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Monday, December 24, 2012

How IT Thinks About Supporting Mobile UC

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
December 23, 2012

Until Apple introduced the first multi-modal smartphone in 2007, there was relatively little UC benefit to end users sitting at their desktops or even using cell phones. Now that there is huge adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, the UC market has exploded in many ways.
There are now many forecasts about changes in business communications technology and you might want to check the recent podcast by the experts at UC Strategies discussing expectations for 2013. It is clear that UC-enabled mobile communications (including “mCEBP”?) is at the top of everyone’s list for tablets and smartphones. However, there is a big difference in how such devices will be used, depending on who the end user is. In particular, it is necessary to differentiate consumer usage vs. employee work usage, especially when it comes to “BYOD” concerns for security.
We really have to look at mobility activities from several perspectives including:
·        Device form factors and User Interfaces (screen size, controls)
·        Mobile Operating Systems
·        Multi-modal Mobile Applications
·        Access Security and Privacy controls
·        Costs – Who pays for what?
·        End user “Help Desk” (technology) support
When it comes to choosing a mobile device, especially when it will be used for personalized contacts, there is little question that consumers will choose what they like and can afford for all their needs. That is what I have referred to as “Consumer BYOD,” and will have as great or a greater effect on any IT organization as will employee BYOD concerns, for two main reasons:
1.     All employees, by definition, are also consumers and therefore customers of other organizations.
2.     As customers, consumers are the source of revenue generation, as opposed to cost savings and productivity benefits of self-service applications and more efficient communications for organization employees.
So, since mobility has value for any end users inside and outside of any organization, the challenge is how to support and manage both mobile online business applications and mobile communication applications for anyone interacting with the organization.

Interesting New Survey of IT Perspective of BYOD Mobility

There have been all kinds of surveys done in an effort to identify where the market is going with new disruptive online and mobile technologies. It is clear that it is a cultural evolution that requires strategic planning for migrating from premise-based hardware and software to more “virtual” and hosted services in private and public “clouds.” Regardless of how various mobile applications are actually implemented, there will be an ongoing responsibility for internal organizational oversight of the management and support of applications that will be used by a variety of internal and external end users.    
A recent survey by a recently formed consortium of enterprise software companies focused on mobility, the Enterprise Device Alliance, confirms some mobile impacts and trends for internal IT organizations. These include the following:
·        86% of organizations allowed BYOD in 2012 (75% in 2011)
·        2013 percentage of smartphone users to increase for iPhones (92%), Android (77%), Windows (44%) – decrease for Blackberry (56%)
·        Tablets will be a principal employee mobile device (over 90%) that IT will support, replacing laptops
·        Email is the leading productivity app for all mobile devices supported
·        “Help Desk” support to mobile employees is given or planned to be given by 45% of enterprise organizations, in addition to other resources
·        Mobile security is leading concern of IT; 71% want to authenticate with Active Directory 
·        Mobile access because of mobile OS capabilities is limited by 60% of respondents
·        MDM usage in 2013 to reach 60%
·        Despite increase in mobile usage demands, IT staffing will not increase for most organizations

Remember Other Considerations For Mobility

There are other considerations that mobility will affect, including hosted, “cloud” applications and supporting mobile “Consumer BYOD.” While employees will exploit tablets in using work-related mobile applications, consumers will more likely rely on smartphones of their for all their communication contacts, including voice, video, chat, and notifications/responses, as well as online self-service interactions. This will certainly change the traditional Call/Contact Center game into what I have called the “Multi-modal Interaction Center” to support mobile customers.
While “Help Desk” support has traditionally been provided to organization employees for their desktop needs, it is being extended to mobile employees, as reflected in the survey results. However, there is even more demand for such technology support for consumers, reflected in the “Consumerization of IT,” where consumers with mobile computerized devices need technical help. It’s not just about mobile contacts with people, but mobile interactions with application software.
Such change will put more pressure on organizations to support all leading mobile and desktop devices and operating systems that the consumer public adopts, as well as providing UC-enabled self-service “mobile apps” through enterprise and service provider “app stores.” This will include increased use of proactive, outbound notifications and alerts from automated applications ("mCEBP") to a variety of consumer mobile smartphones and tablets.
2013 will be putting more “meat on the bones” of both enterprise and service provider mobile applications and support tools. However, as pointed out in the survey report summary, “Mobile devices have not yet saturated the enterprise, but they are pouring in.” 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Unified Mobile Self Services For Consumers Moving To Clouds

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Rapid user adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets and their impact on Internet access is changing business communications and interactions. For a “big picture” overview how such change is affecting IT for both organizations and consumers, see the latest report by Mary Meeker of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers.
The statistics reaffirm the growth of mobility and personalization that is driving change in how organizations interact with customers/consumers, as well as with their employees.  They also reflect the role of flexible unified communications for both internal users as well as for multi-modal interactions with consumers/customers.

