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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Are Enterprise Users Waiting For The CIO To Lead Them To UC?

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

November 25, 2009

How Can The CIO Help Enterprise Users Migrate To UC?

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

There has been a lot of talk, but still relatively little action, on the enterprise UC migration front. There are a number of practical reasons why this has been so, including:

· Confusion about what “UC” really is all about as a concept vs. specific technology requirements.
· Migrating to UC is an ongoing transition from proprietary, hardware-based communication applications to a “virtual” framework of interoperable, integrated, IP-based, software application servers and endpoint clients.
· Legacy communications still work and those investments are being maximized, particularly expensive telephone systems.
· UC-enabled telephony (“UC Telephony”) goes beyond IP Telephony because it integrates with all other UC communication applications and business process applications. It will require a simple, flexible, and inexpensive integration framework to support interoperability between existing and new forms of communication, e.g., social networking applications, at the user interface level with to be successful.
· Lack of demand from enterprise end users for new UC functionality is complicated by the fact that individual end users will all have different, personalized needs, including their choice of mobile communication devices and services.
· Individual UC application technologies are still evolving, along with appropriate new standards, e.g., SIP.
· Confusion about who in the enterprise organization should be involved and when for UC implementation planning.
· Since all forms of communication with people are considered elements of UC, they are all being labeled by the technology providers as “UC”, even if they are not properly integrated.
· The recessionary economic climate has slowed down all enterprise technology investments.

The “Who” of Enterprise UC Migration


UC application implementations in enterprise organizations will be influenced by different groups within the organization because such groups have different perspectives of need and value for using UC-integrated versions of traditional communication applications.

There are three main constituencies in an enterprise organization that should be directly involved in the planning for UC implementations:
· Business management – Primarily interested in improving business processes and operational performance through more efficient and effective means of people contact and information access through UC technologies.
· IT management - Primarily concerned with costs to implement and maintain enterprise technologies, as well as the ability to integrate them with existing and future applications and services.
· Individual end users - Focused on communication flexibility, ease of use, device independence, personalization, and saving time in doing their jobs whenever and wherever they happen to be.

The big question is, who should be driving the demand for UC solution implementations within an enterprise organization?

One would normally expect that the real users of the technology, those who benefit most directly, might be clamoring for the benefits of UC; e.g., business management, who could realize faster operational benefits from the elimination of “human contact latency” in business process performance (“UC-B”). Individual internal users might want the personal productivity benefits of UC, particularly when mobile, in order to do their jobs more easily and flexibly, regardless of their location (“UC-U”).

External end users, such as consumers/customers or business partners, will also want the UC benefits of faster and more flexible contacts, particularly when mobility is involved. However, because such users are outside of the organization, they will be dependent on how enterprise communication technologies will interoperate with public network services that outsiders will typically be using.

UC Demand and Justifications

IT management will traditionally support implementation of new technologies if there is, first, justifiable demand from the other two constituencies, including budgetary support. IT management will also be even more interested if the new technology can also significantly reduce current technology support costs that are IT’s responsibility.

However, because of the confusion surrounding what UC actually does and who will benefit most directly, there has been little serious demand (yet) from those first two constituencies. As a result, UC-oriented technology providers have been trying to sell IT management primarily on cost-saving benefits like Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), which is usually of little interest to individual end users or even to revenue-sensitive Line of Business management. In the meantime, UC migration planning has not yet involved LOB management or individual end users very much, even though their different needs must help define UC requirements first!

The CIO As Enterprise UC Migration Leader

For several years the question has been raised as to who should be in charge of driving enterprise UC migration planning and how. The answers have ranged from the CEO down to Telecom management, the latter mainly because legacy telephony systems are being affected the most by new forms of IP communication and their integration under UC. However, now that IP Telephony (IP-PBXs and IP phones) are replacing TDM phone systems in both end-of-life and “greenfield” situations, those implementations should really be part of a broader “UC migration” plan for both business processes and individual end user communication needs.

Although Line of Business management and individual end users must help to identify their specific UC application requirements and their implementation priorities, it will still be up to IT to plan and manage the various steps required for migrating to UC in an evolutionary manner. For this reason, it will be in the best interests for enterprise IT management to start the UC migration ball rolling with two initial steps:

1. Establish a convenient, cost-efficient integration approach to UC migration to be prepared for any initial pilot UC applications and integrations required.

2. Promote awareness and understanding of what UC really means for those other constituencies and coordinate their UC requirements and priorities for initial application implementation planning.

Once migration to UC has successfully started, it will then become an ongoing, learning process for both users and IT support that will be a never-ending step 3.

Step 1. Establish An Integration Framework For UC Migration

Although UC encompasses all forms of communication interoperability, voice telephony usage will be the most impacted because the traditional telephony endpoint devices and network infrastructures are changing so dramatically. However, legacy telephone systems cannot be simply replaced throughout an enterprise organization, especially in multiple locations with different phone systems because of both cost and complexity of traditional telephony system implementations.
This is where a UC migration framework should be selected that will:

1. Support a technology approach for integrating and simplifying future migrations from existing siloed communication systems to a centralized UC environment that is flexible, cost-efficient, and “future-proof.”

2. Provide a UC migration platform that will cost-efficiently and selectively support evolutionary integrations of key UC applications including:
a. Device-independent “UC Telephony” for desktops and mobile usage
b. IP-based voice and video conferencing
c. Interoperability with unified messaging servers and public social networking services
d. Federated presence management integrations for enterprise IM, telephony, public social networking services, and business process applications
e. Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP) integrations with enterprise business applications
f. Integration of all forms of customer contacts with an enterprise organization that are inbound or outbound, device-independent, and will include inbound/outbound self-service applications. This will exploit UC capabilities for those enterprise communication applications that I have labeled as “Customer UC”.
g. Providing consolidated UC activity data collection and reporting tools to cover all forms of communication activity with people, as either initiators or as recipients, both inside and outside of the organization. This will enable critical metrics to be developed to manage the ongoing effectiveness of UC solutions in business process performance.

There can be a number of choices for how UC migration platforms can be deployed, including premise-based, managed, hosted, or a hybrid approach. Whichever approach is selected, the availability of such a flexible “UC migration platform” will facilitate the next two UC implementation steps, including educating end user constituencies and identifying their UC requirements, to be carried out more effectively.

UC migration platforms that satisfy the need for both maximum, standards-based flexibility and low investment costs are relatively new technology offerings that simplify integrations of old and new enterprise communications technologies under a common UC framework. In particular, they can facilitate the creation of “UC Telephony” capabilities within any existing enterprise telephony environment, selectively and cost effectively. For an excellent presentation and discussion of this evolutionary UC migration strategy with a leading provider of this technology, view the UCStrategies.com webinar on Aastra’s “overlay” approach that exploits its “Clearspan” UC platform for flexible and low-cost migrations to UC.

According to Aastra’s cost analysis of migrating to UC by replacing an old PBX with a new IP-PBX, compared to simply adding an “overlay UC platform” that can control all necessary integrations with existing telephony infrastructures and other UC applications, the cost per user for “UC Telephony” is estimated to be one-third that of an IP-PBX replacement. That doesn’t include the savings and disruption avoidance gained by keeping existing infrastructure equipment (PBXs, desktop phones). This approach also facilitates selective, customized, and priority-based UC migrations based upon the real needs of the user constituencies as they evolve.

Step 2. Who Needs What? When? – Evolving User UC Requirements

Obviously, a critical step for moving an organization slowly, but surely, towards an operational UC environment is to fully understand the existing communication problems of high-value business processes, the communication requirements of different user groups, and even individual end user needs for “role-based” communication applications. Personalization and “role-based” application needs will be key to determining selective individual end user UC requirements.

