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Monday, March 26, 2012

UC Enabled Apps Need "TCU"

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

March 26, 2012

Will Cloud Services and Analytics Shift UC “TCO” To “TCU” and “TCS?”

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

Voice and video communications are joining automated business applications in becoming software rather than hardware dependent. This will facilitate the interoperability and integration of these two groups of computer applications, particularly in a virtual, “cloud” based network environment that will support both desktop and mobile apps.

The transition to hosted services and BYOD mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) will shift the emphasis of technology implementation planning factors from TCO (Total Cost of Ownership), most applicable to acquisition and maintenance of premise-based hardware and software applications, to hosted and managed application service offerings.

While ROI (Return On Investment) is still an overall practical measure of benefits from any technology investment cost, those costs really should be correlated with different types of benefits that have have to expensed. Going to separate levels of benefits and related costs will make it easier to determine how applications can be used most cost effectively and how usage needs should be supported cost efficiently.

New analytics are becoming key tools for tracking application activity that will enable better understanding about who uses what applications, when, and with what results. Analytics can also provide immediate feedback on how well the application is designed from a user interface perspective, as well as indications of workforce performance in using applications by internal staff for their different job responsibilities (“roles”). While the contact center is an ideal target for analytics, it can be applied to everyone in an informational workforce environment.

Total Cost of Usage (TCU)

Probably the most logical metric that should be applied to any application or combination of applications is what I would call “Total Cost of Usage.” The amount of actual usage for any communication of business application is a measure of value for a particular application. Usage analytics will also provide feedback about who (type of user) may be getting the most value from that application; that information provides further insight into the value that application generates for a particular business process.

Putting those factors together will be particularly useful as online, self-service applications become more mobile and highly focused on particular information needs of individual end users. The number of such “public” applications is already humungous, but they are just starting to make their way into enterprise controlled “app stores.” This is where TCU will become important as such “mobile apps” will require constant updating to meet enterprise BYOD needs, as well as operational business demands.

Another perspective on application TCU will be its UC enablement in terms of immediate access to live assistance, e.g., “click-to-call/chat.” This factor will be a major source of additive labor costs, as well as a measure of end user satisfaction (internal staff, external customers). Mobile apps will become a major activity gateway to the UC Contact Center of the future, as increased access to information will precede the need to access assistance. So, the cost of application usage should include costs of optional related assistance.

Total Cost of Application and User Support

Although there may appear to be overlap with the above described usage costs, I am suggesting that support costs here will fall into the more traditional roles of IT for application software maintenance, associated hardware and infrastructure maintenance, new integrations, end user training, and “Help Desk” functions. Again, by applying analytics to application support activities, the value of individual application usage can be matched to support costs.

With the advent of managed, hosted cloud-based services, applications will be increasingly provided to end users through a variety of endpoint devices, many of which will be covered by mobile BYOD policies as far as costs and support are concerned. Further, hosted business services will be provided selectively on a subscription basis, which will facilitate usage management at the application level. However, the value and effectiveness of application use will still have to be carefully evaluated individually by business management.

The new world of UC enabled applications is going to be very flexible, but complex, and will require organizational management especially at the CIO level, to change their perspectives on planning, implementing, and evaluating the use the new technologies.

This post sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network and Avaya


Sunday, March 18, 2012

All Applications Can be "UC Enabled!"

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.
March 18, 2012

UC Is Not An Application!
By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Everywhere you read, you see the label "Unified Communications" (UC) associated with person-to-person telephony, all forms of text messaging, and lately, video conferencing. UC itself is not a product or a service. It is an interoperable capability for improving the efficiency and flexibility of making contact and communicating with people by integrating the various communication and business process "applications" that people use. It doesn't matter what endpoint device is used, desktop, portable laptops, tablets, or smartphones, the applications that can enable people to flexibly communicate in their modality of choice, will be part of "UC."

I see a simple solution to that source of confusion. Rather than use "UC" as a vague noun, we will be better off using it as a standard adjective, i.e., "UC-enabled," for any communication application that is used for person-to-person contacts, as well as any automated business process application that initiates contacts with a human recipient. It is analogous to the term "open" used for standardized software, that can inter-operate/integrate with other system elements.

Different communication products and services can now be described as being 'UC-enabled" to show that they inter-operate with other communication applications at the user's choice of interface (voice, screen). Alternatively, I have simply put the "Unified" label into the name of the basic service or product, e.g., the "UC Contact Center," and "Unified Conferencing." By doing so, I differentiate it from legacy telephony call centers and indicate that different forms of contact and different user interfaces can be accommodated for different groups of end users and business applications.

