Total Pageviews

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Managing UC and Mobility Services For Business

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Although we start looking at unified communications (UC) from an end user perspective, i.e., who really needs which capabilities from UC, we must also look at IT’s role in planning, implementing, and supporting UC capabilities in a business environment. Even though the basic justifications for UC must come from the business users (individual end users and business process management), we must still rely on IT technology expertise to develop a practical UC implementation and support plan that is acceptable to everyone.

Drawing the line between fixing existing business technology that is broken vs. implementing new technology is a traditional challenge to IT management. For UC, it is further complicated by the need to support the new communication alternatives that will allow internal staff, outside partners, and most importantly, customers to communicate more flexibly and efficiently. Such flexibility will be increasingly required by mobile users employing handheld, multi-modal “smart phones,” to maximize both their business and personal communication accessibility.

UC and Mobility

Unified communications (UC) still struggles to be defined conceptually for its role in person-to-person communications and process-to-person interactions. The ability to use either speech or text communications between people was a starting point for more flexible business contacts, facilitating the choice of asynchronous messaging vs. real-time synchronous contacts (phone calls, IM). Now, with improved speech recognition and multi-modal mobile devices, the next stage of efficient user real-time interaction with business process applications is here – the choice of entering or retrieving information with voice or screen interfaces, or a combination of both. As the title of a white paper published by NEC at the beginning of this year suggests, UC may be viewed as the next stage of mobility. Right there, enterprise IT will face the problem of supporting both existing internal desktop applications, as a well as a variety of public and private networks, mobile communications services, and endpoint devices that end users will be deploying to communicate with different people and different applications. How will usage of such mobile services be managed from an enterprise IT perspective?

It’s not enough to design and develop new technologies for business end users; it is also critical to manage technology support and changes to keep in synch with the operational usage needs of different people and work environments. Now that telephony is joining other forms of business communications under the UC umbrella to support multimodal, mobile devices that are software-based, IT technology support for all forms of business application integrations has to be consolidated and structured as well.

Orange Business Services Offers Microsoft UC Plus ITIL-based Support

A clue to how enterprise UC mobility will be evolving through the use of managed services appeared in a recent announcement from a leading European service provider, Orange Business Services of France Telecom, targeting multinational, global business organizations. They announced they would be supporting the use of the following standard Microsoft software applications to business customers on a managed basis:

· Microsoft Exchange Server 2007

· Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007

· Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007

What Orange has also added to their business communication offerings is standards-based service management through ITIL, Information Technology Infrastructure Libraries, which is a set of documented concepts and policies for managing operational support and change procedures for information technology services.

To get some insights into that perspective of UC implementations, I talked with my old Unified-View partner, David Zimmer, who has been actively involved with educating IT personnel on the gospel of ITIL.

According to David, here are some key points about ITIL:

· ITIL is a significant cultural change for IT organizations in performing their responsibilities to support enterprise information and communication technologies

· It requires understanding and coordinating business management needs and priorities, individual end user needs, as well as the trade-offs between existing and new technologies to provide required technology services

· Most importantly, it requires defining all aspects of technology support as reflected in Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for different technology support services, i.e., break-fix problems vs. changes to existing capabilities

· The ITIL framework includes standardized procedures for:

- Service support

- Service delivery

- Security management

- Infrastructure management

- Application management

- Change management

- Continual service improvement (Metrics)

Finally, David suggests that IT project management still has to determine how to best implement any requested and approved application changes and that kind of expertise is very fuzzy at best. New implementation options can now include hosted or managed services, integrated with existing enterprise technologies.

Business management, on the other hand, has to understand its operational problems and priorities and the value of selectively solving those problems with UC technologies. Such solutions must be properly planned and implemented on an evolutionary basis at both the IT support level and the individual end-user adoption level.

“ITIL is a framework for describing the practical guidelines needed to align IT technology with business initiatives,” commented Zimmer. “UC is fundamentally a business initiative using supporting technology. Moving from current technology to UC and then continually upgrading or introducing new features in the rapidly changing world of business requirements is the crux of the ITIL framework. In the short term, companies go through cultural change, but come out further ahead because of the systematic methodologies employed to support the business,”

In the long run, proper IT management of UC technology implementations and usage will result in time-savings, avoiding expensive mistakes, and making new UC applications more future-proofed to keep up with the real-world of both business and end-user needs.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360. You can reach David Zimmer at or (215) 491-2544.

