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Saturday, January 19, 2008

"ASAP" Phone Calls With UC

Copyright © 2008 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 19, 2008

Adding “ASAP” Phone Calls To UC

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

With all the flexibility that UC technology is bringing to business communications, we really need to expand our traditional perspectives of making phone calls to have a voice conversation with a particular individual. With wireless mobility increasing individual accessibility, but not necessarily availability, and instant messaging and texting (SMS) encroaching on the need to have voice conversations for real-time contacts, we need to focus on bringing more efficiency to how we insure having a voice conversation in a timely manner.

The Call Appointment

We know the traditional procedural etiquette that requires manual coordination to schedule a call at a certain time at certain contact numbers. However practical that approach may be, it does contribute to the new bogeyman of business process efficiency, “human latency” because it adds two sources of delay.

· The time to set up a mutually agreeable time and contact location. (God forbid, that the appointment has to be rescheduled due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control!)

· The inherent delay created by scheduling the appointment at a particular time in the future, rather than at the earliest moment possible.

Of course, if the subject of the discussion is not time critical, the delay shouldn’t really be of concern; that’s how we organize our time most efficiently. However, if the situation is more pressing, and we have to be more reactive and responsive, then having a voice conversation becomes more time critical.

The Blind, Ad Hoc Phone Call

The telephone has always operated in this mode, where the caller (contact initiator) places the call to phone number (a location), hoping that the recipient’s line is not busy (“unavailable”) and that the person in question is there and able to take the call immediately. Traditional TDM call handling technologies can be employed to enable the call to be completed immediately even if the call recipient is on the phone (call waiting), at a different location or wants to route the call to someone else (call forwarding), or defer the call for a later time because of other priorities (caller ID, call screening, voice messaging, etc.).

If the call couldn’t be accepted immediately by the recipient, then traditional “caller messaging” using the telephone-answering mode of voice mail systems came into play. In addition to accepting a voice message from the caller for subsequent retrieval by the recipient and allowing it to marked as “urgent,” it also allowed the caller to escape from “voice mail jail” and transfer to a pre-assigned extension number.

I don’t know about you, but I have been finding more and more situations where the caller is advised by the recipient’s mailbox greeting to “Please don’t leave a voice message; send me an email!” In addition, pressing “0” to reach a line person often results in an error announcement saying there is no one at that number.

So, what’s a caller to do when they need to talk to a particular person very quickly and they are not really available at that moment? Leaving a message is just not good enough!

Using UC Intelligence to Manage Ad Hoc Calls – “ASAP”

My friend, Rich Tehrani, publisher of TMC media, tried to describe the solution to the above problem as “just in time” communications - he didn’t like “unified communications!”

I privately reminded him that the term comes from the manufacturing industry, where inventory costs can be minimized by ordering material at the last minute, “just in time” to fill outstanding orders on time. On the other hand, you don’t want to have time-critical discussions or deliver important information at the last minute, which could easily cause big problems. Such communications should be completed as soon as possible (“ASAP”)!

In an executive interview a couple of years ago with one of my startup company clients, OnState Communications, they had come up with a business communications service that they called “Pending Communications.” Their approach was to act as a “personal secretary” for an end user who could not accept a phone call at the moment. Rather than simply taking a message, the service would exploit the power of “second generation of presence management” to track the availability of the recipient and coordinate (“orchestrate”) a conference call between the two parties when both were available. I preferred to describe the service as “ASAP,” which tells you what the service will do for you.

Siemens Has “ASAP” Capability In Its OpenScape Communication Suite

My friends at Siemens have long been in the forefront of exploiting SIP-based telephony and presence technologies. In a new article discussing the results of a survey they sponsored of next generation communications users (Generation Y), they highlighted the fact that in order to attract new business staff in the future, organizations will have to support the multimodal flexibility and efficiencies of UC communications that they have grown used to as consumers. (An industry colleague pointed out that factor after I omitted it from my list of justifications for enterprise migration to UC. This is where end user demand for UC is starting to emerge.)

In addition to describing OpenScape’s familiar presence management capabilities to support UC, they mentioned the ability of a contact initiator to set an “Alert” to track the availability status of a recipient and when both parties are available to take a call, automatically initiate the connection. So, I call that an “ASAP” call, which has the following characteristics, suited for UC:

· The contact initiator doesn’t have to specify where the recipient is

· The contact initiator is ready to take the call immediately as well as whenever both parties are available

· The contact initiator will also have controls to manage the limits on keeping an ASAP call active, as well as any alternatives actions.

This is an intelligent and more efficient approach to the use of telephones for voice conversations when there is no guarantee of availability.

Now all we need is the long expected “federation” of such services between users outside of the same organization.

What Do You Think?

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(I know! If you are like me, who has time to write anything, let alone keep up with all the things to read! )


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