Telephony, messaging (email, voice mail), chat, automated business applications, conferencing, social networking, can all be labeled as "UC-enabled" when they can seamlessly inter-operate from any user endpoint device in any modality. So, for example, email will be UC-enabled if it can be delivered by text-to-speech, voicemail retrieved as email, and all messaging applications (including IM chat) if they can be escalated to a real-time voice or video connection. Even that old buzzword, "Collaboration" can better be described as "UC-enabled" when it can contextually exploit various forms of communication within the context of the information being shared, not the other way around.

So, let's all start using "UC" as an adjective/modifier rather than as a vague noun for a communication product or service. This should not conflict with the basic business objective for being UC-enabled, i.e., "Communications integrated to optimize business processes." However, each specific communications application will have to be identified and authenticated as being "UC-enabled," and the different user interface options for each business application as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Avaya and RADVISION UC Enable Video Conferencing

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

March 15, 2012

UC Enabled Video Conferencing Won't Require “Two-to-Tango”

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

The big news today was Avaya’s public announcement that it acquired RADVISION, Ltd., a leading provider of video conferencing and telepresence technologies over IP and wireless networks. While we have also seen video conferencing as a growing form of business communication, it has been always viewed as an expensive technology silo. By UC enabling video conferencing, it can now become a more flexible option for individual end users.

Avaya’s announcement today highlighted such UC flexibility in the form of “mixed-mode” conferencing, where individual participants have a choice of dynamic options including:

· “On camera” connection (conversational voice and video)

· Video viewing and voice connection

· Voice-only connection

· Sidebar communications (text messaging)

Such flexibility will be particularly useful for individual mobile users with smartphones and tablets, who may have to participate in a restricted mode because of their environment. This also means that people who want to communicate don’t all have to have identical endpoint devices or communicate in identical modalities.

According to Avaya’s announcement, “RADVISION's SCOPIA Video product line and expertise integrated with the open architecture of Avaya Aura® will bridge existing H.323 communications networks and SIP-based environments, delivering scalability and a user experience designed to be intuitive and easy to operate.”

In addition to supporting mobile devices for UC enabled conferencing, Avaya indicated that the technology was “cloud” ready, i.e., that the technology can be available as a service without investment in premise-based equipment. This combination, coupled with standards-based applications, open infrastructure and endpoints for ad-hoc and scheduled videoconferencing with room-based systems, desktop, and mobile consumer devices, will facilitate the establishment of practical organizational BYOD policy for mobile employees.

During today’s announcement call, I questioned Avaya about the target markets for their UC enabled video conferencing, and these were high on their list:

· Health care and medical devices

· Education markets for distance learning

· Contact center applications

· Financial services

· SMB ad hoc video conferencing

The multimodal, UC battle is on and Avaya is stepping up to the plate.

UC Summit For UC Channels and Consultants

Reseller channels can learn more about where multimodal business communications are going within the expanded context of UC by joining unified communications industry leaders at UC Summit 2012, the only channel and consultant-focused event for the Unified Communications industry.

This unique, invitation-only UC Summit in May, hosted by UC Strategies, is the place for experienced communication technology channels to get objective, expert advice on new business opportunities. This includes learning where UC-enabled applications are going, what leading vendors and service providers are offering in the way of software applications and tools, and opportunities for partnering with other, complementary specialist channels to satisfy the complex UC needs of a user organization.

Invitations are limited, so apply now to qualify for acceptance.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

UC Contact Centers Need Solution Integrators

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

Mobile Apps, Cloud Services, and “Solution Integrators” Make Telephone Contact Centers "Grow Up"

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

The old telephone call center for both inbound and outbound customer contacts is fast transitioning to “UC Contact Centers” in the wake of both new communication technologies, as well as changing consumer needs for more flexible forms of contact. Unified communications is complex because it covers all forms of contact with a person, whether the person is initiating the contact or is the recipient/respondent to a contact.

Inasmuch as organizational call/contact centers deal with communication technologies from both perspectives, as well as with automated and self-service applications, they can benefit the most from UC-enabled flexibilities. So, it is time for legacy call center technology silos to “grow up” and become multimodal through UC-enabled applications. The question is how?

The Why: Mobile Devices Demand “Different Strokes For Different Folks For Different Needs” from Contact Centers

Because consumers (customers, employees, business partners) are rapidly adopting multimodal, mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) for both business and personal contacts and online applications, the role of the traditional enterprise “call center” should no longer be focused just on inbound/outbound telephone calls with customers, internal employee telephone “Help Desks,” or even voice-only, IVR self-service applications. It is time that business contact technologies become interoperable and multimodal for all forms of communication activities, especially for the various types of messaging between people and automated applications (Communications Enabled Business Processes or CEBP).

