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Sunday, June 08, 2008

End User Survey Feedback About UC

June 8, 2008

What Business End Users Really, Really Want From UC – IM/Presence Integration!

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

UC technologies are evolving at a fast clip, but the telecommunications industry is still not sure what new capabilities the business market wants to buy first. Accordingly, UC technology providers have been sponsoring a slew of market surveys and studies to prove that their product and service offerings are the right way to go. The problem is that they may be surveying the wrong people asking the wrong questions.

Most notably, many surveys are asking IT management what end users want from UC technology, but do they really know? One new study of the SMB market showed that most management respondents are not even familiar with the term “unified communications,” let alone know exactly what it can do. So, to take it a step further and ask IT what their end users need from UC is clearly going to lead to poor results.

End Users Who Know What UC Does

Because there have been some implementations of new UC capabilities starting to take place, it is now possible to research end users with such experience about real results. Asking such end users directly about the value of UC capabilities would be helpful for a number of reasons, including:

· Understanding the specific business communication “pain points” that individual end users feel interfere with doing their jobs better and more efficiently.

· Understanding how such “pain points” depend upon individual work environments and operational needs.

· Understanding which business relationships can benefit from UC capabilities available to the different parties.

· Understanding which UC capabilities are needed most by which end users and the relative value they will have to which business processes for priority planning.

However, if end users are not familiar with new UC capabilities, it will be difficult for them to be interested in using UC, let alone tell anyone what they really need or want.

Surveying End Users With UC Experience

A breath of fresh air in UC market research was delivered by UC Strategies colleagues Blair Pleasant and Nancy Jamison with their survey report on end users who were actually using UC capabilities. They discussed their results in a new white paper and in a webinar sponsored by Genesys, with a couple of surprises.

Here are some quick observations on some of their interesting study findings:

· IM and associated Presence capabilities are becoming the centerpieces of UC capabilities. Not only is it replacing short phone calls but is also becoming a key element of more efficient person-to-person contact activities.

· Because UC cannot necessarily guarantee real-time availability of a specific individual for a voice conversation, either an alternate person, an alternative form of communication, or a future conference call will have to be scheduled. Business process performance metrics must consider all these alternatives in determining the requirements for efficient business communications.

· Most end users in the survey talked about UC benefits from a contact initiation perspective (person-to-person), especially when there is a time-sensitive problem to be resolved by other people. With UC flexibility, such contact initiation (notification) will become increasingly more automated, whereby a real-time monitoring application detects the problem first and directly notifies all involved or available people accordingly (process-to-person). UC enables more efficient business communications through more flexible, multimodal, and “intelligent” or “contextual” person-to-process-to person contact initiation, rather than traditional blind, “person-to-person,” location-based phone calls.

· As pointed out in the survey report, UC isn’t “all roses” yet, because increased accessibility through mobility doesn’t mean availability to talk or exchange text messages. Personal contact management is still a challenge. Furthermore, presence federation across networks and enterprise boundaries is not here yet, so “availability” status information is still limited.

My Observations

Because of the high perceived value of real-time contacts (voice calls, IM), the survey respondents seem to have ignored the role of asynchronous messaging, particularly unified messaging (UM), as part of useful UC capabilities. Asynchronous messaging is not just “second prize” when you can’t connect in real-time, but is also a much more efficient and increasingly used form of one-way and two communication and information exchange when real-time voice conversation is not needed. Messaging is therefore also very strategically positioned to provide integrated, contextual “click-to-call” or “click-to-chat” from messages and address books, instead of traditional manual touchtone dialing or IM attempts.

There was little mention by respondents of the benefits of UC when mobile, other than for real-time connections. That may reflect their ignoring asynchronous messaging functions as part of UC at the desktop (see above). UM flexibility in allowing messages to be independently created or retrieved with either voice or visual interfaces is most useful when the user is mobile and therefore subject to environmental constraints in the choice of communication interface medium. However, the report does highlight the productivity benefits of mobility to business operations and processes as part of the UC framework.

Most importantly, the report highlights the fact that the business value of UC will be reflected in how people can do their jobs faster and better. Individual end users must, of course, understand what UC does for them, either as contact initiators or contact recipients, rather than how the technology infrastructure works or will cost. Apparently, there has been a lack of market education from the business user perspective, so the experiences reflected in this kind of report will also be helpful in driving greater end user understanding and demand for UC.

What Do You Think?

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

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