As the high-value operational business communication problems (or “Hot Spots” as my UniComm colleagues call them) are identified, IT management can proceed to do its job of planning the implementation for specific UC applications/solutions. These can then be prioritized and associated with existing and new communication products and services that require UC integrations. (Filling in the UC “holes!") This will also enable IT management to evaluate various available vendor offerings from a broad UC perspective, rather than just on an individual application basis, for interoperability, functionality, usability, supportability, and costs.

This user-based information will then lead to identifying UC’s impact on IT’s infrastructure and integration responsibilities for wired and wireless networking requirements, integration with business application servers, user endpoint software client needs, mobile device independence, traffic and usage management, access security, etc.

Step 2 for a CIO or IT management is therefore NOT to simply select technology replacements for legacy telephony systems or other communication applications such as IM or CEBP applications, nor even to start worrying about the implementation or support costs involved in UC applications. Rather, that step must be to help the “user” constituencies in the organization understand the different user perspectives of UC and participate in identifying, justifying, and prioritizing specific UC solution implementations. While reducing costs is always a valid UC planning objective, that alone will not justify the kind of disruptive change that UC is bringing to both technology management, business operations, and end user communication procedures.

Step 3. UC Migration Learning
With a UC migration platform in place and user requirements being identified, a flexible, selective, and self-paced learning phase (pilots, trials) can begin for an organization to quickly realize important performance benefits for high-value business processes (UC-B). In addition, individual end user productivity benefits in doing their different jobs (UC-U) will also be gained.

In the latter case, there will also be an opportunity to identify specific end user “role” needs and usability requirements for different endpoint devices. Finally, it will also be a learning phase for IT to gain experience in supporting the various old and new communication applications of a UC environment. This is a critical point where IT management has to both learn its new responsibilities and help guide operational changes being introduced by UC solutions and mobility changes.

Based on the results of Step 2, migration planning for UC can be finalized for the business processes trialed, and extended to larger groups of users. While it is always nice to have individual end users create demand because of the viral nature of individual user benefits of UC, (UC-U), the CIO must take into consideration the business process performance benefits (UC-B), as well as costs (TCO), for supporting UC migrations cost effectively. IT management must insure that their UC platform can collect activity data across all forms of UC communications, as well as reporting tools to provide the metrics for evaluating and managing both UC-U as well as UC-B benefits.

Perhaps most importantly for enterprise IT organizations, internal IT resources must be evaluated in order to decide to what extent UC solutions can be managed and supported internally vs. using third-party services.

Summary

Enterprise IT will have its work cut out for it in terms of starting to migrate to a UC-based environment. The justification and priorities for making the moves must, however, come from the other enterprise constituencies. This is where the CIO can play a leading role in organizing and managing the migration planning activity, including being prepared to quickly respond to important user needs for UC solutions. Because there will be little internal prior experience with UC implementations, this may require the services of outside consultants to identify and quantify UC solution needs and their potential value both to the enterprise and to specific end users.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Converging Real-time Communication and Publication

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

November 28, 2009

UC Strategies Uses Sonexis For Converging UC Conferencing and Publication

By Art Rosenberg

One of the big UC applications that both reduces business costs and speeds up collaborative work is real-time conferencing. The latter benefit is particularly useful when independent experts in different locations outside of an organization have to discuss issues in a timely manner. With the way UC Strategies.com is organized, not only does simplified voice conferencing facilitate coordination of creative thinking between the independent UC experts, but it also closes the loop between internal discussions and the selective publication of such thinking in the form of immediate podcasts.

The challenge that UC Strategies experts face is not uncommon in most businesses today. Not everyone who needs to be involved in discussing issues or sharing information is necessarily in the same physical location at the same time any more. What makes the challenge for UC Strategies as an objective industry thought-leader even more interesting is that the topics discussed are very dynamic and debatable and are very interesting to its audience.

Accordingly, what UC Strategies does with voice/web conferencing, is to practice what it preaches by starting a conferencing connection between its distributed team. In many cases, the participants are talking from mobile phones. The conference call then is then wrapped up by recording a final summary of individual comments by the participants for publication as a podcast on the UC Strategies web site.
So, not only do the independent UC Strategies experts meet regularly as a team, they can also quickly publish their output as perspectives on the latest developments in the evolving UC technologies industry.

Using Sonexis Conference Manager


As a frequent user of conferencing, UC Strategies has exploited the technology offering of Sonexis, a long-time leading provider of in-house and managed audio and optional web conferencing. Their Conference Manager is a flexible, simple to install and use system that reduces the high costs of an external service or purchasing high-end equipment. As a key UC application that can reduce travel costs as well as speed up collaborative interactions, “instant” conferencing activity has increased its operational role in business communications. This is particularly important as business users, both inside and outside of an organization become more accessible through mobile devices.

Sonexis Conference Manager is “investment protected” because they integrate with any and all communication vendors (Avaya, Cisco, Siemens, Nortel, Microsoft, IBM, NEC, Aastra, ShoreTel, 3Com, etc…), scales to 400 Web seats and audio ports, and can connect to any environment (PSTN or VOIP). They also have a built-in “insurance policy” that provides free access to a hosted system if needed in the event of downtime or for disaster recovery.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Avaya's Aura Exploits CEBP For Notification Solutions

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

November 3, 2009

Avaya Runs With CEBP For Aura “UC Telephony” Solutions

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

“Collaboration” means working together, exchanging information, and communicating in a timely manner with people and processes in various ways. It usually is a term that applies to people involved in a common task or problem and often need to discuss important issues in real time.

However, "customers" were rarely treated the same as enterprise personnel in the collaborative space because they are independent of the enterprise communications and information infrastructure and can’t be easily contacted for timely collaborative interactions .

With the interoperability of the Internet, personalized multi-modal endpoint devices, business communication applications, business process applications, presence information, and mobile accessibility, "Customer UC" flexibility is enabling business contacts with customers to be treated in a more "collaborative" way. What “UC” as a concept does is to make the choice of interaction more flexible for all the people directly involved with a business process.

Process-to-Person Contacts For Work Flow Inside And Outside The Organization

UC is not just about person-to-person contacts, but also about pro-active process-to-person "notifications" that enable the recipient to dynamically use any mode of notification receipt (text, speech), as well as choose the modality of response. The latter can include interactions with automated self-service business process applications (on-line, IVR) and any mode of communication access to live assistance when necessary.

Outbound contacts with customers by automated business process applications is coming to life under the label of "Communications Enabled Business Processes" or CEBP, and will be particularly effective with the growing population of mobile users that carry "smart-phones" for flexible accessibility and increased availability and responsiveness.

CEBP, coupled with UC, is thus enabling customers to become part of the "collaborative" business landscape by providing a cost-effective means for a business process application to contact a customer whenever and wherever they may be through UC "notification and response" services. Notification alone is not enough to close the communication loop in a timely and efficient manner. Remember the pager?

Avaya Puts Aura To Work To Support Timely Business Process Flow

Avaya has just announced its first customizable automated outbound solutions for its Aura enterprise communications system that provides what I call "UC Telephony" (IP Telephony) integrations across multi-vendor, multi-location, and multi-modal business processes. One solution is called Avaya Notification Solution (ANS) designed to orchestrate and streamline the voice contacts between people involved in coordinating any real-time business process activity, but especially in responding to urgent or emergency situations.

The second solution is called Avaya Proactive Outreach for Financial Services for the mortgage market, which automatically contacts customers by phone to determine eligibility. This is an example of a proactive outbound IVR application that can also trigger delivery of text messages that contain a URL link for further self-service actions. In addition, the Outreach solution provides timely messaging notifications of ongoing mortgage processing status, as well as any need for real-time interactions, if required.

