point out is how does the distribution of these devices and various software, clients get managed and controlled. It appears to me the device vendors are taking more control of this and in effect bypassing the service provider in setting the strategy for a wider usage (e.g. drive more demand) of these mobile devices, for both consumer and business users. As the public airwaves are needed for connectivity, the carriers will wake up and meter this in some fashion I am sure. Personally on the debate of "terminal vs "computer" for mobile handhelds, I think both will exist so it's kind of a moot debate, as the user/business will decide depending on personal use and application.


Kevin Johnson


While this "BYOC" concept isn't common, we are definitely seeing a desire to go to a browser-based softphone such as the one we deliver in our one-X Portal product. There are some non-trivial security infrastructure integration considerations but there are definitely ways to make such a concept work.

Andy Zmolek,



Stay tuned for “virtualization” and it’s impact on UC!

What Do You Think?

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

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Smartphones" For Mobile Enterprise and Consumer UC

October 5, 2008

The Smartphones Are Coming for both Business and Consumer Mobile UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The expected mobile rat race is taking off, as witness the roundup of handheld device product announcements in Michael Finneran’s article on the UC Strategies website. As he correctly points out, the target of these device offerings that are still tightly coupled to wireless carrier services, are subscribers who are consumers most interested in personal contacts and entertainment. Little if any concessions are being made to subscribers who will be using those same devices for business applications or to the enterprise organizations that must securely control access to those business applications and the information content they use.

In another excellent article in InformationWeek, “Is the Smartphone Your Next Computer,” Alexander Wolfe writes about the mobile “smartphone” becoming the new personalized laptop for mobile access to enterprise applications. I might rephrase that title to something like “Is The Mobile Handheld Computer Going To Become Your Next ‘Smartphone?’”

From a UC perspective, you are damn right it will!

Overcoming Enterprise Concerns About Information Security

As Wolfe reports in his article, while end users may want to have a single, multimodal device for both their business and personal communication activities, enterprise IT management is resistant to loss of control and security, and might only support locked-down devices for business applications.

As I pointed out in my last post about Citrix and it’s new policy of “BYOC” (Bring Your Own Computer) for its employees, the big hang up for enterprise mobility has been security and device support. Handheld communication mobility, however, is where the flexibility of UC really pays off the most, much more so than at the desktop. So, as I see it, the security concerns for mobile devices can be relieved by “virtualizing” enterprise applications, just like they are starting to do for desktop PC use.

“Virtualized” application servers can control secure access to sensitive information in a network service environment, while allowing the enterprise to still manage application usage and access. That is where the new Web network infrastructures of SOA and SaaS are taking business process applications, but we really do need to include mobile device independence and UC flexibility into that mix as well.

Michael Finneran raises the issue of whether mobile devices should store business applications and data like a desktop computer, or just be an access “terminal.” In a recent email, he wrote:

With regard to design, the big issue is should the mobile device be a computer (with on-board storage) or a “terminal” (where all of the data is stored centrally)? The problem with the “Terminal” model is that wireless networks are inherently unreliable, and will be completely unavailable if you’re on an airplane- no network means no work gets done. That model is more secure, but only if we have a hard and fast authentication system.”

My opinion? The handheld or portable laptop device should always function at least as a mobile “terminal.” If you really need to have reliable access, find a wired connection! Otherwise, use any available wireless access. More and more wireless access is becoming available, especially on planes where there is a lot of “dead time.” In the worst case where you have to “work” without a network connection and therefore need to store information in a mobile device, you will then probably want a very secure laptop.

Of course, we still need the wireless carriers to be more supportive of those consumers who are also business users that need device-independent mobile access to and from a variety of enterprise applications. This would include exploiting enterprise Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and self-service application portals. That same need will apply to any consumer who is a “customer” of a variety of application service providers. But, that’s another debate that isn’t finished.

The big issue that is really shaping up is who will supply those “smartphone” devices, mobile operating systems, and mobile software clients to subscribers of wireless services, and how will enterprise organizations be able to exploit and control those devices in terms of access to proprietary business information by authorized business users. The battle for control is just starting!

