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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!