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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Congratulations, VoiceCon!

Copyright 2010 (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Finally – VoiceCon Changes It’s Name!

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Ever since the “UC” concept started to gain traction in business communications, I had been bugging Fred Knight to let go of the emphasis on voice telephony reflected in the name of their very successful “VoiceCon” conference. I also was suggesting that enterprise text messaging technology providers like Microsoft and IBM bring their customers to this show to start delivering a common technology message of convergence, flexibility, and UC interoperability to the market place.

Well, today, on the 20th anniversary of VoiceCon, they announced a name change at the show to “Enterprise Connect.” To learn more, go to

This simple name change will help open business communication doors wider to include more than a flexible choice of person-to-person voice/video or messaging connections, but to also include “application process-to-person” and “person-to-application process” contacts that exploit the efficiencies of automated (self-service) business processes across all forms of communication interfaces.

Maybe we will see the next name change take us from the real-time traffic-centric label of VoiceCon’s popular blog site, “No Jitter,” to something more pertinent to the UC vision of flexible, interoperable, multimodal user interfaces.

Congratulations on the name change!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

IP Telephony Dependent on UC, Mobility, and CEBP Apps

Copyright 2010 (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

UC, Mobility, and CEBP Integrations Driving IP Telephony Implementations
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The industry press has been filled with recent reports about Nortel customers being faced with the challenge of having their legacy Nortel phone systems converted to future Avaya systems. Avaya appears to have done a good job of taking on the responsibilities of an incumbent telephony provider by quickly laying out a PBX migration plan for them to do so cost effectively.

However, what Nortel customers are really facing reflects what all enterprise organizations are dealing with today. That is, the new role of “intelligent,” software-based IP Telephony as a foundational component of mobile, multimodal unified communications (UC) that integrate with enterprise applications to “optimize business process performance” and effectiveness.

The question that Nortel and other customers really must answer is this: Can your incumbent telephone system provider help deliver new, UC-based IP Telephony “applications” that will be used by your next generation staff, customers and business partners? Furthermore, is your communications infrastructure flexible enough to adapt and integrate with your industry’s standard business applications now and in the future?

Partnering IP Telephony with Mobile Web Services and Online Applications

To meet these ever-evolving demands by the next-generation end user, Web services and online applications have since jumped in to improve visual interactive application access at the PC desktop. However, until the advent of handheld broadband smartphones, such efficient solutions have not been conveniently available for use when users are mobile and away from a desktop PC. Needless to say, consumers were thus left out in the cold until now for improved and more efficient automated customer care based upon visual self-service application interfaces!

UC is not just a matter of making the costs of telephony cheaper, but also of making voice communications selectively more effective and complementary to other forms of visual and text-based communications and information access. This is where new UC capabilities like presence management, coupled with “click-to-call” capabilities, will make voice and video conversations and conferencing efficient supplements to the many forms of real-time text messaging (IM, SMS) and information exchange that are now available to consumers.

The new responsibilities for business communications and operational interactions must include the different business process application needs of end users from both inside and outside of the organization (business partners and customers). So, the real challenge for both large and small businesses is how to exploit all the pieces of UC, including IP Telephony applications, cost efficiently.

Mobility Will Become a Big Influencer For CEBP Integration

Mobile accessibility is not only a big factor for enabling UC flexibility for traditional person-to-person contacts via voice or text, but it will also facilitate application process-to-person and person-to-application process contacts that can exploit real-time, multi-media exchanges between people and information from automated self-service applications. In addition to being able to make immediate contact with mobile users, and, depending upon the person’s situation and information content, the choice of visual or voice application interface can also be dynamically determined by the individual users.

Automated business process applications that can effectively initiate any kind of direct communication contact with a person can efficiently replace the expense and delays that result from requiring humans to perform such contact tasks via phone calls. Such capability has been labeled as a “Communication Enabled Business Process” or CEBP and is of particular value where time-sensitive situations have to be dealt with immediately. It is useful to quickly and automatically notify people of an urgent problem or as a reminder to take action to avoid problems, and get immediate confirmation feedback as well, e.g., reminders for taking medications, an appointment, flight change notifications, etc.

