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Saturday, February 23, 2008

What Do Users Really Want For Mobile UC?

February 21, 2008

In-Stat Survey Claims User Resistance to Converged Mobile Devices

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Market research firm, In-Stat, just came out with the results of a survey that claims that business end users won’t be rushing to use “converged” mobile devices, because they are too comfortable (“loyal”) with their traditional cell phones and PDAs. The main reason for this delay will be practical considerations like poor ergonomic designs and poor battery life. On the other hand, says In-Stat analyst, Bill Hughes, “The smartphone is a successful example of a converged device,” because it enables a mobile phone to also handle wireless email (with an obviously different user interface).

UC Needs More Than Just Multiple Interfaces

I have long suggested that a key factor for UC adoption would be the convergence of visual and voice user interfaces to control all forms of messaging communications as well as for voice conversations on a single endpoint device. That could be via a desktop PC “softphone,” but, more usefully, on handheld mobile devices. The latter would provide the personalized flexibility that end users will need while moving dynamically between different work environments, where either voice or visual communication interfaces may be most practical.

Please note that I don’t mean a “single” user interface, but rather a choice of interfaces on a single device. That would allow the individual user to dynamically choose the appropriate interface for:

· Initiating a new business contact

· Retrieving a contact

· Responding to a received contact

Clearly, the decision for choosing the modality for initiating a communication or for receiving it will rest with the end user who has control over the device, but such choice may be limited by other considerations, including:

· Communication environments

· Device capabilities

· Needs of the other party

So UC is a means of providing maximum flexibility for individual end users to communicate as efficiently as possible, regardless of any technology differences between them and the other communicants. That’s a bit different than saying that everyone has to have the exact same devices and communication tools as the other people they need to communicate with.

Another Important Point of Communication Convergence

However, a second point of convergence for communications is the contact address or phone number associated with the recipient’s mobile device. This is where a single device will be associated with two (or more) different addresses, e.g., one for business and for personal (consumer) contacts. This is not a new concept, having seen this demonstrated several years ago by Avaya as their “Extension-to-Cellular” capability that allowed a user’s cell phone to function as their office desk phone for both initiating and receiving phone calls. In addition, the same device had a separate, personal (consumer) phone number supported by the wireless carrier that provided the mobile device.

In-Stat did not appear to research end user interest in having a single device support both personal and business contacts. Although users won’t really be able to converse with two parties simultaneously (unless it is a conference call), it would still be useful to enable unified call management for both business and personal calls. And, when responding to any message comes into the picture, the ability to do a real-time callback for any important message will certainly be convenient and efficient if done with a single interface for business or personal contacts.

Just as presence management has to be a converged layer of control over all forms of contact availability, so, too, does the next generation of mobile device have to support all interfaces for contact management and communication.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

UC Complexity; Who, What, Why, and How

February 14, 2008

The “Who,” “What,” “Why,” and “How” of Business UC

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

I just read yet another article, “What Is Unified Communications?” written in NEC Newslink, a quarterly report for NEC distribution channels, attempting to explain what UC is all about. What was most interesting about this piece was that it quoted several different definitions of UC promoted by leading industry technology developers and analysts. The fact that UC is, indeed, that complex, that it requires everyone who talks about it to first define it, demands attention.

Part of the problem is that most people are mixing up the different perspectives of UC, and it is time that we started being more specific about which perspective we are talking about. The other part of the problem is that there is more than one target audience in the business market and they have different concerns for the value of UC to a business organization. So, the UC implementation “message” really is quite complex!

The UC “Who” in The Organization

In the business communications market, there are three main audiences who must have a common understanding of UC technologies before UC planning and implementation can take place properly. They are:

1. Business operations management responsible for providing common UC services to their end users for efficient business operations

2. The individual end users, both inside and outside of the organization, who need and want such services, i.e., their employees, business partners, customers, or service subscribers

3. The technology support responsible for selecting, managing, and maintaining the technologies for such services. Such support may be internal staff, outside support, or a combination of the two.

Each of these categories have different operational interests and responsibilities regarding UC capabilities, so their perspectives will never be identical. However, implementing UC capabilities has to satisfy all perspectives in order to achieve a successful transition. So, step one is really to recognize who the players are and what role they play in the migration to business UC.

The “What” of UC

The biggest source of confusion for all business use is to understand “what” UC really encompasses. Because it is a convergence of various forms of communications with people, it is actually more of a “mashup” of both legacy and new features and functions related to those modes of communications. These new combinations will let end users have greater flexibility, ease of use, and operational efficiencies than the current communication silos that still dominate the world of business.

It’s not enough to describe UC as the use of all the communication applications and modalities of communication applications, but rather the different impact of UC flexibility upon the more specific functional roles of an individual user as either a “contact initiator” or a “contact recipient/respondent. ”Business” contacts will also include people who receive messages and information from automated business process applications.

Viewing UC from the contact modality perspective, rather than the informational content view, will highlight what the end users will have to do to communicate effectively and efficiently regardless of the application. That is where the productivity benefits will pay off to end users for specific business process activities and the technologies that they have available to them to do so easily and efficiently. So, we must differentiate premise-based capabilities (wired, wireless) for those users who can use them, from public services that are available to anyone.

Clearly, all three categories of enterprise personnel need to understand the “what” of UC just so that they can be ready to exploit the new technologies effectively. (Stay tuned to UC for a forthcoming publication realistically defining the “what” of UC.)

The “Whys” of UC

The payoffs of using new UC technology must be realized directly or indirectly by the involved organizational categories described in the UC “Who” above. We can look at the ROI being both “hard” and “soft” dollars values as follows:

· Business Management Values

- Business operational performance and productivity

- Business competitive strategies

- Attract and retain staff

- Attract and retain business partners

- Attract retain customers

- Minimize costs

- Maximize sales, profits

· End User Values

- Convenience, flexibility, ease of use

- Increase personal time productivity

- Improves job performance quality

- Efficiencies as contact initiator or recipient for all business relationships

- Device choices and preferences

· Technology Support

- Ease of installation

- Ease of integration

- Ease of administration

- Remote management

- Ease of end user support

- Operational reliability management

- Scalability for usage flexibility

- Maintainability

- Minimal costs

- Security management

- Interoperability with public services (Partners, customers, Remote staff)

- Change management

The “How”

The “how” of UC implementation breaks down into several phases, including:

· Business strategy requirements analysis

· End user requirements analysis

· Network analyses (wired, wireless)

· Selective implementation planning

· Organizing for “change management”

· Choosing future-proof UC technology providers/partners

- Application software servers

o CPE procurements

o Managed service procurements

o Hosted service procurements

- End user devices

o Desktop, laptop, handheld

o Software clients

o Mobile services

· End user preparation and training

Clearly, the UC “how” will be the most difficult to do because it will be so dependent on individual enterprise operational business needs. “Best practices” can only be generalized and will still require the analyses to be done in a logical order. Also, because UC will be very software and application based, the technologies will be subject to ongoing evolutionary changes. So “change management” organizationally will be a key starting point that will always be needed.

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