Tuesday, October 14, 2008
UM Getting More Complex But Key Gateway To UC
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
The term “unified messaging” (UM) first showed up in the early days of electronic messaging, when email and voicemail were the only kids on the block. All that UM tried to do then was to have a voicemail system emulate an email user to check for new email messages and then report that those email messages were waiting to be picked up, i.e., simple email message waiting notification. The definition of UM has changed considerably since those early days, as has the world of messaging in general.
As information becomes readily and instantly accessible on the Web and people become more mobile for both information and communication access, real-time person-to-person contacts will really become more difficult because people will become overloaded time-wise. The highly touted “presence” capabilities of UC won’t make busy people more “available,” it will just give them more intelligence for managing their real-time priorities. As a result, asynchronous multimedia messaging will become more prevalent for business communications and UM will become the biggest, practical cornerstone for UC flexibility, especially for mobile “smart-phones.”
Voicemail Has Always Been Confusing
Ever since its birth in the ‘70’s, “voicemail” was torn between doing mailbox-to-mailbox voice message exchange and the “telephone answering” function of caller voice messaging. Since email quickly outpaced voicemail for the former, voicemail quickly became even more focused on incoming call management and caller messaging. (Enterprise voicemail statistics even way back then showed 70% of the voicemail messages were caller-generated)
Voicemail systems had even moved into the realm of sending fax messages to be sent to stored and forwarded to printers and telephone-based caller self-services through IVR technology, but, today, online information portals and increasing adoption of personalized 3G multimodal mobile “smartphones” are starting to displace legacy Telephone User Interfaces (TUIs) for such interactive applications.
UC Power to Asynchronous Messaging
Caller messaging will be affected by several aspects of UC, including telephony presence, which will let callers know if and when the callee will be available for a voice conversation. However, presence has not been of much value for asynchronous messaging, because there is no “real-time” availability required. When it comes to asynchronous caller messaging, there are still practical problems of person-to-person message delivery that need attention. These include:
· Enabling the caller to control message delivery parameters such as “deadlines,” after which there a message that is not picked up should be handled in alternative ways, e.g., returned to sender, sent elsewhere, etc.
· Enable message “importance” to be changed dynamically (increased or decreased) by the sender after it has been sent, but not picked up by the recipient.
· Provide the caller with the option for using voice input for message content creation, but sending in text format. (Current new voice-to-text messaging services are a recipient-controlled option, not caller-controlled.)
· Enable the caller to be aware of message notification capabilities that the recipient has enabled, so that they can be comfortable with sending a message that may have time sensitivity. This may allow the sender to choose the most appropriate form of notification, including “none.”
· Enable the voice message recipient to avoid having to manually back up or skip voice message playbacks or having to transcribe important information in a voice message to text notes. The latter is also important since voicemail systems don’t let you store voice messages for very long and the information cannot not easily be passed on to others in voice form. (New speech recognition technology now allows voice-to-text messaging delivery as service offerings, but they haven’t yet been fully integrated under UC.)
Sender Message Delivery Management and UM/UC
With so much information accessible on the Web, along with “always on” mobile accessibility, people will become less and less available in real-time for person-to-person contacts. That leaves asynchronous messaging as second prize for people who want to initiate those person-to-person contacts. What presence will increasingly do is let people know that people are just not available at the moment for an ad hoc voice conversation.
We don’t need presence to let us send a message, but as described earlier, it would be useful for senders to have more control over the messages they do send, in terms of mode of notification and delivery.
There is also the old issue of who owns that message. Ever since the early days of postal services, English Common Law had the “Mailbox Rule,” which gave ownership of a letter placed in a public mailbox to the addressee, not the sender. Email and Voicemail systems generally still use that rule for sender messages, but with the power of “virtual” IP communications that are not location-based, it may be time to change that rule.
The bottom line is that unified messaging will play an increasingly important role in UC for business communications, especially when messages become contextual UC gateways to voice conversations, conferencing, and self-service business process applications.
New Report On UM Solutions
So what is actually happening in the world of UM technology products?
My colleague at UC Strategies.com and COMMfusion, Blair Pleasant, just updated her market report on Unified Messaging (UM) solutions for 2008. She did a great job of rounding up the technology offerings that have been labeled as unified messaging (UM), but, just like what has happened with “UC,” “UM” has gotten more complicated.
Not only are the offerings different from each other in various ways, but Blair even had to come up with new subcategories of UM (e.g., “Enhanced UM”) to encompass the new “voicemail” functionalities that are part of both the voice messaging and call management playbooks.