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Contact Resolution Catches Up With “Customer UC”

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

The search for enterprise benefits from UC capabilities always seems to revolve around improving business results and that usually means communicating more effectively and efficiently with customers.

When real-time customer service was primarily focused on telephone call centers, a key enterprise challenge for customer satisfaction was to minimize caller wait time for live assistance. Although telephone self-service applications can be used to minimize such demand, there are always situations where live assistance is still needed to supplement the limitations of the telephone user interface (TUI) to efficiently satisfy caller information needs.

Even with fast access to live assistance from a call center “agent,” the need for particular expertise cannot always be provided because it is impossible to train all agents to know everything. As a result, agents would have to either try to find an “expert” to assist in providing necessary information during the same call, or require follow up calls to resolve the caller’s problem. This consideration led to a key metric for customer satisfaction, “First Call Resolution” (FCR), based on getting other personnel quickly involved in satisfying all the caller’s needs during a single call.

“Different Strokes For Different Folks”

Now that customers can easily access information on the Web without necessarily talking to a live person, the name of the FCR game is shifting from voice-only telephone contacts to multimodal contacts. In particular, live assistance can be invoked more flexibly, contextually, and selectively by customers than by manually initiating a phone call.

With online search via Web browsers becoming the primary source of information access “on demand,” customer assistance is shifting away from ad hoc phone calls to contextual online contacts for customer. The latter includes:

· “Click –to-email”

· “Click-to-chat”

· “Click-to-call”

Not only can this be done at a desktop PC or portable laptop, but with the growing consumer adoption of personal “smart-phones,” multimodal customer contacts for both information access and live assistance will be the new order of the day for enterprise customer support. Now “First Call Resolution” will really be only one flavor of “First Contact Resolution.”

New Metrics For “First Contact Resolution” Through UC

A new market study by long-time voice expert, Walt Teschner, who now runs the GetHuman website, confirms intuitively obvious metrics for customer contact responsiveness beyond phone calls. Sponsored by Fuze Digital Solutions, almost one thousand consumers in different age groups, gave their opinion about what would be acceptable responsiveness to the different forms of customer-initiated contact with a business.

Although, older people are a bit more demanding, there was not much difference in service level expectations between the different age groups. However, a key concern for all consumers is to know what to expect before they try to make contact for assistance.

Response expectations averaged the following:

Email - 4 business hours

Text chat - 10-70 seconds

Traditional telephone callers expect a call to be picked up within three rings by a person, but with most call center systems there are other time delays before reaching live assistance, including preliminary call screening via an IVR interface, then waiting in queue for an available agent.

However, the study did not get into the issue of fully completing the customer contact, i.e., the “resolution” of the caller’s reason for calling. Apparently, that is not as much of a problem to a caller as it is to contact center management who worry about agent performance (call“ handle time”) and staffing requirements. Obviously, if the caller doesn’t get the results they want, they will be still be extremely “dissatisfied,” no matter how quickly they are serviced.

As new UC capabilities become available to customers, both online at the desktop and with mobile “smart-phones,” initiating contact via email, chat or telephone will not limit interaction with live assistance to those modes of interaction. Email contacts can be escalated to online chat or voice conversations and it is those forms of interactions that could make the difference for a satisfying “customer experience,” not just how long it takes to establish contact with live assistance.

What Do You Think?

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

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The "New Avaya" – Innovating Desktop Telephony For UC

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Avaya’s announcement this week of a new President and CEO, a Cisco and AT&T Bell Labs veteran, Kevin Kennedy, capped the theme of this year’s Avaya Global Analyst conference – refocusing business telephony applications under the umbrella of unified communications (UC)!

The analyst meeting was noteworthy, not just because the company has been privatized for about a year now and has been reorganizing itself product-wise and internally, but, as a leading provider of traditional enterprise telephony systems, Avaya is also in the process of reshaping itself as a key “UC ” technology provider. This means moving its traditional desktop voice telephony products and services into the emerging multimodal world of enterprise UC to support both Gen Y/Millennial employees and customers.

