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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.