Such CEBP-based business process solutions are unlimited and, like smart-phone " apps," will proliferate swiftly with Aura system customers. Clearly, multimodal, mobile accessibility will be key to the effectiveness of many of these solutions, so we should see more mention of the role of Mobile UC in the future.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Copyright © 2009 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
October 23, 2009

“Customer UC” For Improving Collections ROI

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As knowledgeable technology experts now agree, unified communications (UC) is a concept for integrating the use of various forms of communication technologies to make more flexible and efficient contact with people; such contacts can be initiated either by other people, or, even more importantly for business processes, by automating process workflows.

The “ROI” of UC technologies is expected to come from both reduced costs and more efficient and productive business processes that involve timely contact with people. The latter objective will also include reducing labor costs by exploiting automated notifications and self-service applications. More importantly, any customer-facing business process activity that can impact revenue generation will be of particular interest to business management, making contact center applications high-priority targets for UC implementation planning.

We are starting to see some contact center applications being integrated with UC capabilities to help provide the ROI that enterprises require. For example, Aspect, which has its roots in the contact center market, announced its unified communications solution, “Streamlined Collections.” By applying its long experience with traditional, telephony-based outbound customer contact and self-service applications to the increased need to make debt collection both more productive and cost efficient, Aspect is targeting a common high-value business process that suffers from the limitations of traditional, person-to-person telephone contacts.

The nature of outbound contacts for debt collection lends itself ideally to the flexible capabilities of UC, as well as the opportunity to exploit automated self-services applications, efficiently coupled with selective, on-demand live assistance when needed. This customer-facing outbound UC application fits in very well with other “Customer UC” applications, which I define as all forms of business communication services that directly involve interactions with “customers,” whether as contact initiators or recipients/respondents.

Moving Debt Collection From The Past To The Future

Debt collection letters have always been slow, with no guarantee of delivery or a convenient means of quick response. Collection phone call attempts are even more expensive, especially if you don’t know when and where to make direct contact with a particular person, and/ or debtors are avoiding such contact. The limitation of a traditional phone call to handle a data exchange has also been a major shortcoming for efficiently negotiating a collections interaction with a customer.

However, the consumer communications world has been dramatically changing in terms of personalized communications through individual email mailboxes, personalized mobile “smart-phones,” instant messaging (IM) contacts, Short Message Services (SMS) for mobile devices, social networking contacts, etc. It is really time to exploit the new web-based contact environment, not just the old telephone network, since the limitations of the Telephone User Interface (TUI) also restrict the flexibility of automated self-service applications, requiring greater use of live assistance than online Web applications. So, UC, coupled with mobile, multi-modal “smart-phones,” can expand the benefits of outbound self-service applications and reduce the need for live assistance to provide additional information.

A typical collections scenario would involve a customer contacting a customer service department for an unrelated reason and a business process application detecting the fact that a payment is overdue and automatically generate a personalized (text) “notification” message to the debtor (via email, SMS). A mobile recipient with UC capabilities will have the option to hear the message as well read it. Then, depending on the recipient’s particular situation, various response options can be offered, ranging from simple confirmation of receipt to a choice of payment methods. If there are questions or problems that require additional assistance, the response can escalate to an exchange of emails, a real-time “chat,” or a live call connection to an available and qualified collections agent.

Aspect’s Streamlined Collections integration with UC capabilities exploits “Communications Enabled Business Processes" or “CEBP”, where an automated business process can initiate an outbound communication contact to an individual person, based on personalized criteria. Customer debt collection is an ideal application for CEBP, enabling the choice of outbound contact, self-service application, and access to live assistance to be automatically optimized selectively on an individual customer basis.

“First Contact Resolution” Metrics For Outbound Customer Contact
Personalization of outbound contacts for customer collections will be very critical, because it will require differentiating the modality requirements of contact – proactive notifications coupled with self-service or live assistance options, as well as privacy concerns for the individual customer. Aspect has categorized its collection activities across different “phases” of the process, i.e.:

· “Early stage” 30- day
· “Mid-stage” 60-90-day
· “Late stage 90-day +

Each phase can have its own “message” to deliver, along with different choices for delivery and distinct self-service application options and live assistance requirements. Leveraging consumer’s increased use of ‘smart-phones” will enable faster contact accessibility, as well as customer response flexibility for both online or voice response self-service options. This will also minimize the need for live agent involvement unless requested by the customer. The self-service approach also facilitates identifying the level of live assistance required, which may or may not be immediately available and can be deferred.

Just as IVR applications have traditionally been used to screen incoming calls and determine intelligent routing to qualified call center agents, outbound contacts that connect recipients to either an online or an IVR self-service application can perform the same role for customer access to live assistance via a presence-based call connection or chat session.

Benefits for Everyone

Although important, it is simply not enough to claim that UC technologies will reduce enterprise operational costs in various ways. Unless it pays off in making a specific business process more efficient and productive for all users involved, the overall business process results will not be optimized. In the case of the Aspect Streamlined Collections contact center application. UC-based technologies exploit mobile consumer communications, email, and self-service technologies to maximize the following benefits:

For the enterprise:
· Efficient customization of interactions for different customer circumstances
· Faster revenue generation
· Minimized operational costs, especially need for staffing support
· Lower infrastructure technology costs
· Maximizing customer retention, customer experience satisfaction

For the customer:
· Greater contextual personalization of collection contacts
· Maintaining customer privacy for such interactions
· Opportunity to avoid or minimize financial penalties
· More response flexibility and information access, especially for mobile customers
· Greater flexibility for access to live assistance on demand

UC-based business process applications can be selectively implemented to improve a particular business process that will involve a specific group of end users, both inside and outside of an organization. They can integrate existing communication technologies with new capabilities to produce the benefits of cost savings, but more importantly, business process efficiencies and productivity. Aspect’s Streamlined Collections Solution is a practical example of the benefits of Customer UC in the rapidly changing world of consumer communications.

The consumer transition to universal online Internet access, UC, and multimodal “smartphones” won’t take place overnight, so there will be a requirement for enterprise organizations to continue to support traditional customer telephone contacts in addition to new UC contacts, with live assistance. For this reason, the Streamlined Collections unified communication applications for the contact center from Aspect integrates its outbound contact planning and workforce management functions to optimize “agent” and “expert” resources across all forms of customer interactions.

In addition, Aspect has its collections business process optimization solution packaged as “Optimized Collections,” which focuses on enhancing calling strategies and helps apply the right resources at the right times to improve collector productivity.

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Getting Enterprise Telephony Ready For UC

Copyright © 2009 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

October 19, 2009

New, Combined Gateway Simplifies Migration of Enterprise Telephony To OCS UC


Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

While business managers in enterprise organizations may just be starting to research their operational business needs to identify and prioritize their UC requirements to improve business processes, IT management must prepare to migrate existing enterprise telephone systems into the coming UC infrastructure environment.

For the many organizations that are deploying the latest version of Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS 2007 R2) for their UC infrastructure, NET’s newest VX series gateway with Enhanced UC Features, will provide a very practical, cost-savings approach to integrating enterprise telephony with the PSTN, SIP trunking, different PBX systems, and various UC applications provided through OCS. This migration can be done selectively to support specific individual end users (e.g., mobile users) or for selected business groups as needed, rather than on an across the boards basis.

As has been stressed many times, UC is not a single communication system, but a concept of open, communication applications that are interoperable across different user interfaces. UC communication applications must also be able to integrate with a variety of enterprise business process applications to enable them to initiate contacts and to interact with people both inside (internal staff) and outside (business partners, customers) of an enterprise organization. This also means that communication access for UC applications must support network and device independence, if necessary through gateways, in order to allow for all forms of contact between people and any business process applications they interact with.