Improving Customer Services With Mobile, Multi-modal Self-Service Applications

Although contact center technologies from the leading industry providers are slowly shifting to public, private, and hybrid “cloud” offerings, there are also innovative players who are moving faster to exploit mobility and cloud-based applications in practical ways that I have long been waiting for. In particular, they are supporting consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets to increase the role of online applications for customer self-services over legacy IVR applications, while UC-enabled “click-for-assistance” provides access to live support on demand. Two technology providers that caught my attention recently are Voxeo, with their approach to “Unified Self-Service” and the second incarnation of Radish Systems, with their ChoiceView Visual IVR service for smartphone users.
Of particular interest, is not only how legacy IVR applications are becoming multi-media, but also how such self-service applications are supporting both inbound and outbound “mobile apps” and hosted by leading communications service providers. As consumers shift to mobile, multi-modal interactions with all types of organizations, legacy contact centers will increasingly become cloud-based and UC-enabled for self-services.
Mobile Users Need More Notification Control As Contact Recipients   
Business communications is a two-way-street, but not just between individual people any more. People contact organizations and organizations contact people using various modes of contact (AKA “channels”), contextually exploiting online business applications and CEBP. We see increasing recognition of the need for legacy business contact centers to support such flexible, multi-modal interactions because of what I call mobile “Consumer BYOD.”  However, the same concerns for flexibility and control applying to all individual mobile users, who now must handle a variety of business and personal inbound and outbound contacts, except, guess what? They don’t have personal “agents” to handle all important (time-sensitive) inbound contacts (calls, ALL forms of messages) when they are too busy doing something else.
So, the more ways that people can be directly contacted by other people or by business process applications (CEBP), especially in real-time (voice, SMS, IM, video calls), the greater the need to automatically screen and manage incoming contacts. Otherwise, people will be spending most of their valuable time going through emails, all kinds of notifications and alerts, SMS messages, phone/video call attempts, social networking postings, etc. For this reason, it is time to focus on the individual end user’s need for what I would describe as “unified notification” management that can deal contextually with the dynamics of mobile contacts by recipients and their individual time priorities.
To prove my point here is an interesting commentary from a blogger on the subject of managing his incoming mobile messaging and notifications.The “cloud” is already being exploited to provide hosted inbound contact center services to organizations, so can it also be used to provide personal contact management services to individual consumers?
So Who Will Provide “Unified Mobile Notification” Services To Consumers?
The answer lies with the service provider(s) that the mobile user will use in a BYOD environment.  Since BYOD implies the procurement of mobile devices from a service provider that also provides network connectivity, the wireless carriers are obvious candidates for such responsibilities. Perhaps this is one reason that Voxeo has spun off a new company that will provide self-service applications capabilities to service providers.
However, with a “dual persona” approach to sharing a mobile device between work responsibilities and all other personal interactions, it would appear logical to have incoming contacts controlled by the individual user for both personas, i.e., screening the contact initiator, the type of contact, the form of notification, and the options to respond to respond at this particular time.
Some of these features have long existed under the umbrella of personal call management services (telephone answering) and voice mail systems available to business end users, e.g., AVST, but with multi-modal mobility, must be expanded.
When it comes to such notifications and alerts, there is an issue of personal time availability, as well as the mode in which the alert will be executed because of situational circumstances. Take your pick:
  •  Vibration
  •  Audible sounds
  •  Visual displays
  • Other?
  •  Do not disturb at all
Clearly, the individual end user will have to dynamically select what will be suitable in any given mobile situation, especially when driving a car and restricted to an eyes-free, hands-free user interface. The challenge to make such dynamic control simple, intuitive, and as automatic as possible. Let’s not pass the buck to the contact initiators to check presence information before making contact – that doesn’t solve the recipient’s problem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How Will IT Support "Cloud" Applications?

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
November 19, 2012

Changing IT Responsibilities For The “Clouds”

In the early days of business computers, premise-based mainframes, supported with only basic OS software and application development tools (Cobol, Fortran, Assembly Language), every using organization had to have large IT staffs or third-party help, to develop and maintain all their customized software applications. That task became somewhat easier in 1960, when Informatics, Inc, developed and sold the first successful software product, the Mark IV system, to IBM computer users for developing batch-mode, premise-based database retrieval and reporting applications.
Around 1964, Interactive “time-sharing” allowed remote individual users with “dumb” terminals (teletypes) to dial in to a mainframe computer and use it “interactively” in real time, rather than in batch mode. This was the beginning of online applications, but the advent of PCs killed the “”time-sharing” service concept and shifted the role of online applications to premise-based servers for remote users.
Now, with Internet data access, we are seeing hosted/managed “cloud”–based software applications for both information access and person-to-person communications rapidly displacing premise-based application server hardware systems, along with the need for internal IT staffs to develop and maintain such application software. The timing of this transition is opportune because of the rapid consumer adoption of multi-modal mobile smartphones and tablets, and the consequential need for integrating (UC-enabling) business process applications with flexible and personalized mobile interactions for BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”) usage.
The question now is what role should IT groups play in making the transition from premise-based, desktop application software to “cloud”-based, multi-modal, mobile apps?  It’s not a question of “if,” but of “how” and “when.”

Is The “Cloud” And Business Innovation A Threat Or An Opportunity For IT?