Even when real-time live assistance is needed, UC-enabled “mobile apps” will facilitate such on-demand access more efficiently and intelligently through simple contextual “click-to-contact” (chat, call, conference) options. In addition, UC and CEBP integrations will be able to exploit mobility’s increased accessibility to people for proactive (outbound) time-sensitive notifications that will make mission-critical business processes more efficient for all end users involved. This will be true whether those end users are internal or external to an organization (business partners, customers). So, the role of the traditional telephone-based contact center operation can be efficiently expanded by being UC-enabled to what I have labeled as the “UC Contact Center.”

The How: What About The “Cloud?”

“Cloud-based” virtualization of software applications and servers is also facilitating implementation of UC because it enables both public and “private” “clouds” to coexist and interoperate across hybrid wired/wireless networks. This network flexibility is what individual end users really need to control and manage all their “dual persona” (personal, business) contacts with a single mobile endpoint device of their choice (BYOD). This interoperability will enable an individual end user to receive a notification alert from anyone, in any form, anywhere, anytime and, most importantly, from any authorized automated business process application, not just from people.

Needless to say, the complexities of UC, combined with the challenge of managing external cloud-based services, has raised concerns with traditional IT management in terms of implementation planning, integration challenges, cost implications, and specific application requirements. Service providers now offer different software components as “cloud” services, including data center infrastructure, operating system platforms, software applications accessible through Web browsers, and, lastly, communications as a service (CaaS or UCaaS), which includes all elements of Internet-based contact connectivity and UC-enabled applications.

Interactive Intelligence recently announced the availability of a free trial of their simplified CaaS contact center applications including analytic performance tools, which can simplify and speed up an organization’s migration to cloud-based technology. This strategy will be particularly useful for trialing new self-service applications, particularly with the help of knowledgeable consultants and Solution Integrators (formerly known as telephony VARs).

The New Role For Old Telephony VARs

The rise of the “cloud,” along with mobile device “BYOD” policies, has also made the migration of premise-based hardware telephony to Mobile UC difficult for traditional Value Added Resellers of telephony equipment. It is changing their old business models, i.e., revenue based on one-time equipment sales and maintenance support, as well as their relationships with communication vendors, other VARs, network services, and cloud service providers. They must now look for new directions and the new opportunities they can find with the combination of UC, mobility, and cloud-based services.

The contact center has always been important for satisfying customer needs for information as well as for live assistance. However the limitations of the telephone for information delivery restricted its value for information access. With smartphones and tablets, those limitations are disappearing and it is time to upgrade the role and value of the contact center accordingly.

Because we see UC adoption in organizations as being driven by the need to optimize business process performance through UC-enabled applications, we expect that there will be new opportunities for traditional telephony VARs to participate in planning, prioritizing, integrating, and trialing UC enabled applications. In addition, they may also help in training end users and managing the performance of those business processes. This will be most applicable to VARs who specialize in those particular vertical markets that can best exploit Mobile UC and “mobile apps”, e.g., health care, financial services, education, field service, emergency response, etc.

This will also require greater skills on the part of VARs, akin to consulting services, which may lead to more partnerships between consultant groups and UC Solution Integrators.

Bottom Line For UC Planning

For these reasons, all business communications must become UC-enabled and interoperable under a common technology framework that will support both mobile and premise-based end users and their different business applications. This will put all legacy call centers on the top of the list for UC migration planning. Customer interactions will likewise be affected by changing CRM issues because of dynamic mobile contacts, both inbound and outbound, as well as the growing role of social networking.

Now is also the time for the enterprise to start trialing mission critical UC-enabled, mobile self-service applications (“mobile apps”) for both customers and for internal users to insure that the user experience will be flexible, efficient, and effective. This will be particularly important for business organizations in order to define new BYOD policies for their mobile operational staff. Such trials can be done more quickly and less expensively by exploiting standards-based, open CaaS/UCaaS offerings, before finalizing procurement and implementation decisions.

UC Summit For UC Channels and Consultants

Reseller channels can learn more about where business communications are going within the expanded context of UC by joining unified communications industry leaders at UC Summit 2012, the only channel and consultant-focused event for the Unified Communications industry.

The unique, invitation-only UC Summit in May, hosted by UC Strategies, is the place for experienced channels to get objective, expert advice. This includes learning where UC-enabled applications are going, what leading vendors and service providers are offering in the way of software applications and tools, and opportunities for partnering with complementary specialist channels to satisfy the complex UC needs of a user organization.

Invitations are limited, so apply now to qualify for acceptance.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

UC Supports "Contextual" Contacts

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

February 24, 2012

The Heart of Business UC: “Contextual Contacts”

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

During a recent discussion with my UC Strategies colleagues, we talked about where and when legacy business telephony will be going as mobility and UC-enabled applications move into the business world. In particular, the discussion revolved around legacy telephony systems based on PBXs and desktop hardphones. It is clear that traditional phone calls won’t disappear, but will be subsumed by desktop softphone interfaces and Mobile UC as an option for communicating more efficiently with people who are often away from a desk.

