The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
This section offers learning tools to help you plan your unified communications implementation.
This section provides a practical, vendor-independent service to any Enterprise that is seeking the benefits of Unified Communications. How do you pull everything together to implement unified communications? Use the tools in this sequence to define unified communications for your business.
The Unified Communications industry changes daily. We keep track of it for you.
UCStrategies is an industry resource for unified communications enterprises, communications vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing unified communications arena.
A supplier of objective information on unified communications, UCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of unified communications since its inception.
The bottom line for “unified communications” (UC) is to support individual end user needs to communicate flexibly and efficiently, using all forms of contact with both people and with automated business process applications. This need is particularly pressing for traditional contact center operations, where efficient communications with live assistance is key to customer satisfaction and associated revenues, but self-service applications and automated outbound notifications are also important to the user experience.
As individual consumers and business users increasingly exploit mobile multi-modal smartphones and tablets for web access to information, self-service transactions, “click-to-contact” live assistance, IM chat, web and video conferencing, they will require more flexible interoperability and integrations between all online and communication applications. Such applications are also becoming more “virtual,” rather than premise-based, and becoming “UC-enabled” by integration partnerships between vendors who develop the technologies, service providers, and their respective channel partners that directly sell to and support implementations with customer organizations.
The convergence of communication software technologies with business applications at the endpoint device level is also being fueled by the growing market acceptance of hosted, “cloud-based” services (public, private, or hybrid). This enables cost-efficient, rapid implementation of UC-enabled software applications, as well as a flexible environment for supporting customizations and integrations with existing premise-based telephone systems and messaging systems.
The increasing role of social networking and customer “communities” for tracking and supporting customer needs is another driver for integrating such activities in the contact center and CRM environment. While “Social Business” is still evolving, social networking tools are rapidly becoming a “must have” for the UC-enabled Contact Center to support customer communities and reflect the “voice of the customer.”
Clearly, the Contact Center, like UC, is complex and changing, and organizations are looking for a reliable, evolutionary, integrated, and “open” solution set, rather than solution silos. Since UC enabled applications will come from different sources and have to be supported in a “unified” way, it will make sense to exploit integrated “best of breed” applications and services, but only if the heavy lifting of interoperability and shared “contextual” information is taken care of.
There are many practical cost-saving reasons why the flexibility and efficiencies of UC-enabled applications will be useful for any business process, but supporting customers is where the revenues are. Increasing productivity and performance of customer-facing staff, including subject matter experts and authorization management, are fundamental objectives for efficient contact center operations. However, wherever “smart” business process technology can also improve customer satisfaction that can generate more revenue or prevents unnecessary financial loss, that should clearly impact the bottom line for any organization.
To make online and self-service applications easier and faster, both for mobile users and desktop agents, requires UC-enabled applications to be “smarter,” exploiting available contextual information about the end users/customers needs and to facilitate efficient contacts and responses.
So, the “UC-enabled Contact Center” is a common denominator for managing and expediting all business communications with people and associated work flows, both inside and outside of an organization. It now involves more than the telephony contacts and live people of the legacy “call centers,” to satisfy the dynamic information needs of mobile end users and customers. This is why everything is coming together at an application service level in public, private and hybrid “clouds.” The major software vendors that provide premise-based software applications are all already providing or planning to provide “open” systems that can optionally be made available as a service, can support most popular endpoint devices, and which are wired/wireless network agnostic.
Two leading vendors in the business communication markets, IBM and Interactive Intelligence, have seen the light of UC convergence, and have jumped in with both feet to partner in supporting the concept of the “UC Contact Center”. That means that they:
In this case, it is the integration of IBM Sametime software with the Interactive Intelligence Customer Interaction Center® (CIC)
One of the most common situations that contact center agents deal with is the need to involve a third-party during a real-time call with a customer. That third-party might be a subject matter expert that can answer a particular question raised by the customer, requires a customer’s request be authorized by appropriate management, or needs checking with a field service person to verify information for the customer. (See the video)
Rather than trying to blindly transfer the caller to someone else, the agent can find out who is currently available to answer the question, contact that person with a quick chat or voice/video call to get the information, or then have options for transferring the caller to the third party or conferencing them together. What is key to the collaborative aspect of the example is that the third-party can also have access to the necessary contextual information about the caller, which can be derived from basic customer information files, as well as from dynamic contact activity data.
In effect, everyone in an organization, and even external business partners and supply chain providers can now be considered part of the contact center operation that can interact and support customer needs on demand. At the other end of the spectrum, the UC-enabled Contact Center will also support internal users, e.g., replace the old “Help Desk” with more flexible ways of accessing assistance and working collaboratively on the end user’s problem.
What is particularly exciting is that the flexible “UC Contact Center” can be premise-based, private or public cloud based, or a hybrid combination. Cloud-based applications can be particularly convenient for supporting agents working from home (telecommuting), or experts, business partners, and customers, etc. who are mobile and still need to flexibly communicate and collaborate with each other, whenever necessary. This will be particularly important with self-service business applications and “mobile apps” that can all exploit “cloud-based” accessibility and manageability, as well as “click-to-contact” assistance.
Of course, the migration to “cloud-based” applications can be selectively done by any organization, based on their operational needs. The “virtualization” of desktop software is already taking place and can be exploited for a variety of contact center applications, including online and mobile self-services for different types of end users. IBM has already announced its line of IBM PureFlex packaged private cloud platforms, along with its IBM PureApplication software-as-a-service that can provide a variety of virtualized applications, using multiple operating systems, to support pre-configured, integrated services from an enterprise data center.
IBM has not really gotten into all UC-enabled applications and has been relying on inter-working with the vendors of real-time voice and video communication application. Their cloud solutions therefore won’t solve all the business communications needs of an organization, but can provide a convenient implementation and support space for integrating, hosting, and managing their applications with other UC–enabled services. However, the “cloud” environment will be open to other software application competitors as well.
The example of IBM and Interactive Intelligence is just a sample of what has already started taking place in the entire business communications industry. We will see everyone starting to partner with everyone else, because UC is broad enough and complex enough that everyone will benefit from partnering at various levels of implementation. In addition to improved business process performance and productivity, user organizations will find their operational costs will also be optimized with UC-enabled applications.
All Content Copyright © 2013 UCStrategies.com. All rights reserved.
Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?