As innovative communication and application services replace both premise-based legacy hardware and software for business process activities, the diminishing control and responsibilities for IT staff appear to be threatening, according to Saugatuck Technology. At their recent 2nd annual Cloud Business Summit in New York City, the changes to IT’s role in any size organization was discussed with invited enterprise CIOs and CTOs.
While there may be a shift in who develops and maintains application software, as well as where that software will be physically located, there will still be a need for technology and infrastructure expertise to support and manage the selection and usage of all applications to insure proper and effective results. Whether that expertise resides internally or is provided through third-party management services, is a question that must be answered on an individual application and organizational basis.
Basic “cloud” services, whether private, public, or hybrid, offer a platform that is location- independent of the actual software applications and the data they use, and can be accessed and integrated from anywhere. Such applications can be for multi-modal person-to-person contacts, online business applications of all kinds, and, of course, process-to-person CEBP contacts for outbound alerts and notifications. That makes the “cloud” applications not only useful for virtualizing desktop usage, but more importantly, ideal for any individual mobile user with a smartphone or tablet. It really will be the specific business process and the individual end users who will be authorized to selectively use those applications that will be the challenge for managing an organization’s various “cloud”-based activities.
The suggested transitional changes in IT roles are laid out in Figure 1 of Saugatuck’s report. It is a starting point to consider in planning for IT organizational change to what Saugatuck calls the “Boundary-Free Enterprise”Ô. Those transitions involve moving computer applications from location-based hardware to “virtualized” software, and making all forms of contact with people more flexible and interoperable through UC-enablement.
A key insight from the Summit discussions for the future responsibilities of IT management was:
Users first. The widespread scale and scope of easily-adopted, Cloud-enabled, individual productivity capabilities shifts power and influence more toward Business users, not Business organizations. Specific Business processes and functions are the initial means of Cloud incursion into the enterprise.”
Of course, mobile BYOD and its impact on communicating with people, is also part of the game change involved in “cloud” services. So, by definition, moving to a “cloud” environment will also mean UC–enablement and CEBP integrations for all business applications involved with any mobile end users, whether they be employees, business partners, or consumer customers. This will be particularly important for customer interactions because of widespread mobile “consumer BYOD.”    
For some additional Cloud Business Summit perspectives on “cloud” applications and it’s impact on IT organizations, you can find more commentary from this Saugatuck web site.

Monday, November 12, 2012

"BYOC" For UC Driver Communication

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
November 10, 2012

“Bring Your Own Car” Hits Mobile UC

It is time to recognize the need for UC-enabled “dual persona” applications for all types of mobile device interfaces, including built-in car dashboards. Aside from personal and entertainment applications, business applications fall into two basic categories, person-to-person communications and automated, Communications Enabled Business Process  (CEBP) applications, all of which can be or will be “mobile apps” available through public and enterprise “app stores.”
All types of organizations are being challenged by this shift to application mobility for several reasons:
·      UC-enabled multi-modal communications and CEBP are more complex than the siloed, premise-based communications of the past.
·      BYOD, by both employees, business partners, and consumers, is adding to the complexities of different user interfaces, as well the loss of control over the end user mobile devices.
·      “Bring Your Own Car” (BYOC) for mobile apps to be used while driving, is becoming another contender for mobile apps, where “hands/eyes-free” user interfaces have to be easily accommodated automatically when needed.  
·      Legacy online desktop applications for workers must be converted to support wireless tablets, smartphones, and car dashboards, while online customer/consumer self-service applications must also do the same.
·      With application mobility, there is also a need for UC-enablement, which means that both input and output must be multi-media to support an end user’s current situation or status.
·      Since all applications are primarily software based, they will constantly be changing to dynamically support a variety of end user needs.
·      The above considerations are driving the shift of mobile applications to exploiting the wireless Web and hosted/managed application services.

Car Manufacturers View UC-enabled Dashboards As Competitive Feature

A recent announcement from the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) at it’s second annual summit, reported that it’s new industry standard, MirrorLink, which will transfer a user’s current mobile device user interface to a car’s dashboard entertainment control and display screen, is now being offered to third-party application developers. Although 80 percent of world automakers and 70 percent of global smartphone manufacturers are members of the CCC, “adoption of the standard has been slow.”
The CCC hopes to have mobile application developers certify their apps for “drive mode functionality” as a key benefit to mobile users who will be using their mobile apps while in their cars. This will be particularly important for all forms of text messaging to exploit speech recognition and text-to-speech while driving, as well as for voice interfacing with on-line applications.
The CCC standard should simplify how voice-to-text and text-to-voice multi-media interfaces will work for various driver applications. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that functional mobile applications provided by auto manufacturers as options for different car models have to be identical. Just as smartphones can exploit personalized, mobile applications, so too, that personalization can be applied to car models.  