The flexibility for Microsoft’s OCS to support a variety of SIP service providers or ITSP’s is also expanded by NET’s demarcation gateway approach. As a certified Microsoft partner for OCS gateway, NET gateways increase the number of supported, approved SIP carriers from three to eleven, and also directly support a wide list of WAN interfaces.

While it will take time to plan and implement all the business process applications that can be communications enabled (CEBP), IT management doesn’t have to wait, but can safely get a head start by moving forward with integrating existing telephony capabilities with Microsoft’s OCS server and UC applications.

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Customer UC Issue #5 - Implementing Customer UC Applications

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

October 3, 2009

“Customer UC” – Panelists Discuss Issue #5 – Trialing and Implementing New UC Applications

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

More Panelist Comments on “Customer UC” Issues

I put all business communication contacts that directly involve customer facing activities into “Customer UC,” because they must ultimately all be accounted for in managing customer relationships. This topic was discussed by a panel of innovative contact center technology developers at a kickoff session, ”UC and the Contact Center,” at TMC’s last Internet Telephony conference in L.A. (9/1-3). My panelists were representatives from Altitude Software, CosmoCom, and Fonality.

In previous posts on what was happening with UC in the Contact Center space, I summarized comments by the panelists on the first four issues we discussed that face business organizations looking to exploit the benefits of UC for customer contact activities.

Here are their comments on another key issue discussed:

Issue #5. How should an organization implement new “Customer UC” applications for their customers?

As business information becomes increasingly accessible online over the public Internet, the need for an organization to provide personnel for such access is greatly reduced. Not only does this capability for direct customer online access to information reduce operational labor costs, but it expands customer service levels to 24x7 self-services and opens the door to other kinds of transactional services that would traditionally be limited to “office hours” and premise-based access. Clearly, cost-effective expanded customer service capabilities can accelerate revenue growth and profitability.

Voice-based self-service (IVR) applications, while productive, have always been limited to simple applications because anything complex would quickly require live assistance. On-line web-based applications have been better because visual screen interfaces are much more practical for information output, long menus, graphic output, links to web sites, etc., but once live assistance is required, it becomes limited to Instant Messaging facilities or email, with no simple way to switch to a real-time voice connection. However, with the rapid consumer adoption of personalized, multi-modal, mobile devices (“smart-phones”), UC can now help bridge the gap between customers, online or voice self-service applications, and various sources of live assistance. Going a step further, business process applications can now also become more pro-active in contacting customers to flexibly deliver information and services on a customized, individual end-user basis.

The challenge for implementing any new contact center communication applications will be a learning process to design and test the new user interfaces and integrations with real customers and contact center staff, before finalizing such offerings. Given the fact that UC is still evolving as a set of old and new communication applications that need to integrate and interact with each other and with business process applications, most business organizations don’t have all the technologies nor the expertise in place to develop and test the effectiveness of a UC solution to a business process problem. We have a “chicken and egg” situation - we don’t want invest too heavily in new technologies until we can demonstrate that it will work with customers and will produce the benefits for expected.

Most consultants and industry pundits therefore push the practical idea of “pilots” and “trials,” but that only raises the questions of “how?”

Panelist Comments

· Every organization will have its own business process application candidates for UC trialing. Based upon type of business, customer base and geographical locations, current use of self-service applications, and strategic operational problems that need to be addressed

· The business process application that is of high priority because of time-criticality and impact on revenues, but with relative ease of testing implementation, should be selected for trialing first

· The key operational problems associated with that application must be identified first

· The UC feature set required for that application solution and it’s operational problems must be determined

· The users involved, including, “agents,” “experts” and types of customers, must all be identified for trialing purposes

· Any existing online or IVR self-service applications must be evaluated for changes that must be made for new options for customers and impact on customer-facing staff (“agents,” “experts,” business partners)

· Performance metrics, for evaluating the pilot, need to be established, including metrics not previously used for traditional call center operations

· “Try before buy!” – Before investing in the purchase of new technologies, it would be advantageous to utilize hosted services to test the tools for designing, developing and managing the UC communication applications and for integrating them with existing process business applications

· A “phased” approach may be used for a given business process application, where not all the desired UC applications are implemented or integrated at once. For example, the first target might be online customers and a specific set of business process applications that can maximize the benefits of UC flexibility at the desktop. Alternatively, mobile customers might be the first targets because of their increased accessibility and need for both timely delivery with multi-modal flexibility

· After trialing the application solution for its effectiveness with the users involved, a next step will be to test the approach for scalability with increased volumes.

· Prepare both your “pilot” customers and “agents” for the expected changes they will experience from legacy technologies in both self-service options and in accessing live assistance. Based on the actual user results, the user preparation for the full rollout can be finalized.

Bottom line, every organization should be prepared to learn how to benefit from UC in the contact center environment, even though the technology is still evolving and experience is lacking. Trialing and piloting self-service applications with hosted and “cloud”-based software services are rapidly becoming a cost-effective, practical alternative to quickly finding out what you don’t yet really know about your customized, UC-based, self-service application needs.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

UC and Contact Center Panel Issue #4 - Where Does CEBP Fit In?

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

September 26, 2009

“Customer UC” – Panelists Discuss Impact of CEBP on Business Applications

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

More Panelist Comments on “Customer UC”

In previous posts on what was happening with UC in the Contact Center space at TMC’s Internet Telephony show in L.A., I summarized comments by my panelists on the first three issues we discussed that face business organizations looking to exploit UC for customer contact activities.

I have labeled all customer-facing UC communication activities as “Customer UC,” which was then discussed by a panel of innovative contact center technology developers at a kickoff session, ”UC and the Contact Center,” at TMC’s last Internet Telephony conference in L.A. (9/1-3). My panelists were representatives from leading innovative contact center technology developers Altitude Software, CosmoCom, and Fonality, Here are their comments on another key issue discussed:

Issue #4. How will business process applications be affected by “CEBP” in a Customer UC environment?


With UC, different forms of business communication contact may be activated, depending upon who (or what) is initiating the contact with a person, which may be person-to-person or process-to-person. The type of contact will also depend upon the current real-time accessibility and availability of the contact recipient. As more elements of a business process become automated, e.g., monitoring sensitive status conditions, the role of real-time process-to-person “notifications” will increase, including what is commonly referred to as “Communications Enabled Business Communications” (CEBP).

CEBP commonly stands for “Communications Enabled Business Process,” which means that an automated) business process application can initiate a communications contact to a specific person, instead of it being done manually by another person. Needless to say, this kind of capability is particularly useful for contacting mobile recipients and for what some people call “outbound IVR” to exploit self-service transactions initiated by a business process application. Another term for such a capability is a “Communications enabled application” or CEA, which can apply to non-business applications as well, e.g., entertainment, social contacts, games, etc.

Like everything new that is falling under the umbrella of UC, the definitions for “CEBP” can be confusing. Microsoft’s OCS enables it’s online users to “click-to-call” contextually from information within any online software application. And, of course, there is competition for the term itself from the likes of “all-in-one” enterprise communications provider, Interactive Intelligence, with its communications-based workflow platform it describes as providing “CBPA” (Communications-Based Process Automation). The difference claimed there is that CBPA consolidates work flow activity on a communications-based platform, making contacts with people at any point in the process flow readily accessible, while CEBP doesn’t go beyond enabling individual applications within a work flow process to contact people.

The business application contact target could be any end user, including people within a business organization or external users such as business partners and consumer/customers. The contact initiator can also be any type of end user who may be using a CEBP application, or it could be initiated pro-actively and directly by a CEBP application itself to send personalized information or a notification to a specific person.

Process-to-person forms of contact initiation will require the business application involved to interoperate with various communication applications (telephony, messaging, presence management, routing information, etc.) just as a person would, providing specific contact information (name, “addressing”, etc.). However, an automated application that can make contact with a customer’s phone (mobile or desktop), will obviously not be expected to carry on a voice conversation that people do.