What Do You Think?

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

Friday, September 26, 2008

Citrix "BYOC" Policy Will Drive UC Too

September 26, 2008

Power to The End Users - Citrix “BYOC” Will Help Enterprise UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

There have been many past rumbles in the IT press that enterprise organizations were increasingly subsidizing the laptops that their employees selected on their own for business use. The last guesstimate reported was roughly 10% of the workforce, typically those who needed mobility and information portability. There was little correlation of this trend with communications, particularly with new UC capabilities.

The business user adoption of PDAs and cell phones, and now multi-modal “smart phones,” focused the UC spotlight on the importance of personalized endpoint communication devices that will be used for both business and consumer contacts and information. Now, that concept is “coming out of the closet” with Citrix’s public announcement that it is compensating it’s employees to procure their own laptops of choice, dubbed as “Bring Your Own Computer” (BYOC).

The BYOC plan requires that employees use Citrix’s “virtualized” software that keeps all business applications and data on the company servers, while personal software can be installed and used on the laptops. This arrangement extends the role of the portable desktop PC in the same direction as that of mobile handheld devices, which will reinforce the UC focus on selective end user control of their accessibility and availability for both business and personal activities on a single device.

What Does That Mean For Enterprise UC?

We have long suggested that UC flexibility is not just about business end users, but will be used by mobile consumers, especially when doing business on the Web. I labeled that kind of activity “Consumer UC,” where consumers need to contact other consumers or service providers and vice versa. Where the user is a “customer,” there is a sensitive relationship that will require special enterprise capabilities traditionally found in telephone call centers, but should now be labeled as “Customer UC” to differentiate it from internal enterprise contacts.

As the telephony industry transitions from wired, location-based voice to becoming part of the multi-modal, mobile UC world of communications, information access has to be integrated as part of person-to-person and process to-person business contacts. With IP telephony and “rich presence” supporting UC, legacy voice conversation silos can give way to more “collaborative” interactions between people who are not necessarily face-to-face. This capability drives another productivity nail into the coffin of “human contact latency” that has always hampered both individual and organizational business process performance.

Separation of Church (Business) and State (End Users)

While handheld mobile device choices by individual end users have been reluctantly accepted by some business organizations, portable desktop devices that stored proprietary information and applications, were still controlled and supported by internal IT departments. That usually meant that those laptops would not be freely used for personal applications and public web services.

With enterprise software and information safely ensconced in secure, enterprise- controlled “virtual” storage, such as offered by Citrix to its customers, laptops can now be selected by individual end users to meet their personal interests and still be used for business work. That resonates well with the UC pitch for meshing personal communications via public consumer communication services with business contacts (through the “office”) using a single multimodal device.

Virtualization of desktop business applications and information completes the picture for end user control of their UC accessibility and availability through the device of their choice at any time (handheld or laptop). This virtualization approach enables the enterprise to maintain access and usage control to protect business information and business process applications.

We therefore applaud Citrix for publicly practicing what we have been preaching that will drive greater use of enterprise UC - device independence from business applications. Now we just need more network-independence for those devices!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or .

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Focusing On "Enterprise UC"

September 21, 2008

Bringing “Enterprise UC" Into Focus

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

With the rapid uptake of mobile, personalized “smartphones” displacing usage of legacy desktop voice-only telephones and PCs for both information and people access, I think it is time to acknowledge that new unified communication (UC) applications are going to be used by both consumers for personal communication and information services as well as by business users in any size organization.

This means that UC capabilities must support both traditional direct “person-to-person” contacts, as well as new, more automated, multi-modal “person-to-process-to-person” routing of real-time connections and asynchronous messages. In addition, business process applications must also be able to proactively initiate contacts with individuals as automated “process-to-person” notification services.