Mobile, multimodal smartphones will now enable customer care contacts to be more automated, while still allowing flexible, on-demand customer access (“click-to-call”) to live assistance (voice, chat), whenever necessary. Again, ”contextual” access to available live assistance can be efficiently provided on-demand, based on the dynamic needs of the customer and qualified resource availability.

“Different Strokes for Different Folks?” Software-based Architecture for Mobile UC Flexibility!

End users, whether enterprise employees or consumers will no longer be satisfied with the limitations of the legacy telephone user interface, and will start exploiting the benefits of UC flexibility and integrated visual and voice user interfaces. Now that consumers have had a taste of multimodal mobility with innovative smartphones, they are starting to expect freedom of choice in how they initiate and receive contacts from both people and business process applications.

The key to extending communication flexibility and interoperability will rest with making communication applications functionally software-based, hardware independent, and with standards-based open interoperability. That requirement is particularly applicable for the increased use of new mobile smartphones that are already being used to communicate with all kinds of mobile applications under varying user circumstances.

Whether a user is initiating a contact or is the recipient accepting a contact, the choice of how a UC contact is made will depend upon each individual’s circumstantial situation.

· Sometimes contact is requested with a specific individual vs. anyone who is qualified, accessible, and available

· Sometimes the contact required is an immediate voice conversation

· Sometimes a user can’t talk (noisy, privacy)

· Sometimes they can’t hear (noisy)

· Sometimes they need to send information to be viewed in the context of a voice conversation

· Sometime a user can’t read or type (driving)

· Sometimes the response to an asynchronous message requires a voice conversation, real-time IM exchange, or a change in the message medium.

One Example of Telephony Providers Responding To UC Change

Leading telephony system providers recognize that the flexibility of communication interfaces is becoming critical, and they are converging their new IP Telephony offerings with other text-based communications. One example of this is NEC.

According to Jay Krauser, General Manager of Sales Support and Engineering, NEC Corporation of America:
“The users we are developing products for today may use texting more than voice and email combined. They’ve used any number of social networking and online collaborative tools for many years. They’re tech-savvy and mobile, and whatever business user interfaces we put in their hands need to fit a highly evolved work style.”

As an example, Krauser referenced a hospital setting where the software-based communications infrastructure integrates with patient data using the HL7 standard to give workers in any role - operator, administrator, nurse or doctor - access to the clinical, financial or other administrative data quickly and on-the-go. Automating notifications to mobile devices to advise clinical staff of a change in patient status ultimately speeds patients through diagnosis and treatment to where they’d rather be, which is home.

NEC put its IP Telephony technology where its mouth is when the company announced last month that its software-based Unified Communications platform, Sphericall, is fully integrated with IBM’s Lotus Foundations platform. When installed, it is literally a part of IBM’s software package and shares resources with IBM’s text messaging applications.

This is a step forward in integrating all the key communication applications of UC together as a single, interoperable product set. NEC’s other major partner, Microsoft, is also a candidate for such close-knit interoperability through its Exchange server for email and unified messaging and its OCS Office Communications Server for Instant Messaging, presence management, and unified conferencing.
Who Will You Trust To Provide New UC-based IP Telephony Applications?

It should be pretty obvious that UC functionality that includes more than traditional person-to-person voice contacts will require new, heavy-duty capabilities from the other technology providers involved. Those new technology offerings are still evolving, so reputation and direction must be part of your evaluation. Because the various UC technologies involved are generally developed by different suppliers, there will be different combinations of UC software applications available as alternative solutions.

1. UC will depend heavily on text-based interfaces for both messaging and application information, so the two big players in the business email and IM industry, Microsoft and IBM, will have to be part of the team that can offer customers a complete UC solution. Their offerings will be most important for UC integrations for presence management, unified messaging, CEBP, etc.