Panelist Comments

· The technology for enabling business process applications to exploit UC capabilities at the recipient end, particularly customers using mobile “smart-phones, is complex and still evolving.

· Today, CEBP is still very much the exception and not the rule, when you consider the fact that 75% of businesses in the US are under 20 employees.

· CEBP needs to complement existing business process applications enabling different forms of contact and interaction between the contact initiator (application process, person) and the recipient (person).

· In a contact center environment, CEBP must support the basic objectives to align a customer need with available types of company support resources -i.e., self-service, live assistance or a combination of both. This can be done on the traditional contact center “on-demand” response basis, or pro-actively by automated business process applications that monitor and respond to dynamic status information.

· UC flexibility improves contact accessibility and thus flexibility when person-to-person contacts are required. Increased accessibility through both mobility and UC flexibility will make CEBP applications more useful and productive.

· Unified Messaging will be a key UC application that enables a business process application to efficiently deliver a time-sensitive notification to an accessible (mobile) customer for information delivery. Coupled with “click-to-interact” with an online or IVR self-service application, or “click-to-talk/chat” for live assistance, the customer can immediately execute time-sensitive transactions that require attention.

· If CEBP is deployed correctly, it will be perceived positively by customers and will also reduce traditional on-demand contact needs.

Example: Proactive flight status notifications that advise a passenger of gate changes and departure time changes can proactively provide timely updates to a mobile customer. Customer will rely on such timely and up-to-date notifications to avoid, minimize and correct their travel problems.

· The impact of such timely access to personalized information will be greater customer satisfaction and loyalty and reduced labor costs for handling unnecessary on-demand contacts.

· CEBP is, by its nature, a highly customized business application development and almost always requires an integration and/or professional services design and development effort. However, off-the-shelf CEBP applications that apply to horizontal industries can be useful in minimizing the costs and effort in developing customized versions.

· The growing adoption of mobile “smart-phones” by consumers and business users will be a major driver for implementing CEBP for both customers and customer-facing staff.

· Such use of mobile devices will also enable CEBP to tie in comfortably with personalized, self-service options on a proactive, rather than just on an “on demand” basis. This will minimize the need for staffing customer assistance and associated costs, in order to maximize customer satisfaction.

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

UC Escalations in Customer Contacts

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

September 23, 2009

Drilling Down Into Contact Center “Escalations” With UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

UC is starting to get increasingly focused on customer contacts because that is where both business costs can be reduced and revenues improved. A recent post on the subject at www.UCStrategies.com by Michael Barbagallo drills down into how subject matter experts (SMEs) should be efficiently brought into contact center operations and whether their involvement should be tracked and reported.

Here is my comment to that perspective.

Michael,

I am glad to see you drilling down into call center procedures, as they will apply to customer contact operations and “agent”-“expert” escalations.

While I agree with your views on including "experts" in workflow management reporting for business process performance tracking, we have to include the role of the customer in “escalating to assistance” as well. Accordingly, UC will be disruptive for customers too, since they will be increasingly "escalating" to live assistance from self-service applications (online, IVR), using multi-modal devices (PCs, smartphones). That also means it can be their choice to contextually "click-to-call," "click-to-chat," or, if there is no real rush, "click-to-message" (text, voice) for live assistance from their multi-modal endpoint devices.

Note: “Contextually” means that information about the self-service application they were using will be passed on to the person providing assistance (“screen pop”).

That also means new, UC-based "contact centers" must move away from the metric of just First “Call” Resolution to First “Contact” Resolution and apply it to both "customer" and "agent" escalation procedures. In many cases, the need for assistance and escalation requires further informational research or approval authorization, so there is no point in keeping a caller connected to wait for such resolution. Furthermore, with consumers becoming increasingly accessible and available because of personal Mobile UC, keeping them on a voice connection or transferring them unnecessarily becomes questionable from an “experience” perspective. With mobility and UC, we can always get back to them easily and quickly!

Which brings us to the next point of what I call "Customer UC," pro-active process-to-person contacts using CEBP (Communications Enabled Business Processes). With UC, we don't need to always have people deliver real-time information to people. Automated business process applications can now do that using Mobile UC tools for media flexibility and faster notification/delivery, coupled with "click-for-assistance" if necessary. That will take labor costs, as well as the "human latency," out of many business processes.

Needless to say, Mobile UC won't happen overnight and won't always be available to all customers, so the old call center "agent”/”expert” game will continue being played but on a “virtual” basis. However, on the enterprise side, “agents” and “experts” will not only NOT be collocated geographically, but will be selected for "escalation" based upon their "availability” and contextual qualifications, not by "agent" choice. This will apply to all involved customer-facing staff, who may belong to different business organizations.


What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Issue #3 UC and Contact Centers

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

September 18, 2009

“Customer UC” – Panelists Discuss UC and the Contact Center - Issue # 3

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

More Panelist Comments on Implementing “Customer UC”

In my previous post on what was happening with UC in the Contact Center space at TMC’s Internet Telephony show in L.A., I summarized comments by my panelists on the first two issues we discussed that face business organizations looking to exploit UC for customer contact activities.

From a business results perspective, UC ROI performance must include metrics like customer satisfaction (soft) and revenue generation (hard), not just cost savings and Total Cost of Ownership (hard). Customer contact activities are therefore increasingly being evaluated as high-value applications for overall UC implementation planning.

I have labeled all customer-facing UC communication activities as “Customer UC.” These kinds of challenges were discussed by a panel of innovative contact center technology developers on the subject of ”UC and the Contact Center” at TMC’s Internet Telephony conference in L.A. at the beginning of this month (9/1-3).
My panelists were representatives from leading innovative contact center technology developers Altitude Software, CosmoCom, and Fonality, Here are their comments on another key issue discussed:

Issue #3. What are the key considerations for presence in a Customer UC environment?

· “Agent” availability, once they have been logged on to their desktops and set their status to being ready to take a call assignment (inbound or outbound), has always been a part of ACD technologies in traditional telephone call centers. Being “available” for a phone call means that they are not on another phone call, but can be doing other tasks that are interruptible or can be multi-tasked.

· Agent assignment to non-voice tasks can be made to a “busy” agent, especially, when such tasks are not “real-time” and can be done “as soon as possible,” e.g., outbound calls (“call blending”), messaging responses, etc. Even several customer real-time IM assignments can be multi-tasked by a single agent.

· Real-time access to non-“agents,” i.e., (”Subject Matter Experts” or SMEs) is becoming a key concern for customer contact operations and is dependent on (1) their accessibility and (2) their availability. For the most part, SMEs are not directly accessible to customer callers, but could be assigned to handle appropriate customer messages. However, “first line agents” who need assistance from an SME, must themselves be guided by presence and availability to whichever live assistance resource is available at the moment, like an “ACD for SMEs.”

· Wireless mobility and the use of multi-modal endpoint devices (notebooks, “smart-phones”), will increase accessibility to SMEs, and thus SME availability.

· However, SMEs are very dynamically “available” and “accessible,” and only they know whether they can provide real-time assistance to an “agent,” based on the SME’s current situation and other task priorities. A panel recommendation was NOT to make specific “agent” assignments to SMEs or to let an “agent” select the SME of their choice, but to broadcast a “priority alert” message (Dispatch) to all qualified and accessible SMEs and let the “first responder” SME be connected by IM with the requesting “agent” in queue.

· SMEs can also respond to tasks that are not real-time, e.g., responding to an email or SMS message request sent in directly by a customer, field sales/support personnel, or as a result of an automated business process application that is monitoring a customer-related situation (CEBP). Again, making automatic assignments to individual SMEs may not work as well as broadcasting the request to qualified and available “first responders.”