There were a number of newly hired executives in attendance, some so new that they didn’t even have their Avaya business cards yet, but are recognized industry experts who can help reshape the “New Avaya.”

Keeping Desktop Telephony Links With UC

While Avaya has joined the rest of the telecommunications industry in moving towards new and open software-based SIP telephony and multimodal UC, they have also updated their vested interest in premise-based desktop voice communications equipment with “touch-screen” IP phones that provide a richer user interface for applications and interoperate with desktop PC “softphones” and a variety of personalized end user mobile devices. They also have packaged up a convenient hardware/software UC solution for the large, untapped SMB market, to replace simplistic legacy key systems.

The “New Avaya” is still transitioning from traditional desktop person-to-person telephony by consolidating it’s product focus on “business user“ functions, i.e., “UC” (unified communications for internal users) and “CC” (contact center functions for customers) and restructuring its organization and market approaches accordingly as described by UC Strategies analyst, Blair Pleasant and a slew of other industry pundits. But Avaya is also moving beyond voice conversations into the realm of transmodal integration with business process applications.

Avaya To Provide Communications-oriented Business Software Solutions

Rather than offer just voice-based “horizontal” communication functions, Avaya is moving up the UC technology food chain to address the communication needs of “vertical” market business processes. That requires integrating their real-time voice communications capabilities with both online business applications and text-based person-to-person communications. While this means integrating IP telephony with the email, IM, and business application software domains of Microsoft and IBM and consumer services, it also means protecting its large legacy TDM telephony customer base, which will slowly but surely be forced to migrate to IP Telephony, UM, and UC.

That concern may be what has prompted Avaya to place its UC focus on business end user needs for communications, particularly where real-time, person-to-person contacts are involved. Now that UC has opened the door for such contacts to be more “contextual,” personalized, and integrated within online business applications, Avaya is moving its telephony and messaging offerings to fit the particular needs of different kinds of users in different vertical markets. With new desktop and mobile devices becoming more flexible, screen-based and speech enabled, the path to customized multimedia user interfaces for UC is now open.

While there are lots of online software application offerings in the vertical markets today, Avaya believes its long-time expertise with real-time voice communications, a key component of UC, will give it a competitive advantage as a strategic partner for enterprise UC migrations. Avaya’s traditional telephony product reliability may also help preserve its future software role in UC against the likes of Microsoft, which is already aiming to displace enterprise hardware PBX functions with its new OCS R2 software server.

A Few Things I Didn’t Hear Enough About

The Avaya Global Analyst meeting was crammed full of information as their new executive team tried to lay out all the changes that would be taking place in their product lines. Jorge Blanco, Vice president, Product Management, Unified Communications, almost lost his voice in racing through a long overview of Avaya’s new hardware and software product roadmaps, all converging on UC and CC needs of different sized organizations.

CEBP - While Avaya’s earlier move into “communications enabled business processes” (CEBP) was never viewed as a “UC application,” it’s role in initiating contacts with people was definitely viewed as a driver for UC, particularly for mobile users. However, there was little mention of CEBP at the Avaya meeting, either in the context of UC, nor as an important element of “CC,” where I see it playing a strong role in “proactive” customer care applications for mobile users. Maybe when the reorganization settles down, and the new managers that Avaya has brought on board have had a chance to develop their plans, we will see some missing pieces in marketing strategies.

Hosted Services – While Avaya did talk about their new emphasis on “Operations Services,” (formerly called “Managed Services”) and “Co-Delivery” of customized solutions for vertical markets, their presentations emphasized premise-based hardware and software for business organizations. However, given the growing shift in business applications to SaaS, on-demand “cloud-based computing,” and most recently, Microsoft’s announcement of their Windows Azure, etc., I heard very little about Avaya’s plans to exploit their new business UC applications as hosted services, particularly for the SMB market. This could be done directly, through application partners, through service providers or sales channels, as some competitors have been announcing.

However, Avaya did indicate that it would be offering voice–to-text messaging services to enterprise customers as a proprietary service provided by SpinVox. Furthermore, Avaya’s new president and CEO, Kevin Kennedy, comes on board from his role at Cisco as Senior Vice President of the Service Provider Line of Business and Software Technologies Division. That certainly could be helpful to the “New Avaya!”

What Do You Think?

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