The vagueness of the term “unified communications” (UC) has caused much confusion in the industry, as business technology vendors try to position their products and services as key to enabling UC interoperability. From the technology perspective, communication application integrations, endpoint device independence, and network connectivity independence play the leading roles for UC implementation planning by IT management. However, with multi-modal UC and personalized BYOD mobility considerations, it is time to use terminology that individual end users and consumers will understand and minimize the need for end user “UC training.”

Bringing Communication Contact Flexibility Down To Individual End User Roles

If you look at the role of the individual end user in any kind of communications, they are either initiating a contact or are the recipient of a contact. Each of those roles exists for every type of end user and the functional flexibility of UC can be applied separately to those two roles. That is really the level that UC functionality has to address, not the particular communication application that is being used.

So, the “contact initiator” needs to be able to communicate with people multi-modally, i.e., real-time or asynchronous connections, text, voice, or video, include information references (voice/text message threads, document attachments, URL links, etc.), single, multiple addressees or whoever is currently associated with the subject matter and is “available” to receive the contact appropriately. This may all sound very intuitively obvious, but without “contact” intelligence and UC flexibility, end users are stuck with blindly initiating contacts that are not efficient or successful. Such communications inefficiencies must be avoided in order to “optimize business processes” that involve people.

Looking at the other side of communications activities, the “recipient” of a contact also has functional needs and responsibilities that need to be managed and supported. First and foremost, recipients have to be made aware of a communication contact of any kind; “notifications” are the common denominator for all types of communications, particularly if they are time-critical. However, notifications are also a form of communication and need flexibility in how they are delivered.

Not only do notifications have to be dynamically delivered in the medium that is most appropriate for a recipient’s restrictive situation, e.g., driving a car, sitting in a meeting, in a noisy or public environment, but also any “urgency” priorities have to be recognized. The latter can include the fact that a response has not been made within a critical time frame/deadline required or expected by the contact initiator.

Personalizing Notification Control

As mobility and the use of automated notifications increase, it will most important for the end user/customer recipients to dynamically control the “what” and “when” of such notifications. So, for example, I would want my bank or credit card company to let me know when certain account thresholds have been reached, as well as when specified account events take place. Collaborative groups will want to be notified that a conference call needs to be set up and scheduled.

Back in the old manual telephone answering service days (before Caller ID and email), subscribers were able to specify “If Message” instructions, that when an expected caller identified them self to an agent, those special instructions for handling that particular caller could be applied, including delivering a specific, personal message to that caller. So, rather than waiting for an “inbound” online contact, a personalized, proactive outbound interaction by a business process application can now be initiated for time-critical situations. This will be facilitated by the recipient’s use of multi-modal mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) that can dynamically accommodate various modes of notification. Health care applications will be a prime target for such capabilities.

From a user experience perspective, of course, all of this has to be extremely simple, “idiot-proof,” and controllable.

Mobility and “Contextual Contacts” To The Rescue

Needless to say, what I am describing would be very difficult or impossible to do with legacy business communications technologies. UC came into the picture as a means of integrating siloed communication applications, but that couldn’t help the lack of flexibility or contact accessibility that Mobile UC needs. It really wasn’t until Apple announced the first multi-modal iPhone back in 2007 that UC could really take off.

However, having more flexible and mobile devices was not enough. Maximizing the benefits of UC involves tapping into personalized “intelligence” that minimizes the efforts of both contact initiators and recipients in performing their respective roles in business communications. That is being accomplished by what I described as “contextual” in a futuristic white paper I wrote for Microsoft back in 2007. Although I discussed “contextual contact initiation,” context will be equally important to contact recipients in order to efficiently manage their increased accessibility via mobile endpoints (smartphones, tablets).

Contextual contacts will be exploited by all types of end users (consumers, business users) as mobility and BYOD policies enable use of personalized multi-modal mobile devices. In addition, desktop users will also be able to simplify “click-to-contact” UC capabilities with contextual intelligence and screen incoming calls and messages based on their own priorities as well as those of the contact initiators. Finally, contextual information can be exploited for traditional messaging exchanges between people and from automated business applications, enabling message status to generate notifications to insure timely responses or alternative contacts (“Contextual Messaging”). This capability will fall under the category of Communications Enabled Business Processing (CEBP).

“Dual Persona” separation of personal communications from job-related contacts will add additional flexibility of end user controls over their contact availability. This is vitally needed to support BYOD mobility policies. Expect to see contextual contact intelligence to be “virtualized” and separated, but also being able to dynamically support new “notification” needs of individual end users, either as initiators or recipients.

Big Question For CIOs

What role should the CIO play in planning for innovative change in business communications, especially in redesigning business applications to exploit CEBP and Mobile UC apps?

This post sponsored by Avaya and the CIO Collaboration Network