2. Well-established, experienced, IP Telephony providers who can offer both a new software-based platform along with integration capabilities to work with a variety of existing PBX and IPBX systems, will be a safe bet for implementing a new IP Telephony solution.

3. Traditional contact center capabilities will have to be accommodated with what I have labeled as “Customer UC” functions, which provides increased contact and interaction flexibility for customers who will exploit multimodal smartphones.

4. While legacy IVR solutions were very limited in their role of self-service applications, providers, who have already exploited them innovatively in the context of Vertical Market applications, will most likely be able to use their experience more effectively within the expanded context of a multimodal mobile smartphone environment.

5. Future-proofing an IP Telephony investment will require that it be based upon open industry standards, support for mobile device independence, and integration with third-party business process applications. These will support communication innovation that the next generation of users of IP Telephony and UC will require.

6. With the move of IP Telephony into a software-based environment, it has opened the door to providers who can also offer the use of that software as a hosted service (SaaS) or, in the case of communication services (CaaS). That option is rapidly gaining traction in the UC marketplace and can provide an alternative mode of implementation with lower capex costs and greater opex flexibility.

Will Your Incumbent Telephony Provider Be Able to Deliver Your UC-based IP Telephony Applications?

In planning your move to the future of mobile, UC-based IP Telephony applications, it may be questionable whether a traditional telephony provider is really ready to tackle the fast-moving new demands of multimodal and transmodal Mobile UC self-service applications required by your customers. One new source of technology for telephony applications is based on using speech to simplify end user information input, but using speech recognition to convert it to text, which is more efficient for application processing, storage, retrieval and user interface management. For this reason, it will be appropriate to consider other reputable technology providers who are moving more quickly to deliver innovative UC solutions that will support voice with speech recognition as application inputs, but also exploit visual output for practical online user interface efficiencies.

What Do You Think?

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Getting UC Payoff Faster With Hosted IP Telephony

Copyright © 2010 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

March 5, 2010

Getting UC Payoff Fast With Hosted IP Telephony For Both Internal Users and Customers
Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

A recent enterprise market study confirmed that customer-related business processes have the most important priorities for UC capabilities. This means that any communications involving either customer-facing staff or customers directly (self-services) will benefit the enterprise the most from UC flexibility. It makes little difference how or where the communication services are provided to the different end users, but ultimately, cost will be an influence.

By now, everyone understands that traditional business telephone voice applications are slowly but surely becoming an integrated part of multi-modal “unified communications” (UC) for both enterprise users and customer interactions. This means shifting legacy TDM network connections to SIP-based VoIP networks, software-based call management (IP Telephony), and exploiting multimodal endpoint devices on the desktop (e.g., PC “softphones”) and mobile “smart-phones.”

Initiating and receiving phone calls through UC will not only exploit more efficient and contextual visual user interfaces, e.g., presence-based “click-to-call”, but will also enable business process automated applications to initiate real-time notifications to people and support self-service transactions in the recipient’s interface of choice. This flexibility will be particularly important as consumers and business users increasingly adopt personalized, mobile “smart-phones” for faster, flexible modes of contact accessibility. All of this software-based flexibility, however, means greater technology complexity, which is increasingly difficult and expensive to support with traditional in-house IT resources, especially when software products will be constantly changing and evolving.

The biggest challenge for enterprise organizations migrating to such a UC environment, will be to change their existing telephony systems and voice applications to integrate seamlessly and device-independently with other UC components such as email, unified messaging (UM), Instant Messaging, presence management, communications enabled business processes (CEBP), social networking, and mobile network services.

How To Get Going Fast With Minimal Cost? - Hosted Services!

As everyone will tell you, migrating the enterprise to UC is a “journey.” That means you have to selectively prioritize which business processes and which end users (staff, customers) should be implemented first with UC capabilities. Since we are talking about changing existing business processes through new communication facilities, it will be important to “pilot” such redesigned applications first, before going operationally across the enterprise.