Enterprise UC really has three different perspectives that must be considered for implementation planning of these UC capabilities. These are:

Business process improvements

Individual end user requirements and benefits

Technology implementation alternatives and priorities

The question that seems to confuse the market in these days of drastically changing technologies is which perspective is most important and in what order should they be addressed?

UC Experts Say Start With “Top-down” UC Operational Planning

Telecommunications industry veterans Marty Parker and his partner, Don Van Doren, have put together an excellent online presentation that objectively focuses on the “whys” and “how to’s” of UC implementation planning. Rather than start with UC infrastructure needs or even integration of new UC applications, Marty suggests beginning with finding important, high-value business processes that need more efficient and effective methods of communicating and accessing information by people. This “top-down” approach particularly targets business processes that strategically help generate revenue and operational costs, such as those that involve customer-facing personnel, rather than looking to simply reduce communication costs.

Their basic approach to UC implementation planning is to identify operational business problems that are caused by communication delays with people, sometimes referred to as “human (contact) latency.” Referring to such operational bottlenecks as communication “hotspots,” Parker provides case studies that show that the greater flexibility and efficiencies of new UC communications technology can change and streamline business processes. This can help generate greater productivity from an organization as a whole (as opposed to individual user productivity) or what UC calls “UC-Business” productivity.

Actually, if you think about it, the benefit of UC is not really limited just to a single organization, but to all partner organizations and any customers involved in a common business process. So, UC should be viewed as new communication technology that improves upon existing capabilities that all involved organizations and individuals will want to exploit and utilize. Once such operational needs, benefits, and changes are identified and prioritized, only then can application and infrastructure requirements and implementation alternatives be meaningfully evaluated and pursued by IT management.

UC at TMC’s Internet Telephony show in L.A.

The show had a reasonable turnout, considering that there were other events in the country competing for the enterprise IT audience. While many of the sessions were focused primarily on voice telephony from an enterprise infrastructure or hosted service provider perspective, about 15% of the sessions were concerned with UC application technologies. What was unfortunate to see is that almost every speaker still had to give their own definition of “UC” before launching into their presentations. Such definitions were generally about the “why” (improving personal user productivity and reducing costs) and more pointedly about the “how” through IP telephony infrastructure and voice applications.

However, 25% of those UC sessions focused on UC and contact center applications, one of which was a panel discussion that I moderated. This is where UC ROI is tied to more than just cost savings because it can increase revenue generation and customer retention. Since customer contacts are increasingly originating from desktop PCs and mobile “smart-phones” (through web-based online information and self-service portals), email, SMS, and IM contact applications are also starting to drive customer-initiated inbound voice connections through “click-to-talk” UC capabilities. UC technology not only exploits “presence” availability of customer-facing support staff (“agents” and “experts”), but can also extend to proactive outbound contacts to “available” customers from both customer-facing personnel and automated application notification services.

Observations by “Customer UC” Panel

The customer contact perspective of UC, which I describe as “Customer UC,” looks at information access and live assistance contacts from a “customer perspective. It must be treated differently because customers will control the choice of UC communications that they will use for both initiating and receiving business contacts.

Panelists discussing some “hard questions” in my session, represented Interactive Intelligence, which has come up with a flexible, software-based, “all-in-one” platform for all enterprise voice and telephony UC applications that federates with desktop IM capabilities, Aspect, which is moving all their operational contact center applications to a common SIP-based platform, and NET, which is primarily focused on a common IP network infrastructure to support “Customer UC.”

Some quick answers to questions discussed:

Difference in need between large and small organizations for Customer UC implementations? – No, not from the customer perspective. We are seeing more interest in hosted models for small organizations. They oftentimes don’t have the IT organization to manage the products and turn to a SaaS provider.

Who should be in charge of Customer UC planning? - Combination of LOB management, operational call center management, and IT management.

What should the first step in Customer UC planning be? – Incorporate into overall UC implementation planning strategy to prepare for new customer demands (online, mobile).