Business Communications Means Both Work and Commerce

The convergence of all forms of “business” communications, including both work and customer interactions with people and business process applications, will require that mobile endpoint devices support all of the above. The difference is “who” controls “what.” When it comes to mobility, the car has become a new endpoint for the drivers, and will probably become subject to enforcing driver safety rules, such as “hands-free/eyes-free” contacts while driving. That’s what they did with testing drivers who were inebriated.
UC has become important for both flexible person-to-person contacts, as well as for application user interfaces. However, both categories have to broken down further in terms of control and responsibilities over contact accessibility and application access to a shared mobile device. Making mobile devices both flexible and secure, means restricting the device to being used just for access through “thin“ clients, not for storage of sensitive information. This is often described as “dual persona” controls over endpoint device usage; adding your car’s capability to access a variety of personal and business mobile applications means that your car must also be “dual persona!”   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Mobile Users Need Multi-Persona Devices

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
October  29, 2012

Smartphones and Tablets Need “Multi-Persona” App Controls

It’s getting very obvious that it is “consumer BYOD” that is driving all kinds of customer service activities to UC-enabled, mobile, self-service applications accessible in public or private “clouds.” Whether the mobile application servers are located on premise or on a cloud service is also becoming a business option The bottom line is that “mobile apps” are shifting the emphasis of UC ROI away from just internal “collaboration” benefits to include servicing all mobile end users (customers, employees) , who can now be more accessible to automated business applications and to flexible, multi-modal communications with people (person-to-person).
I have been using the industry term, “dual persona,” to describe the way that a single, mobile device can be used to separate personal contact activities from business/job related contacts and information access. For a very detailed description of what “dual persona” entails for mobile application management, check out these two blogs here and here. 
However, the more I think about the consumer’s need for mobile access to information, self-service mobile apps, and lastly, access to live assistance, there really is a need for more than two (dual) mobile personas. Why?
Every User/Consumer Is A Customer Of Many Businesses And Services
Although business users must separate their job/role responsibilities from other personal communication needs, the latter really must be broken down further into relationships as customers with a variety of different business services they need to interact with. That brings the cloud-based, “multi-modal interaction center” into the picture to support customers with UC-enabled, mobile, self-service applications to minimize the time and costs of handling traditional telephone calls to legacy call centers.
Since each customer relationship must be personalized for the individual end user, the mobile consumer will need to be supported by different UC-enabled self-service applications provided by their different service providers. Whether it is from providers of health care, banking, insurance, government, retail, etc. services, each provider will have to control selective and contextual (“smart?”) accessibility by their different customers to information and assistance. Thus, we really have a need for a separate “persona” for each customer.
The question is, where will “persona” information reside - on the mobile device or in “cloud”-based business portals?
Inasmuch as online application portals have already evolved as practical points of inbound customer contact from PCs, it would seem logical that they can now be expanded to support both mobile, multimedia user interfaces, as well as proactive outbound notifications to end users through CEBP integrations. That combination of capabilities will provide a logical progression of self-service applications to integrate with UC-enabled live assistance. Giving mobile customers such flexibility will certainly enhance customer satisfaction and minimize support costs.
Making The Change To  Cloud-based “Multi-modal Interaction Centers       
Even while the mobile technology developers are putting all the pieces together for next- generation contact centers and services for multi-modal, mobile consumers, the challenge for CIOs is to start getting ready for the impact that technology will bring to customer service business and operational management. Although we may start off by making things more efficient and effective for consumers/customers, we also have to prepare for its impact on customer-facing staff and remote home agents.
Here are some basic issues to consider:
·        What kind of “click-for-assistance” contacts will come from what kind of customers?
·        How will  “contextual” screenpops change with UC enablement?
·        How will a customer authorize/control automated outbound notifications from CEBP-enabled applications?
·        How will different customer assistance modalities be assigned to customer-facing staff and what happens if a “click-to-talk/video” option is exercised from a chat session?
·        How will “always on” mobile customers exploit non-real-time assistance and “call return” options?
Note that these have nothing to do with what kind of mobile device a customer is using (customer BYOD).
Since most organizations don’t have enough experience to know all the answers yet, one of the big benefits of cloud-based services is that it is a practical way to trial new self-service applications as well as learning what skills live staff assistance will need in a multi-modal environment. I have addressed this approach in a recent white paper.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cisco Focuses On Mobile User Experiences

Copyright © 2012 The Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide
October 24, 2012

Cisco Going After “Multi-modal” User Experiences In "Cloud" Communications

Cisco is moving aggressively to emphasize end-user benefits, rather than just IT cost-savings, as organizations are shifting their business and communications applications to public, private, and hybrid “clouds.” At their recent big conference of analysts, channel partners, and consultants in L.A., the marketing emphasis was focused on “end user experiences.”  Although Cisco highlights “collaboration” as the operational epitome of their networking technology benefits, they really are going after all types of business interactions that UC flexibility supports. That includes both people contacts as well as automated business applications
As noted by my colleague, Blair Pleasant, in her report on the Cisco show, since 95% of Cisco sales are done by channel partners, presentations by several partners at the conference stressed the fact that business management, not IT, is setting the priorities for implementing new forms of business communications and application automation. With growing interest in hosted, “cloud”-based applications, this trend will only increase even further in the future.

