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January 4, 2008
End User Mobility and “CEBP” To Start Driving Enterprise UC Movement in 2008
By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
We all know that IP telephony for real-time voice conversations is rapidly replacing TDM telephone systems in both residence and enterprise markets. It’s just a matter of time. However, the real change in business communications is the move to multimodal “unified communications” (UC), which enables more flexible choice in initiating, receiving, and responding to all forms of contact with either people or automated business process applications.
UC has been slow to evolve until now, both because the technology is still being developed and standardized across both wired and wireless networks, and because personalized, multimodal end user devices to exploit such flexibility are just now becoming available where it counts, to individual end users. The latter started with the big splash made by Apple’s iPhone, last year, but is quickly being emulated by other mobile “smartphones” makers that can handle both voice conversations and all modes of messaging.
Because so many technology pundits have jumped on the UC bandwagon touting vague productivity payoffs and are publishing commentaries on how to do “UC,” I am going to focus on some key enterprise usage perspectives on UC that should really drive UC planning requirements.
In particular, I see the following important UC-related changes taking place in the enterprise market during 2008:
1. Growth in mobile, multimodal “smartphone” device usage for both business and personal contacts and information access. This will enable “anywhere, any time, any mode” of communication contact with people. With the announced moves to “open” mobile operating systems (e.g., Google’s Android) and the elimination of “walled gardens” restrictions by wireless carriers (Verizon) on devices types and mobile application software clients, the way is paved for exploiting change 2.
2. Business process applications increasingly becoming real-time “contact initiators” to specific individuals for time-sensitive, business workflow processes to deliver information messages to those personalized mobile “smartphones” (as well as to desktops). Such messages, in conjunction with application-oriented software clients, can also offer various customized real-time response options, including online transactions or contacts with other people.
3. The combination of these two trends will reinforce “Rosenberg’s Third Law” to increase end user needs to be device-independent and UC-enabled as both “contact initiators” and “contact recipients” in the context of business process applications.
This shift toward converging business process applications and personalized mobility for end user contacts means that UC planning must start with identifying and reevaluating business priorities for UC applications at the individual end user workflow level. Until current and future requirements are properly prioritized, new technology implementations and procurements will not be practical. (See reference to analyzing business process “value chains” for UC at the end of this article under “Farewell BCR Magazine, Welcome ‘No Jitter’!”)
Desktop UC vs. Mobile UC
Clearly, new desktop UC applications are evolving (slowly) because of screen-based, multimodal devices (PC “softphones,” IP screenphones), with the help of the big desktop application providers like Microsoft and IBM, and desktop IP telephony providers like Avaya, Nortel, Mitel, Cisco, and Siemens. However, the more critical shift in demand will come more quickly with new multimodal “smartphones” for mobile business users, who require the flexibility of UC as both contact initiators and contact recipients more than an office-bound user with multiple devices sitting conveniently on the desktop.
Such communication mobility must support ALL contact activity away from the desktop (not just away from the office), and personalized handheld devices, converged for both off-premise business and consumer needs, are a major change from traditional enterprise controlled telecommunications and business application management. Since business users will typically be using both desktop and handheld devices, seamless functional interoperability and interface consistency between them will be important for migration planning.
Business Process Applications As UC Contact Initiators – “CEBP”
The business requirements to increase communication efficiency through the flexibility of UC applies not just to people who initiate and receive business contacts, but also to automated business process applications that monitor various operational activities and critical events that may require human involvement. Just as a remote customer with a problem needs live assistance from “virtual” staff resources, business processes that can monitor and automatically detect problems, have the same requirements to notify appropriate personnel.
Of course, we don’t really expect software applications to initiate and carry on voice conversations and discussions like people do, but delivering time-critical information in voice may be necessary because of the situational needs of the recipient. In addition, automated online transactions may also be carried out using speech input, combined with speech or visual output.
Proactive information delivery to individual users by business process applications, as opposed to people-initiated contacts, was aggressively launched by Avaya with its Communications Enabled Business Process (“CEPB”) technology development. Note that business process analyses and consulting are key to using such technologies.
“Rosenberg’s Third Law” of Business Communications Revisited (Again) – Mobile Information Access vs. People Access
Perhaps the biggest point of confusion in defining business UC comes from the need to access/deliver information quickly vs. the need to access a person. A couple of years ago, I suggested that each of these needs actually would reinforce the other. I called this “Rosenberg’s Third Law” of business communications.
The logic of most business process workflows confirms such a view, because “human latency” in being able to communicate with people has always been recognized as a primary source of organizational inefficiency and poor business process performance. With web portals and mobile devices increasing the speed of information access, the pressure to also speed up access to people will only accelerate.
People “availability,” rather than just “connectivity,” coupled with the growing use of mobile devices and UC multimodal flexibility, is the new metric that business process efficiency will be dependent upon. That’s where the new power of connectivity presence and availability management will become critical, not just internally within the enterprise, but “federated” between people in other enterprises and with consumer customers.
Farewell BCR magazine; Welcome “No Jitter!”
December 2007 marked the final issue of one of the most respected names in the business communications industry, Business Communications Review. Web publishing allows faster, global distribution of information, as well as greater interactivity between readers and writers, extending the value and the life of any published content. This will be particularly practical for tracking the evolution of UC technologies in the enterprise market.
One of the hallmarks of BCR magazine was that it highlighted the objective insight of the best minds in the telecommunications industry, avoiding the hype for particular products or services. We trust that the new BCR web site, www.nojitter.com, will preserve that tradition of quality, insight, and objectivity. So, welcome aboard!
As noted earlier, No Jitter is also a site that has started publishing a series of excellent articles by UC implementation expert Marty Parker, from UniComm Consulting, on the subject of enterprise UC application value chains for business communications. For more information on evaluating “UC Communication Hotspots,” where new UC applications can provide real value to business processes, please see the first in this series of articles covering the specific needs of different vertical industries.
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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? Thanks anyway and Happy New Year!