· In real world worst-case situations, where no real-time live assistance is available to resolve a customer problem, customers need to be able to leave information about their needs (trouble tickets, messaging, online or IVR application input, etc.) and given written (text) confirmation of the request, with a time projection for follow up. In many cases, there is no possibility or even need for an immediate fix of a problem; it’s just the customer reporting and acknowledgment that is “real-time.”

· Performance management issues still remain for tracking “agent” vs. “SME” availability. While “agents” have to “punch in” for call handling accountability for their time on the job, SMEs don’t have the same requirements. On the other hand, from a customer perspective, all contact activities involved with a given customer should be tracked, regardless of format and source.

· “Customer presence” is another facet for the contact center in terms of outbound contacts. This is becoming particularly important as consumers become more accessible and therefore more “available” for real-time notifications and connections with mobile smart-phones. This will make “First Call Resolution” and voice conversations less critical than “First Contact Resolution” and message notification and delivery, coupled with “click-to-call” capabilities.

What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

UC and Customer Contacts

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
September 14, 2009

“Customer UC” –
Voice Assistance Is Only A Part of The “Contextual Contact Center”


Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As I mentioned in my last article, new unified communications technologies (UC) have started to impact customer contact operations to the point that the traditional “call center” now has to be called a customer “contact “center. In addition, the holy grail of call center performance efficiency, “First Call Resolution” (FCR), must now be called “First Contact Resolution.”

From a business results perspective, UC ROI performance must include metrics like customer satisfaction (soft) and revenue generation (hard), not just cost savings and Total Cost of Ownership (hard). Customer contact activities are therefore increasingly being evaluated as key to overall UC implementation planning.

I have labeled such customer-facing UC communication activities as “Customer UC.” This is where the flexibility of UC technologies are applied to traditional customer contacts (inbound and outbound), “Customer UC” must support users both inside and outside of the organization who are not necessarily at a desktop, on premise, or using the same communication technologies, but are involved directly or indirectly with “customers.” These kinds of challenges were discussed by a panel of innovative contact center technology developers on the subject of ”UC and the Contact Center” at TMC’s Internet Telephony conference in L.A. at the beginning of this month (9/1-3).

The Disruptive Impact of UC and Mobility On Traditional Telephone Call Centers

The traditional call center is no longer really a physically located “center,” but has to be “virtual” in terms of where the technology is located and where the “agents” and “experts” are located. (Call center “customers” have always been “virtual!”) Nor is the next generation “contextual contact center” dedicated to handling just conversational voice calls or automated, self-service applications, based on legacy telephones and Interactive Voice Response technologies.

Because of the exploding consumer shift to personalized, multi-modal, mobile “smart-phones,” coupled with evolving SIP networking infrastructure that can support all forms of person-to-person, person-to-process, and process-to-person interactions, organizations of all sizes will need the power of UC to support the dynamic demands of their users and customers. “Customer UC” must be endpoint device and location independent to provide faster, more efficient access to both information and people to end users involved in their business activities, whether they are internal staff “agents,” and “experts” or external customers and business partners.

What’s Happening With “Customer UC” Today?

Feedback from the contact center market today confirms some of the points made above. In various panel discussions at the IT Expo show, the following interesting observations were noted:

- Business organizations are buying more “UC technology” for contact center applications, although not actually using the technology yet. Desktop video (for conferencing) is in second place as a UC application purchases. This indicates the direction and priorities that UC implementation planning is taking.

- Biggest UC implementation mistakes that enterprise IT staffs seem to be making are:
Making a vendor selection first
No preparations, doing requirements “homework”
Trying to implement UC like existing communications (e.g., treating Microsoft OCS like Exchange)

- The cost of planning for UC is about the same for a large and a smaller business organization, while the cost of implementation will obviously be higher for the larger group. Any size organization will have the similar customer care problems and therefore “Customer UC” will pay off for them all.

- “Hosted” and “cloud computing” solutions are increasingly attractive to any size organization, as IP telephony and wireless mobility become software rather than hardware based.

- UC operational needs are based on individual job responsibilities (“roles”). For the SMB organization, the needs analysis and requirements effort can typically be 50% of the total UC implementation cost. For the large organization, UC implementation can be phased in by individual groups, application by application.
However, the SMB market doesn’t have big legacy technology investments to protect nor IT staffs to train and manage, will “low-hanging fruit” for service providers.

- “Communication Enabled Business Processing” (CEBP) is a big target for UC integration with business applications and mobile customer contact exploitation, but is still evolving. It needs standards for open interoperability to make its role in the “Contextual Contact Center” really take off.

- New IP telephony technology can’t be sold separately without UC integration considerations, making UC marketing a partnering team effort. UC also can’t be sold just on a telephony cost savings basis to IT management alone, thus requiring business management and business process analyses first.

My Panel’s First Two Question

My panelists were representatives from contact center technology developers Altitude Software, CosmoCom, and Fonality,

1. What Are The Key Drivers For UC In The Contact Center Market?
- Increase flexibility for customer access to mobile and remote personnel who are best qualified and “available” to satisfy specific customer needs
- Increase flexibility of choice for mobile and desktop customers to get information and contextual access to live assistance in real-time (“click-to-call/chat”) or via timely messaging
- Improve operational business process performance by increasing use of self-service applications (online, voice, mobile, proactive services), which minimize both labor needs and human delays.
- Increase customer satisfaction and retention through improved customer experiences, which helps generate revenues and profits. This includes proactive “notifications” to mobile users about time-sensitive, requested information.
- Increase business application flexibility by shifting to communications-enabled software, rather than hardware, that can be customized for any-size business and for individual end users.
- Reduce operational costs and TCO by centralizing and virtualizing operational management and technology support for competitive business operational needs

Note: Although there are UC benefits for everyone involved in customer interactions, there will be different organizational and business priorities for each of the above considerations that must be analyzed and evaluated prior to planning UC implementations.

2.What traditional call center processes will be probably be changed first by UC? Which won’t?

Will:

- Importance of contact handling time vs. effectiveness of modality of contact vs. increasing shift to self-service and pro-active notifications.
- Consolidating “Agent” desktops to facilitate multi-modal customer interactions for various business applications
- Supporting new multi-modal communication needs for remote, online “agents” and “experts”
- Supporting mobile and online multi-modal customers
- Customizing “unified desktops” to make both “agent’ and “expert” interactions more efficient across different business application processes
- Developing new metrics and reports to track all new forms of customer contacts and interactions

Won’t

- Consolidated reporting of all customer interaction metrics from both the customer perspective and live assistance support involved will be evolving after all specific Customer UC capabilities have been successfully tested and implemented
- Automated proactive notifications by business applications will also come later as more customers become mobile and more practical experience is gained with new mobile devices and specific types of applications. At that point, individual applications will have to be integrated to enable “CEBP” functionality and operational management
- Agent empowerment to dynamically switch interaction modalities, e.g., text messaging, voice calls, online collaboration, video conferencing, etc.
- Changing “First Call resolution” to “First Contact Resolution” in terms of responding to a mobile caller by acknowledging the call notification but deferring it in various ways from an immediate real-time voice response
- Won’t change management responsibilities for line of business and customer contact activities.

Comments to other UC-Contact Center issues will be posted later.

What Do You Think?


You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Start UC Planning With " Business Performance ROI" (BPR)

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.
√£Copyright 2009, The Unified-View – All rights reserved worldwide

August 26, 2009

UC “Performance ROI” – Find The ”Why” and “Who” First!

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

A recent article on NetworkWorld complains that “ROI doesn’t always pan out with unified communications” because it is hard to calculate the cost savings of UC. The article also quotes a Forrester survey of IT managers where about half say they don’t see the business value to deploy UC this year. One IT manager, who actually implemented UC applications in his organization, still complained that it is difficult to quantify the cost-saving value of the “UC stuff.”