Separation of Church and State

What was not discussed very much was the impact of mobility and UC-enablement on individual end users, both inside an organization, as well as external customers and business partners. While desktop activities, including laptops, can benefit from UC integrations, the real demand for UC flexibility will come from those individual mobile users whose needs will constantly change dynamically. As “BYOD” policies, coupled with mobile access to “cloud” applications, replace or supplement traditional desktop activities, the role and responsibilities of the organization vs. that of the individual end user for controlling device usage activities will also change significantly.
When we talk about individual “end user,” we now have to include consumers/customers, who are all now able to access online applications from their personalized smartphones and tablets, and therefore can do things directly by themselves without necessarily going through a call center agent. To me, that will prove to be the biggest driver for flexible UC-enablement and self-service applications to any organization, large or small.
However, we need to separate what the “church” (organization) controls from what the “state” (end users) controls. Obviously, there will be “different strokes for different folks” when it comes to the options for different end users. Across the board, access to information and applications can now be selectively controlled by the organization to authorized end users, but communication access with people must be controlled by the individual end users, either as contact initiators or as contact recipients. The exception to the latter is a customer contact center environment, where customer-facing agents must make themselves available on a scheduled basis.

“BYOD” Will Need “BYON” Connectivity To “Cloud” Applications (“BYOA”)

Just as end users get to choose their own mobile devices for both business and personal contacts and applications, they will also have to have access to any type of network connection associated with their choice of mobile application. While in the past, cell phones required carrier services and cell towers for off-premise voice connections coverage, new multi-modal smartphones and tablets are creating greater demand for lower-cost, local Wi-Fi networks for for both information and people access. Although enterprise organizations may still provide their own premise-based Wi-Fi facilities for this purpose, the real world of BYOD users now must include consumers who can now exploit online access to customer self-services and live assistance.
To accommodate internal workers who need inexpensive mobile connections, new service providers, like iPass, are offering global, “cloud”-based, Wi-Fi services to organizations to control and manage all their mobile business contacts. For interesting insights on mobile work usage, check out iPass's recent end-user global study.
As business applications logically move into the clouds for increased mobile and remote access, UC enablement will also be there to support end user needs for greater flexibility in user interfaces for all forms of communication and information access via their multi-modal smartphones and tablets.
Note: I didn’t even mention the important need for “dual persona” controls (software clients) to separate personal and business usage on an end user’s BYOD mobile device!  

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

"Mobile Apps" Need Multi-modal UC "Cloud" Services

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

It’s getting very obvious that the use of computers is shifting dramatically away from just desktops and portable laptops to personalized, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. It’s not that desktop and laptops are going to disappear, but everyone, including kids and their grandparents will be using those wireless personal computers for information access, online transactions, and personal contacts. In effect, there will be “BYOD” in play for all types of end users, which in turn means that both communication applications and business applications will all be software-based and live in different kinds of network “clouds.”
This shift in how and where software and data will be stored brings with it many challenges for organizations that are used to controlling all of their applications and data on premise-based hardware systems with more controllable, wired connectivity. Now that “consumer BYOD” is starting to displace or replace telephones and online PCs with wireless smartphones and tablets, what should organizations do with all their apps and data stores to accommodate all the end users, both inside and outside of their organizations?

“Clouds” To The Rescue!

Fortunately, the solution to that issue has already become available in the form of “cloud” computing, alias “network” access, to “virtual” data storage and applications. Options for using public, private, or hybrid “clouds” are being offered by all the big technology providers, allowing selective migrations of both business and communication application services to end user groups who have different operational requirements.
This is very fortunate for business organizations that are challenged to provide complex multi-modal “unified communications” to their end users. Because most of it is now becoming software-based responsibilities that few IT organizations have any practical experience with, it is an expensive proposition to consider doing things in-house as before. Even if all that software were “free,” it would still be a daunting task to use it effectively and maintain the never-ending changes on an ongoing basis. So, here come “cloud”-based customized and managed solutions to the rescue.  
The challenge of “cloud”-based applications of all kinds is proving to be a great opportunity for the old VARs or sales “channels.” Not only will smaller organizations, who have little or no IT staffs, be interested in exploiting mobile contacts and access to information, but even the larger enterprises and government organizations will need help in satisfying the many needs of customers and internal end users.

So, Whose “Cloud” Service Should You Use?

Now that vertical markets have begun to appreciate the need for UC-enabled applications and CEBP, the still have to understand exactly how they will be able to benefit properly from using the new technologies, They have to know where they are going before they can abandon the past. Nowhere is this more critical than with customer contact centers, which generate revenue and ensure good experiences for customer satisfaction and retention. In my view, UC can really pay off the most with its ability to satisfy mobile customer needs more flexibly and cost effectively than the old telephony call center game.
When it comes to playing any “cloud” services game, it is critical to use a service provider that is reliable, experienced, and specialized in the application functions you want to UC-enable in a “cloud.” I recently highlighted this concern in a new white paper on contact center applications that you can read at the site of one of the leading contact center “cloud” service providers, Echopass. 



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Defining UC to Business Management Is Still Confusing

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

By Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View
Months ago, someone started a discussion on LinkedIn about how to define unified communications to a prospective customer in a simple, understandable way. You can see all the suggestions tendered at this link:
I didn’t try to read all the comments, but scanned through them enough to see what is most overlooked in trying to explain what "UC" really is these days.