Key considerations for presence? – Availability of “Agents,” experts, partner personnel, and customers (for outbound contacts). Clearly, presence is critical for contact center agents. Detailed-level presence won’t be replaced by “available” “not-available” states. Also a rich client, not a consumer-grade client will continue to be critical for the contact center.

Impact of UC on self-service applications? Multimodal user interfaces for mobile “smart-phones,” desktop softphones, permission-based outbound (proactive) live and automated application contacts with customers (“CEBP”)

Agent handling of “multimodal” customers? – May be difficult to train agents to switch modalities of interaction with customers (Voice conversations, IM, email, SMS, shared information, etc.). Also more complex to manage agent multimodal performance. Consider separating agents into groups by mode of interaction, although they can be rotated across such groups.

Biggest barriers to Customer UC implementation? – Defining multimodal customer access, what that really means for all constituencies, cultural changes within an organization, infrastructure changes to support migration to UC capabilities, costs.

Top mistakes to avoid?

- Not getting business management involved in UC implementation planning to prioritize operational problems and UC benefits

- Not soliciting key end users in high-value business processes about their communication activities and work environments that will benefit from specific UC applications. Don’t assume that end users will ever know what “UC” really means!

- Planning only for voice-based communication applications

- Looking only at premise-based hardware solutions

- Ignoring the increasing role of personalized (handheld), mobile communication devices and services to help minimize “human contact latency”

- Using communication application software platforms that are not “open”

- Ignoring the role that automated business applications will play in initiating time-sensitive contacts with individual end users

- Ignoring the need to facilitate acceptance and adoption of new UC communication capabilities by end users

Is “UC” the right place to focus? – Not really, if that focus is exclusively on the “platform.” Instead look at what business problems you are trying to solve and what communication applications end users will actually need and use to minimize or avoid those problems. Find an “open” UC platform that will also efficiently deliver both new UC solutions and interoperability with existing communication applications to cover different end user needs. This will be particularly important for the SMB market, which will exploit hosted or managed services, rather than premise-based technologies.

Why is UC so hot right now? – Microsoft gets a lot of credit for getting companies to look at it from the desktop, but Apple’s iPhone and other mobile smartphone devices are starting to drive interest in the mobile consumer services markets. Overall, however it still comes down to specific business problems, specific people, and specific solutions.

What Do You Think?

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

Saturday, August 30, 2008

UC Value Not Usually Just Customer-facing

Here's a constructive comment about the value of UC for "Customer UC" Well taken!

Hi, Art,

Thanks for the newsletter. There are certainly some important points about that portion of Unified Communications that are customer-facing. I hope this theme works well for you at the TMC conference.

However, I really don’t agree with your statement, “But, guess where that kind of "productivity benefit usually takes place? In customer-facing activities, better known as customer interactions, …”

Value chain analyses of any company in any specific industry shows that the spending needed to support the delivery of goods and services is distributed in many, many places that are not “customer-facing”. An exhaustive set of examples would fill a very valuable book, but here are a few:

Most high tech (including equipment, software, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, etc., etc.) manufacturing firms spend between 10% and 25% of revenues on their product development cycles; sure these include customer focus groups and validation processes, but they are not “customer facing”.

Cost of goods in manufacturing ranges from 15% to 70% and those costs are not at all customer facing, since they represent the internal or out-sourced production processes.

Hospitals (and railroads, for that matter) are profitable or not based on how smoothly they move the patients (or trains) through the system, i.e. by managing to spend the least amount of money from the fixed payment (health care reimbursement or transportation tariff) they will receive for the work. Even though a patient is perhaps the “customer” the actual costs have little to do with “customer facing” activities.

Almost all of the Enterprise overheads – HR, Finance, IT, etc. – are not specifically customer facings and usual consume 10% to 15% of revenues.

So, my conclusion is that the majority of the business processes in which UC can profitably intervene are not customer-facing.

Improving the customer interface with UC is great – go for it – but not the entire story.

Do you agree?

All the best,

Marty Parker


UniComm Consulting

408-420-5539 phone

916-652-6573 fax