Fortunately, because IP Telephony is now software-based and accessible over the Internet, it has joined other business process applications in becoming easily available as a hosted or managed service that can be used to replace or supplement legacy premise-based TDM telephone systems and call center technologies. IP Telephony service is labeled as “Communications as a Service” (CaaS) and is becoming a key starting point for hosted UC services.

The proven benefits of any hosted telephony service usually include:
· No capital expense, controllable operational expenses based on actual usage/need, operational management controls over usage

· Selective use of UC applications features, including IP Telephony, for either internal users, partners, or customers

· Centralizes management and support for multiple site locations. Does not require adding in-house IT expertise to maintain new applications. This will be especially useful where there are different communication technologies being used at different site locations.

· Enables new contact center applications to be developed and activated within only a few weeks or months, depending on the level of integration and customization required, compared to traditional, location-based implementations.

· Integrates with and supplements existing enterprise communication technologies (e.g., PBXs, Microsoft OCS, Email, IM, mobile and wireless services, etc.)

· Integration with on-site business process applications

· Exploits efficient SIP networking architecture overlay

· Provides centralized backup survivability for individual locations

· Supports all necessary user interfaces required by different end users

· Applications can be easily and dynamically implemented and changed as needed

· Flexible payment plans for on-demand usage

· Option to move hosted technology on-premise for either managed support service or for full internal support

Because of the obvious benefits of hosted and managed software applications, all large technology and service providers are starting to offer such services instead of traditional software and system sales. The question now becomes one of who should be your hosted service provider?

Who Can Best Support Your Hosted Applications?

Because the IP network has now become critical for multi-modal access to all centralized, “cloud-based” applications, it is easy to fall into the trap of expecting network providers to also support your business process applications as if they were simple phone connections. Network service providers who offer hosted or managed applications are really “resellers,” who themselves can’t directly provide the necessary application support that the original application developers can offer.

When it comes to application developers who might now be directly offering hosted application services, even there you have to look at the level of integration they provide for interoperability between the different applications and the different end users involved. In particular, UC for internal business users doesn’t really do much for customer needs, or what I have labeled as “Customer UC.” The latter will provide special UC facilities for customer-facing personnel, including agents (in-house, home), subject matter “experts,” mobile sales and field support staff, and customer contact operational management. This will also include all flavors of inbound and outbound contacts for customer self-service applications, automated notifications, and multi-modal access to live assistance (real-time and "as-soon-as-possible").

The developers of a hosted application are the best source for the hosted service because of the following considerations:

· The Developer already owns the solution and can more rapidly provide/add applications when needed

· The Developer owns the code and can fix bugs more rapidly

· The Developer can provide superior support since they know the products inside and out.

· A telecom service provider relies upon its relationship to the original Developer (Avaya, Nortel, etc.) for updates, bug fixes, troubleshooting, etc.

· A telecom service provider can usually only provide a subset of a product’s feature set, since it typically only wants to support the most common set of features that applies to the broadest possible audience

The challenge for enterprise organizations is to find a specialized IP Telephony and Contact Center technology developer that can also provide maximum flexibility in its hosted services offerings.

Interactive Intelligence Has “All-in-One” Integration Head-start on Hosted UC

Back in 1997, Interactive Intelligence introduced the first open, “all-in-one” communications software platform that integrated all telephony applications. They supplement or replace traditional PBXs with their value-add telephony applications for both business users and for customer interactions. More recently, they moved up the food chain to provide software tools for creating business process work flow applications that integrate tightly with their communication applications.

Interactive Intelligence now offers their open “all-in-one” software applications as a hosted service, which will enable enterprise organizations that are looking for a hosted solution to benefit from the tight integration between communication applications that has already been implemented. By virtue of its open architecture, and their basic SIP-based Interaction Center Platform, Interactive Intelligence is well prepared to quickly support any and all business communication application needs of their hosted service customers.

What Do You Think?

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