I’ll save you the trouble of looking up my comment on that LinkedIn discussion by posting it here.

There were so many comments on this issue, I couldn’t really read them all in this discussion, but what I think most people are missing is that UC is so dependent on the individual end users involved, and their communication roles in a business process. That means the individual end user, either as a contact initiator or as a contact recipient/respondent. Then, it becomes an issue of the individual end user’s situational and preferential modes of communicating, as well as the endpoint device capabilities for multi-modal user interfaces and connections. With the rapid consumer adoption of multi-modal smartphones and tablets, UC-enablement is now a practical reality for everyone and every online application.

As one commentator pointed out, UC was all about her iPhone, which gives the user the multi-modal flexibility to exploit UC, however it is supported. Which brings me to the next key point - UC is not just about person-to-person contacts, but increasingly and explosively to automated applications that initiate contacts with people. That now includes online “mobile apps” that exploit smartphones and tablets to deliver time-sensitive notifications and “alerts” with options for self-service applications and “click-for live assistance.”

So, with this kind of “BYOD” dependency on mobile devices, the responsibility of a business organization to support “UC” becomes very complex and difficult to do with internal, premise-based, hard-wired resources. It’s all about wireless connectivity and access to software applications of all kinds. Thus, the virtual “cloud” solutions (private, public) come into play as “virtual platforms” for UC-enabled (integrated) business process applications that will service various types of end users with mobile and remote desktop endpoints, including customers and customer-facing staff (agents, experts) that use contact center technologies.

The benefits of UC enablement (integrations) remain the same for business process performance and individual productivity, as suggested over and over again by the various comments, but when it comes to how will UC be implemented, the game has changed dramatically. The technology challenge, of course, is how to migrate existing business processes to the cloud-based, UC-enabled future from existing legacy technologies, particularly for real-time telephony and video options. So, don’t start off with explaining how the technology works, but rather why it is needed and worthwhile doing for changing and improving different end user communication needs involved with particular business processes. 

Wherever time-sensitive contacts from or to a person, inside or outside an organization are important, that’s where the priority “hotspots” can be addressed with UC-enabled solutions.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Consumer Mobility, “Customer BYOD,” And The UC Contact Center

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved

August 28, 2012

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

In a recent webinar, the speakers from the National Association of Call Centers described what industry members were doing to improve their operations through technology. There were two key factors mentioned.

Paul Stockford, Research Director for the Association, highlighted the fact that “Big Data” analytics for contact centers includes all customer interactions, including voice calls, email, and chat. David Butler, Executive Director of the Association, pointed to the growing need to automate simple customer service tasks with self-service applications to minimize demand for live assistance.

As it turns out, the rapid adoption of mobile smartphones and tablets, will not only facilitate consumer abilities to exploit self-service applications, but will also drive an increased need for customized options to flexibly access live assistance on demand through the various forms of contact available to consumers. Such flexibility comes under the label of “unified communications” (UC), and may well make the Contact Center the biggest source of ROI for UC-enablement.

While there is a lot of discussion about how new “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) policies will impact organizations in supporting their employees with mobile access from different devices and operating systems, what has not been properly acknowledged is that consumers/customers will also be bringing that issue to the challenge of designing and exploiting self-service applications. In addition, the flexibility of multi-modal mobile devices, coupled with any demand for live assistance, will also require greater flexibility on the part of customer-facing agents to interact with mobile customers.

The New Customer Perspective

For consumers, who were restricted in the past by legacy IVR applications, self-service applications no longer have to start with a phone call. In fact, the reverse is becoming true – online (visual) applications are becoming a primary gateway to a voice or chat connection for live customer service.

Many market studies have confirmed that most consumers would prefer direct access to information and business transactions, rather than have to deal with a live person. Of course, such access would have to be simple and easy to use from an interface perspective. That is one area where the combination of speech input (like Apple’s Siri) combined with visual information output would be the fastest and easiest way for a mobile user to interact with an online application. However, the choice of user interface has to be dynamically controlled by the mobile end user, depending on their circumstances, e.g., while driving a car, in a noisy environment, or sitting in a meeting. Such flexibility is now possible with Mobile UC technologies and multi-modal devices.

Bottom Line For Contact Center Management

As mentioned in the webinar, while more-self-service applications may reduce the total demand for live customer staffing, it will increase the need for greater flexibility in customer interactions with customer service staff. This in turn, will make management of contact center operations and performance more complex, especially in the design of user interfaces to maximize the Customer Experience and minimize the need to “click-for-assistance.”