Cost Savings – “Is That All There Is?”

In these hectic economic times, the challenge for cost savings has heightened for IT management and CFOs, but there are other business performance objectives as well, i.e., generate revenues faster, minimize losses that can result from missed deadlines or slow responses to emergencies.

A new white paper sponsored by Avaya, a leading provider of traditional telephony technology, reflects an increasing shift of enterprise UC marketing focus from traditional IT management’s concern with infrastructure technology support and cost reductions. The new starting point for UC planning begins with two areas of operational business productivity that IT doesn’t have direct responsibility for:

1. Business process performance and it’s dependencies on flexible contact with people

2. Individual end user task performance and work environment dependencies upon flexible communications accessibility and responsiveness

Both of these UC productivity metrics, labeled by my colleagues at www.UCStrategies.com, as UC-Business Process (UC-B) and UC-User Productivity (UC-U), are key to determining the priorities and choice of UC implementation needs, before IT can jump in with cost saving considerations. To maximize UC-B results, UC-U capabilities must be included.

The inherent variability between different business processes and individual end user job responsibilities means that there can’t be “one UC size fits all.” This variance will especially increase as traditional “person-to-person” voice conversational activities shift from fixed desktops to mobile devices, real-time text messaging, and “process-to-person” notifications and proactive application contacts.

Avaya’s White Paper on The UC “Secret Ingredient”

By contrast to the technology market’s traditional approach to “ROI,” the white paper sponsored by Avaya targets the business management audience, not just IT. Avaya, a dominant telephone system hardware company that has already moved into IP Telephony software, is apparently moving further up the food chain to aggressively compete with third-party consultancies to provide the necessary operational analysis for all elements of UC (not just telephony). This reflects both the complexities of multi-modal UC and implementation alternatives, as well as the current lack of in-house enterprise expertise that is contributing to the delay in enterprise UC adoption described in the Forrester market study.

The “Secret Ingredient” for maximizing UC business value described in the white paper relies on exploiting “professional services” to first determine the value priorities for the “why”” and the “who” of business operational changes that UC applications will enable. Such consulting services are needed to help objectively identify and analyze high-value communication problems or “hot spots” in current business operations that UC solutions can minimize or eliminate.

“Hot Spot” is simply another label for significant “human latency” in a business process caused by communication delays that can impact process performance and results, e.g., missed deadlines, increased overhead, loss of a customer, loss of life, etc. It applies to any important delay or inefficiency that stems from involving communication with people, either as “contact initiators” or as “contact recipients/respondents.” It also means that it includes time-sensitive contacts that are initiated by an automated business process application (“process-to-person” message notifications), not just “person-to-person” contacts.

Most significantly, however, the Avaya white paper acknowledges the increasing importance of all real-time and near-real-time contacts, not just voice conversations, as essential to mobile accessibility and business process performance efficiency and effectiveness.

Nothing Really New!

Of course, Avaya’s new positioning is nothing really new. My colleagues and I at UC Strategies and UniComm Consulting, have long advocated the view that unified communications is not just about moving TDM telephony to IP Telephony and VoIP for cost-savings, nor even to mobile phones for greater voice accessibility. More fundamentally, UC involves the flexible and effective use of all forms of communication with people - anywhere, anyway, any time.

The challenge for bringing UC efficiencies for people into high-value business processes lies in two areas of communication contact:

1. Accessibility

2. Availability


While mobile communications and flexible choice of medium will increase an end user’s ability to initiate a business contact, initiation “accessibility,” it will not necessarily increase a contact recipient’s “availability” or change in business process priorities. For this reason, the traditional telephony notion of immediate, interruptive real-time contacts has to be updated to allow for near-real-time options and more practical “as soon as possible” (ASAP) real-time connections

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bringing UC To The Contact Center

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

August 18, 2009

Hard Questions For “Customer UC” Panel Discussion

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

As UC technology slowly but surely pervades the legacy domains of TDM telephony, the most important targets, from a business operational standpoint, are any enterprise communication contacts that are customer facing. That would include dedicated call center “agents, as well as subject-matter “experts,” decision-makers, and mobile “action-takers (field support).”


(See UC Forum on contact center “Experts”) http://www.ucstrategies.com/forum.aspx?id=4543&g=topics&f=14916

The resulting UC “ROI” is not just from cost-reductions because of more efficient IP infrastructures, or even greater internal staff productivity, but because it can speed up revenue generation or prevent business losses through more responsive and efficient business processes, increase customer satisfaction and retention, and enable better productivity for any end users involved in a business process that requires timely contact with people.

While the role of UC technologies in contact centers is still evolving, it is very obvious that UC flexibility is not going to be restricted to internal enterprise staff, nor just to traditional call center “agents.” Customers and external business partners, along with internal business “experts,” will be affected. Accordingly, there are many kinds of changes that will take place in enterprise communications that will involve UC applications and customer-related activities, which I have labeled as “Customer UC.”

UC Questions For Enterprise Contact Centers

I will be moderating a leadoff panel discussion at the upcoming Internet Telephony Conference in L.A., September 1, 2009, on ”UC and the Contact Center.”

(See Session information at::)
http://www.tmcnet.com/voip/conference/west-2009/attendees/w09-conferences.aspx?t=cc#cc-01

Here are some of the basic “Customer UC” issues that will be addressed:

1. Who should be in charge of Customer UC migration planning? What are the different responsibility roles for IT, Operations, LOB management?

2. What traditional call center processes, including IVR self-service applications, will be changed first by UC? Which won’t?

3. What are key considerations for presence in a Customer UC environment?

4. How will UC benefit contact center “agents” differently than “experts?”

5. How will customer-facing business process applications be affected by UC and “CEBP?”

6. How should new Customer UC capabilities be “trialed” and implemented?

7. What will desktop requirements be for dealing directly with mobile, ”multimodal” customers?

8. What Customer UC features and functions benefits are most important directly to customers? How will they be measured?



Please feel free to send me suggestions for other questions that are bothering you about how UC will change customer interactions within an enterprise. I will be publishing the results of this panel discussion, including audience comments, in a future column.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Panel Discusses The P-PBX in Enterprise UC Implementations

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Listen to this expert panel that I participated in discuss what is really happening on the enterprise UC implementation front. Points discussed include;

- Implications of Avaya-Nortel acquisition
- Innovative UC communications for business process improvement vs. simple cost reductions
- Role of hosted services vs. premise-based technologies
- Impact of mobile communications on tradtional desktop telephony

Listen now by going to:
http://ucstrategies.com/industry-buzz/uc-experts-disucss-what-is-the-need-for-ip-pbx-in-uc.aspx?gnid=14580

Feel free to comment afterwards on the UC Strategies web site or get back to me at:
artr@ix.netcom.com

Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

July 22, 2009

Smart-phones Have Roadblocks for Mobile UC


Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

A very perceptive article by a Mercury News columnist, Chris O’Brien, puts the spotlight on obstacles to Mobile UC growth that currently exist because of the wireless carrier control over the smart-phone market. Because the flexibility of UC solutions usually provides greater enterprise value for the more dynamic needs of mobile end users than for desktop users, the future growth of UC adoption will be slowed by some of these considerations.

In addition, the many mobile business process applications that can now be exploited through smart-phone (or netbook) “App Store” venues, will be affected by how the carriers will work cooperatively with enterprise-based mobile services for both their business users and consumer customers.