Included in the extended user capabilities of “Enhanced UM” are things like:
· Cross-modal conversion from voice to text message content
· Visual, screen-based user interfaces for voice message retrieval (“Visual Voicemail”), caller information and call management (call screening)
· Speech-enabled user interfaces instead of traditional Touchtone TUIs for input
· “Find me, Follow me” personalized call routing to several phone numbers
· Call return to reply to a caller voice message with a contextual call initiation (like “click-to-dial”)
It seems that this new UM report leaves real-time (synchronous) message exchange, e.g. presence-based IM, in the UC, not the UM domain. However, immediate notification and delivery of messages is a real-time aspect of UM.
UM flexibility would support what is now being labeled as “communications enabled business processes” or CEBP, where either calls or messages can be contextually initiated to a specific person on behalf of another user (“person-to-person”) or for an automated “self-service” application process (“process-to-person”). We do have to start thinking about business process applications as if they are unique individuals that we communicate two-way with too!
What Do You Think?
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Saturday, October 11, 2008
Comments on Common User Devices For Both Business and Personal Use
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
As you probably know from reading my articles since the year 2000, I have been a big proponent of a single handheld mobile device (with multiple access addresses) that will allow an individual user to manage all their communications for both business and personal needs. We are slowly getting closer to that capability, but there are some enterprise security roadblocks still in the way.
I have suggested that enterprise IT management should concentrate on protecting access to information on a “virtual network” basis, not on a premise-basis like the old days of filing cabinets in office buildings. My view is having the individual business process applications, which are the access gateways to databases, be the security guardians to information entry and retrieval. That means that the transport networks and even the computer platforms should NOT be the real protectors of different kinds of information for different kinds of people.
I most recently wrote about Citrix practicing what it preaches about securely virtualizing enterprise information with its new policy of “Bring Your Own Computer” (BYOC) for its employees. By “virtualizing” their business applications, they now feel comfortable in letting their employees use any laptop of their choice BOTH business and personal applications. The concept is obviously applicable to more personalized, handheld mobile devices and “smart phones’ that will be popping out of the consumer woodwork in record numbers in the course of the coming year.
I enjoyed reading your blog. A couple of thoughts:
1) Multi-device communication is another key enabler to the cell phone becoming all things. Today, we use bluetooth headsets. Tomorrow, bluetooth speaker phones, using our TV sets for the display, a wireless pen as the keyboard-interface... So in the future, we walk into our office (at home, at work, at a 3rd party) and a key board, screen, and speaker phone are waiting for us and we no longer need to fuss with laptops. This plays into the cloud computing future too. Quick, I need to sell my Dell stock.....
2) Customers want to communicate with a company, the way they communicate with each other. This means that companies should be quick adopters in the multi-channel world, but should not try and drive user adoption faster than critical mass within the market. More and more company networks will look like carrier networks and they will need to peer with the cell phone providers in order to take care of full 4G/IMS/SIP/WS capability. ISDN will not cut it any more.
3) Training and rewarding customers on which channel to use when, will also become important. Most companies offer self-service on the web as their cheapest service offering. Calling by phone, email, chat, letters, fax, texting, .... are usually a lot more expensive channel to service a customer. By rewarding customers who first try the web and then still need to call, chat, email, ... by putting them in front of the queue and bypassing an IVR or another screening mechanism, then both the company and customers win. Same with teaching customers to use your web site if you think they will be frequent users. This will have to be balanced with effectiveness per channel, not just efficiency.
4) Presence, Location, and Identity will add to the context of the communication. Presence is your state of communication ability (device, channel, availability). Location can be proximity based, exact lat/long, or association based. Identity is the cell phone (something you have) along with a password (something you know) and is the basis for all security.
5) No data at rest in the field. This core security principle means that we should not have our source of truth data with in the PDA. To overcome lack of universal connectivity, data can be cached on the PDA (songs, movies, contact list, important files, ...). So the library of songs, movies, information, should reside within the cloud.
6) Fixed Mobile Convergence breaks an enterprises security model. Most companies will continue to treat mobile devices as an external device, even if you are within the company building. For an enterprise to enforce security, they need to control and log everything. One thing the Blackberry server does is enable this on the data/email side. God forbid if someone watches porn on their cell phone while at work....
At some point, the big software companies are going to get real serious about communication, vs. the dabbling that they are doing now. Hey, Nortel is now worth <1B.
My fear is that the U.S. will continue to lag in innovation/capability.