“Cloud”-based applications (private, public, hybrid) will facilitate the development and management of contact center applications, including self-service “mobile apps.” Contact center technology vendors are all moving into this service space, making it easier for existing contact centers to start adding new self-service applications, as well as allowing remote agents and contact center management to easily be involved with both current customers and the next generation of mobile customers. Key to mobile flexibility is “unified communications” (UC) that enables communication contacts to be initiated in any form and to be dynamically shifted as needed (e.g., from a text/voice message to chat to a voice connection).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Customer Service Is Becoming The Biggest Payoff For UC

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

August 20, 2012

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View/ UC Strategies Expert

There are several key benefits to be gained from unified communications (UC) to be realized by an organization, but there are also different technologies involved in implementing UC. If you are on the IT side of the organization, reducing costs and simplifying implementations and integrations through UCaaS offerings will be the key benefits technology vendors think you want to know about. If you are a business unit manager, you might be told about how Mobile UC will speed up operational performance when end users are working away from their desks or office. Most importantly, however, business organizations will start hearing more about how their mobile customers can be better served at lower operational costs with multi-modal, self-service applications that are "UC-enabled.”

The best choice should be “all of the above,” but unfortunately, most vendors in the “UC” market focus these days on the benefit that is closest to their particular product or service offering. That is why you see the IP telephony vendors harp on starting your UC journey by replacing your phone system. But, legacy telephony has been entrenched in more than person-to-person conversational voice, so the migration to UC has to be really more than implementing IP telephony connections.

It’s All About Business and Communication Applications

While integrating telephony functions is a key challenge for UC enablement, voice connections are just one option for person-to-person communications. As more consumers exploit the flexibility of mobile smartphones and tablets, they are texting more, rather than making phone calls. This is particularly true for the younger generation, which never really had much to do with expensive cell phones.

Communication applications are more “open,” and UC-enablement facilitates the ability to easily switch modalities between real-time connections and asynchronous messaging. Just as “telephone answering” services let a caller leave a voice message for a failed phone call attempt, now, with UC integrations, voice connections can be initiated from a message or a chat connection.

UC-enablement can be even more useful in providing user access to online (self-service) applications, particularly from mobile devices, as opposed to desktop or portable PCs. For consumers, who were restricted in the past by legacy IVR applications, self-service applications no longer have to start with a phone call. In fact, the reverse is becoming true – online applications are becoming a primary gateway to a voice or chat connection for live customer service.

Many market studies have confirmed that most consumers would prefer direct access to information and business transactions, rather than have to deal with a live person. Of course, such access would have to be simple and easy to use from an interface perspective. That is one area where the combination of speech input (like Apple’s Siri) combined with visual information output would be the fastest and easiest way for a mobile user to interact with an online application. However, the choice of user interface has to be dynamically controlled by the mobile end user, depending on their circumstances, e.g., while driving a car, in a noisy environment, or sitting in a meeting. Such flexibility is now possible with Mobile UC technologies.

Where Is The Greatest UC Payoff Going To Be Found?

While UC has been particularly promoted by telephony vendors to support “collaboration” between team members who need to communicate efficiently regardless of their physical locations, I look at UC enablement having even greater potential when used to support customer services. I haven’t researched the numbers, but I am sure that most business organizations have more “customers” than they have internal employees. That certainly applies to government as well. If you go by the numbers, there will typically be more “customers” benefiting from UC enablement, than internal users. So, there will be more increased productivity, end user satisfaction, and reduced costs coming from customers than just from internal staff.

Add the fact that customers also generate revenue, and the value of UC enablement to serve customers becomes extremely high!

This perspective does highlight the need to seriously consider implementing what I have been calling the “UC Contact Center” to replace legacy call centers. Doing that has recently become significantly easier with the advent of a variety of “cloud”-based services that specialize in contact center applications and integrations for both customers and customer-facing staff, e.g., Echopass. So, if you are seriously concerned about how to migrate your legacy call center operations to the UC-enabled future, start by taking a really hard look at the right kinds of “cloud”-based applications and services.

Monday, August 13, 2012

UC-enabled Unified Messaging And Old "Voicemail"

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

August 12, 2012

Will UC-Enabled Unified Messaging Change Business Voicemail Systems?

Moving premise-based business communications to Mobile UC is going to be challenging to most organizations that have to rethink their needs for telephone (voice)  communications. Not only are there now different ways to communicate, but, with BYOD mobility, the variety of mobile endpoint devices that end users can choose to utilize for both business and person-to-person contacts, requires greater flexibility in all call handling and messaging user interfaces.
This confusion is most evident in how organizations will migrate their old premise-based “telephone answering” needs to exploit the benefits of UC-enabled telephony. These include capabilities such as federated presence management and “click-to-call” connections integrated with all forms of online information and messages. It is not just the new UC capabilities that are of interest, but it’s the old voicemail shortcomings that we have put up with for so long that we can finally get rid of. However, the big challenge is how to migrate from old voicemail systems and culture to the new ways that phone calls can be initiated more efficiently, as well as the way failed call attempts will be dealt with.
In addition to cultural issues and end user education (training), the migration to UC-enabled messaging may require changes in how callers are handled, as well as how call recipients are notified about both incoming calls and messages and their response options. It may very well be that internal users can be trained to do things differently, but external callers (customers, business partners, etc.) will continue initiating phone calls the same way they have always done. Until federated presence is universally available to all end users and they have learned the better ways to initiate person-to-person contacts intelligently and contextually, person-to-person phone calls will remain a staple of business communications. It does take “two to tango!”