The battle is only beginning but this article cuts to the chase of some of the problems that are in the way of universal adoption of UC. In particular, it raises questions about enterprise support for individual end user UC needs that are discussed in one of the UC Strategies.com forums. (Go to www.ucstrategies.com)

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Where Mobile UC Will Really Pay Off In The Enterprise

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

June 29, 2009

Big Mobile UC Payoffs Coming From Outside The Enterprise

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Anything you read these days about business communications tries to align the technologies within the framework of “unified communications” (UC). What that really means is questionable.

UC is quickly becoming the battleground for all forms of business activities, not only from a technology perspective, but also for the primary constituencies in an enterprise organization. As new UC technologies continue to evolve and converge, legacy communications and new integrations with business process applications are challenging enterprise management to change the way end users do business. This will not only affect people within their own organizations, but key processes that involve their business partners and, most importantly, their customers who generate revenue.


Drilling Down To Enterprise UC Requirements


There are three main constituencies within any enterprise organization that need to significantly benefit from implementing UC technologies and services in order to gain their interest and support: They are:

1. Business and operational management – To generate revenue, minimize risks and losses through strategic and tactical business policies, processes, and procedures

2. Internal end users – To perform their different job responsibilities in business processes easily, efficiently and effectively

3. Technology management – To provide flexible, reliable, and secure business process technology tools, network service infrastructure, and support services to for points 1.and 2. (above) at minimal cost.

All three constituencies will be affected, directly or indirectly, by the migration to mobile, multi-modal UC, especially as it affects communication contacts with different types of people involved in high-value, time-sensitive business processes. These can be characterized as:

· Person-to-person contextual contacts (voice calls, multi-modal messaging)
· Person-to process on-demand access to information, automated transactions, and live assistance
· Process-to-person personalized contacts, especially real-time notifications and interactions
· Increasing personalized contact accessibility for all of the above through mobile devices and services

While Business Management will help identify operational work flow problems, requirements, and priorities for UC needs in enterprise business processes, and IT management will establish UC technology implementation plans, integrations, support, administration management and budgets, the third constituency, the end users, are really the most complex and critical elements to satisfy. Not only do enterprise end users have different job responsibilities and contact relationships, but they also have varying work environment needs for both desktop and mobile business contacts. Finally, what happens with the end users will typically affect the performance of most business processes.

More UC Payoffs – Partners, Customers, Inbound vs. Outbound Mobile Self-services

To complicate matters further, enterprise UC must realistically accommodate efficient business contacts outside of the organization as part of high-value business processes, i.e., business partners and customers. UC facilities must therefore be provided not only to support flexible communication contacts (e.g., federated presence) directly between people wherever they may be located, but also directly between people and automated business process applications, regardless of user endpoint device type and modality of interaction. Only then can business process performance be maximized and “human (contact) latency” be minimized across any group of involved end users.

There has always been a big revenue “pony” under customer contact communications, and traditional call center technology has always taken the lead in supporting both live and automated inbound call-handling activities for customer care applications. However, the real-time demands of voice telephony, coupled with the legacy Telephone User Interface (TUI), left much to be desired in terms of the user experience and efficiency of complex self-service applications.

Although on-line interactive application usage on the Web has now far surpassed traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) self-services, the two are starting to converge both at the PC desktop and with mobile communication devices. The screen interface provides greater flexibility for complex input and output of information, which the limitations of legacy IVR applications could not even begin to deal with and thus always required immediate access to highly trained live assistance.

Automated outbound contact applications were also hampered by the limitations of telephony-based voice contacts in successfully making person-to-person contacts with a particular individual. Now, with the rapid consumer adoption of personalized, mobile, “smart-phones,” all that is changing, for both business and personal service applications. Proactive Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), coupled with flexible mobile contact accessibility, is now positioned to bring the power of a variety of automated application services plus access to live assistance, when necessary, to individual end users, wherever, whenever needed.

Given these convergence changes, the enterprise market needs better UC-based products and services to replace legacy telephony technologies. For example, it will be inefficient for outbound application notifications to function simply as “Proactive IVR,” since outbound contacts from a business process application will have to capitalize on personalized, mobile “smart-phone” accessibility through mobile UC, not traditional, location-based phone call attempts that rely on the limitations of voice-only interactions.

Instead, consider starting with immediate delivery of a mobile notification message of any kind from a business application service to an end user, followed by the user’s option to access a multimodal portal that offers the recipient choices of automated self-service interaction (voice or online input/output), along with live assistance access options (chat, voice, video). This approach was demonstrated several years ago by Intervoice, since acquired by Convergys. However, the real payoff can now be finally realized from the proliferation of proactive application contacts that will result from the explosion of “smart-phone” usage and “App Store” mobile applications.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sprint Network Services For Enterprise UC

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

May 12, 2009

Sprint Network Services Put “Meat on The Bones” Of Enterprise UC

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

By now, most of the enterprise market understands what UC technology is basically all about (“Why of UC”) – i.e., enabling individual end users to flexibly communicate easily and cost efficiently anywhere and anyhow to do their jobs faster and better. Not only will end users be more productive, but business operations also become more cost efficient and effective. Because UC involves a significant change in handling phone calls within the context of increased mobility, messaging, and online information access, the biggest challenge to enterprise organizations is how to move forward with their migration to UC.

Sprint Nextel’s announcement this week offers a practical shortcut to business organizations to selectively bridge the gap between existing enterprise communications and the missing elements required for UC. Using their “Now Network” facilities, Sprint has teamed with strategic partners to offer new network services for mobile device support, multi-modal IP networking services (wired, wireless), integration with IP Telephony, Unified Messaging, Instant Messaging and presence management.

Connecting Enterprise Applications, Desktops, and Mobile Users

With the increased growth of wireless communications and multimodal “smart-phones,” business process operations can now support any form of contact that an individual end user requires. Not only does this apply to people within an organization, but also to any external business contacts they deal with (business partners, customers) whose communication facilities are outside the control of the enterprise.

While UC flexibility is useful at the desktop, it’s greatest value is when it is combined with the power of mobile accessibility. That is also when users really need the flexibility of choice in communicating with eyes-free, hands free speech, silent screen interactions and text messages, or video interactions. Without the combination of mobile access and choice of communication modality, operational time delays of “human contact latency” can seriously impact high-value business processes and cause missed or delayed revenues, serious financial loss, and even loss of human life.

Such concerns are no longer just about traditional person-to-person contacts. As business processes become more automated and monitor operational workflows, they too need to proactively and selectively notify responsible people of any situations that require awareness, decision-making, or action taking by people. Those people, in turn, therefore need to be as communication-accessible as possible in order to be responsive to such operational situations, especially if they are time critical. That’s where mobility and UC services are needed most.

Mix and Match - Sprint “Now Network” Services Will Connect People, Networks, And Enterprise UC Applications

In Monday’s announcement, Sprint revealed the integration of it’s comprehensive 3G and 4G, SIP-enabled, wired and wireless “Now Network” facilities with UC technologies provided by industry leaders Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco for enterprise-based Instant Messaging, Email, and IP Telephony. Their new service can help close the gap and speed up the migration from legacy PSTN TDM voice applications to IP-based, interoperable UC applications. In addition, Sprint’s UC solution can also open new avenues for enterprise business applications to access and interact with different types of end users, but still be efficiently managed and controlled by individual enterprise operations.

Sprint emphasized its use of SIP trunking over an MPLS network for its IP Telephony (VoIP) service offerings and interoperability with the PSTN network, as well as with enterprise IP Telephony networks. In addition, Sprint will initially provide Mobile Integration to support their subscribers’ Sprint CDMA phones in a Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) business environment. As the smart-phone market continues to explode, we would expect the service to become more open and device independent, as well as support “dual persona” mobile devices. That is where the UC action will really explode for all kinds of communication services and where we expect all network operators to follow Sprint’s lead to compete for mobile subscribers and enterprise applications access.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: artr@ix.netcom.com or (310) 395-2360.