I felt compelled to respond to your posting on Unified-view - smartphones. Good to speak to you again (I was the Mitel guy on your UC panel at ITExpo and we spoke).
This is a very interesting technical evolution to watch. As an enterprise communications vendor, we definitely have a vested interest in this, and enabling integration of mobile devices to enterprise applications, including communications is very valid. Mobile device vendors are certainly supportive and support APIs and are active in partnerships with vendors such as ourselves to do just that.
The big key as you point out is how does the distribution of these devices and various software, clients get managed and controlled. It appears to me the device vendors are taking more control of this and in effect bypassing the service provider in setting the strategy for a wider usage (e.g. drive more demand) of these mobile devices, for both consumer and business users. As the public airwaves are needed for connectivity, the carriers will wake up and meter this in some fashion I am sure. Personally on the debate of "terminal vs "computer" for mobile handhelds, I think both will exist so it's kind of a moot debate, as the user/business will decide depending on personal use and application.
While this "BYOC" concept isn't common, we are definitely seeing a desire to go to a browser-based softphone such as the one we deliver in our one-X Portal product. There are some non-trivial security infrastructure integration considerations but there are definitely ways to make such a concept work.
Stay tuned for “virtualization” and it’s impact on UC!
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 395-2360.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
The Smartphones Are Coming for both Business and Consumer Mobile UC
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
The expected mobile rat race is taking off, as witness the roundup of handheld device product announcements in Michael Finneran’s article on the UC Strategies website. As he correctly points out, the target of these device offerings that are still tightly coupled to wireless carrier services, are subscribers who are consumers most interested in personal contacts and entertainment. Little if any concessions are being made to subscribers who will be using those same devices for business applications or to the enterprise organizations that must securely control access to those business applications and the information content they use.
In another excellent article in InformationWeek, “Is the Smartphone Your Next Computer,” Alexander Wolfe writes about the mobile “smartphone” becoming the new personalized laptop for mobile access to enterprise applications. I might rephrase that title to something like “Is The Mobile Handheld Computer Going To Become Your Next ‘Smartphone?’”
From a UC perspective, you are damn right it will!
Overcoming Enterprise Concerns About Information Security
As Wolfe reports in his article, while end users may want to have a single, multimodal device for both their business and personal communication activities, enterprise IT management is resistant to loss of control and security, and might only support locked-down devices for business applications.
As I pointed out in my last post about Citrix and it’s new policy of “BYOC” (Bring Your Own Computer) for its employees, the big hang up for enterprise mobility has been security and device support. Handheld communication mobility, however, is where the flexibility of UC really pays off the most, much more so than at the desktop. So, as I see it, the security concerns for mobile devices can be relieved by “virtualizing” enterprise applications, just like they are starting to do for desktop PC use.
“Virtualized” application servers can control secure access to sensitive information in a network service environment, while allowing the enterprise to still manage application usage and access. That is where the new Web network infrastructures of SOA and SaaS are taking business process applications, but we really do need to include mobile device independence and UC flexibility into that mix as well.
Michael Finneran raises the issue of whether mobile devices should store business applications and data like a desktop computer, or just be an access “terminal.” In a recent email, he wrote:
”With regard to design, the big issue is should the mobile device be a computer (with on-board storage) or a “terminal” (where all of the data is stored centrally)? The problem with the “Terminal” model is that wireless networks are inherently unreliable, and will be completely unavailable if you’re on an airplane- no network means no work gets done. That model is more secure, but only if we have a hard and fast authentication system.”
My opinion? The handheld or portable laptop device should always function at least as a mobile “terminal.” If you really need to have reliable access, find a wired connection! Otherwise, use any available wireless access. More and more wireless access is becoming available, especially on planes where there is a lot of “dead time.” In the worst case where you have to “work” without a network connection and therefore need to store information in a mobile device, you will then probably want a very secure laptop.
Of course, we still need the wireless carriers to be more supportive of those consumers who are also business users that need device-independent mobile access to and from a variety of enterprise applications. This would include exploiting enterprise Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) and self-service application portals. That same need will apply to any consumer who is a “customer” of a variety of application service providers. But, that’s another debate that isn’t finished.
The big issue that is really shaping up is who will supply those “smartphone” devices, mobile operating systems, and mobile software clients to subscribers of wireless services, and how will enterprise organizations be able to exploit and control those devices in terms of access to proprietary business information by authorized business users. The battle for control is just starting!
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: email@example.com or (310) 395-2360.