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Friday, March 21, 2008

UC Moving to Mashups and "Unified Marketing"

Copyright © 2008 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

March 21, 2008

“Unified UC Marketing” to Sell “UC Mashups?

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

So now that VoiceCon is over and the big announcements have been made, what’s new?

Aside from a number of major announcements by enterprise telephony providers that they were moving forward with UC and “open” software applications, the biggest announcements seemed to come from Microsoft and IBM, separately and together.

Microsoft Moves It’s UC Play Into The Enterprise Call Center

Microsoft announced another telephony-related alliance (and investment), this time with old time call center provider Aspect, to bring UC into the contact center through both availability and multimodal contacts with “experts” to achieve faster and more efficient first contact resolution (FCR). As mentioned in my commentary on Aspect’s call center research, over 10% of all contact center agent connections require contact with someone else to resolve the customer’s needs. That is an inefficiency that damages customer satisfaction, yet, there is no way that every agent can be trained to know everything.

As I originally mentioned in the customer contact book I co-authored with Paul Anderson back in 2000, those “experts” will be busy with their other responsibilities and will not be always available the way a dedicated contact center agent must be. As a consequence, FCR may not be realistic, nor even expected, as long as responsiveness is reasonable for the customer’s needs.

Another practical consideration for the contact center is that with the increase in online self-service applications via multimodal desktop and mobile devices, access to scarce “experts” won’t always go through a first-line agent, but directly to such available experts. Furthermore, with consumer UC services and mobile devices, the response from experts doesn’t have to be through an immediate voice connection or later callback.

IBM Announces BIG Moves

IBM, a direct competitor in the business UC spaces that Microsoft occupies, was not to be outdone, and announced major investment in UC technologies. Like Bill Gates and Jeff Raikes did before them, IBM delivered its “vision” of the UC future in a keynote address at VoiceCon by Mike Rhodin, GM of IBM Lotus software, that stressed mobility, interoperability/open standards, and instant, multimodal, multi-party “meetings.”

Aside from their UC visions that confirmed what most UC observers have talked about in the past, IBM is also “putting its money where its mouth is” by applying its Venture Capital Program to innovative UC developments. That is what I would describe as “UC mashups” between different communication applications, multimodal devices, and business process applications. Needless to say, there will be no limit to the number of such UC mashups that will be created in the coming years.

Microsoft and IBM and “Unified UC Marketing”

The big climax of VoiceCon took place in a confrontational debate between UC vendors about software interoperability and standards for Microsoft’s OCS. As a result, Microsoft and IBM agreed to do interoperability testing of their UC software applications and report their results before the next VoiceCon show in November.

While the two may be competing with their email and IM/presence products, both of them are partnering with the telephony vendors and the business application developers. This leads me to believe that enterprise organizations will not be buying telephone systems separately any more without including UC and business process applications in their plans.

That is why I expect interoperable “mashups” will be sold as either products or services or a combination of both through what I call “unified” UC marketing teams that can represent the whole UC enchilada, not just the old pieces. That approach will be particularly necessary, as software applications move into SOA infrastructures and become available as SaaS services. As business applications get tied into communication applications in a variety of different flavors, the combinations will have to be evaluated as they relate to specific applications and as part of total operational environment. This also has implications for the wireless carriers who will now be forced to jump on the “open” UC bandwagon without the benefit of their traditional “walled gardens.”

Given all this convergence, it will have a significant effect on the sales/support channels, especially the traditional telephone system “value added resellers” (VARs). Not only will they have to be involved with the new UC “mashups,” but also with hosted and managed service options that will be joining or replacing the old CPE game.

The telephony infrastructure world is definitely changing along with the telephones themselves. This, in turn, is going to change traditional enterprise IT responsibilities for business communications as well.

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