The Fundamental Weakness of “Old” Voicemail

Actually, nothing terrible, but it just wasn’t very efficient for end users, especially outside callers.
For openers, in order to leave a voice message, outside callers had to initiate a conversational phone call attempt, wait for the ring count to run down, and then they could leave a voice message. Aside from the cost of the phone call, it was a waste of the caller’s time when all they really wanted to do in the first place was to leave a message, not necessarily have a long conversation. With increasing access to online information, messaging is becoming more practical for all types of users.  Internal users, however could access mailboxes directly with no problem. Today, of course, we also have email and texting alternatives.
I remember deliberately making calls late at night as an outside caller, when I knew the call recipient was gone for the day, to leave a message without having a conversation. I thought it was funny when they didn’t bother changing their recorded message on their voice mailbox, which would usually say something like, “I just stepped away from my desk…” Sure!
In some cases, external callers could be given a “backdoor” main number, which would then allow direct access to a recipient’s mailbox for message deposit, but few organizations bothered to do that or even publicize such capabilities to their outside callers.
There have been a number of new voicemail-related service functions that make things better for call recipients, e.g., options for real-time screening of incoming calls that are leaving voicemail messages, with the option to accept the calls immediately, if desired. More practical, however, is the option for the recipient to have voice messages transcribed to text, which can more be efficiently reviewed and managed than voice, and won’t require manual transcription of important items like numbers, names, etc. Even more features can be expected for call recipients, in terms of notifications and response options.
(It never helped that phone calls could not include information about the purpose of the call, like the subject line of a text message.)

Mobile UC and Caller Needs

However, we need to see more options showing up for “callers,” who will now be using multi-modal smartphones and tablets, not just traditional voice/touchtone desktop phones. Now those “callers” will also be increasingly sending a variety of messages, including voice messages, which can be created easier and faster than by typing text. By UC-enabling such messaging, senders will also have a more convenient and flexible form of initiating contacts that can also transition quickly and more efficiently into voice or video conversations when both parties so desire.   
While we should look forward to continue having “voice messaging” in the future, it can’t be the old “voicemail jail” of the past. Leading technology providers who specialize in voice messaging, such as AVST, are in an ideal position to help migrate legacy voice mail gracefully to the future of UC-enabled, true unified messaging (UM). Hybrid “cloud” based implementations will also provide a convenient way to facilitate the shift from legacy CPE voicemail systems to support the new world of BYOD and Mobile UC. 
I have also commented on what will happen to voicemail in the future in this previous post.     


Saturday, August 04, 2012

Users Need UC-enabled "Dumb" Phones For Mobile Apps

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

August 4, 2012
The mobile world is getting misdirected about the real role of mobile devices that end users are gobbbling up these days. It’s unfortunate that the mobile devices got associated with the label “smart.” It made it easy to think that "smart" mobile devices would do every thing, even though the “smarts” were really based in software somewhere else in the network. Including “phone” in the label merely highlighted the fact that traditional voice telephony capabilities were accessible and integrated with other forms of communication and information (text, video, pictures, etc.).
As a result of this "smartphone" labeling, the traditional telephony carriers have continued their dominance of wired network access into the wireless world and the many mobile devices and “apps” that end users will exploit for both business and personal needs. This, in turn has had a ripple effect on business organizations with the need to support BYOD policies, a variety of “mobile apps” for different types of end users, using various devices, supplied by various service providers and carriers. What a mess!
Mobility is also causing traditional online business process applications to move from the desktop to handheld, mobile device form factors and be supported by a variety of mobile Operating Systems. The combination of devices, mobile operating systems, integration with a variety of business and communication applications has created a complex and impossible challenge for organizational IT to support as they used to with restrictive, premise-based technologies.

Mobile devices cannot be treated like traditional desktop PCs

Mobile end users, whether business users or consumers, want access to both communication applications and information that are flexible enough for their different needs while mobile. Thus, they want selective access via different modalities of contact and different choices of user interface media (visual, voice, touch, etc.). The control of such interfaces, as well as the basic information for securing the identity and authorization of the end user to access information and applications, are really all that must be stored in a mobile device; all the rest of the “smarts” will be provided by a variety of different applications that can be stored in public and private wireless networks, better known these days as “clouds.”
We should have learned our lesson about using ‘dumb” devices back in the early days of he Internet, when end users could access a variety of online, interactive  “time-shared” mainframe computer applications with simple “dumb” teletype terminals. Along came the PC which made “sharing” anything unnecessary, just take responsibility for controlling and supporting individual PC users needs locally. Now we can get back to selectively managing, controlling access, and maintaining application software for both business and communication applications for all types of end users (mobile or desktop) in a centralized and responsive manner. Just make those endpoint devices as  “dumb” as possible, with very “thin” software clients that provide network access to the “smart” software applications in the wireless public and private “clouds.”
I have suggested changing the name of “smart phones” to “app phones,” to reflect the new role of telephony as just part of UC-enabled access to mobile communication and business applications. Just a thought!
This topic will be discussed at length in an upcoming UC Strategies podcast discussion this week on this site, so stay tuned!