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.
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“BPM” stands for “Business Process Management,” and I got introduced to it in a funny way a few weeks back. I was contacted by an editor for the web site ebiz, who asked if I would like to be interviewed for an article she was writing on “Mobile BPM.” Always the publicity hound I readily agreed, but then had to ask, “What’s BPM?” The editor was good enough to forward some links to me and what I found out was there’s a lot of overlap between BPM and UC.
According to ebiz, “Business process management is a structured, systematic approach to improving business processes, typically interactions between people and machines. Goals include improving efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, and agility to foster innovation, boost quality, speed up delivery and improve customer satisfaction.” What first caught my eye was the tie in with UCStrategies’ definition of UC, which is, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.”
While the focus on business processes in UC is clearly geared toward processes that depend heavily on communications in its various forms, BPM’s focus is wider – honing in on interactions between people and machines. There is also a lot more “stuff” surrounding it including standards like Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN) 2.0 and Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). Our colleague Marty Parker of UniComm Consulting has developed his own equally effective action planning tools for UC deployments.
What struck me most about it, however, is the fact that we’ve been talking about things like this for longer than I can remember and we are still not that far along. When I was studying “Management Information Systems” (what we called “IT” back in the day) in graduate school back in the late 1970s, we talked about the complementary roles of Business Analysts and Systems Analysts.
The Business Analyst was essentially cast as the bridge between business unit managers and the folks who would provide the technology to support those activities. It was the Business Analyst’s job to work with the business managers to understand the processes, develop the overall plan for how computer technologies (primarily mainframe-based applications back in those days) could be used to make those processes more efficient and functional. Once the overall approach was agreed upon, it would be communicated to the Systems Analysts who would translate it into the type of technical flow charts that programmers could work from.
Fast forward 30 years, and we’re still talking about the same thing only now the whole business is dressed up in a fancier set of terms and “systematic approaches.” The reason the idea hasn’t died is that this is still what we should be doing in IT – if we had the time and the budget. IT professionals bring a very extensive understanding of computer and communications systems, technologies, and practices whereby they can be used most effectively. Business managers just need to get their jobs done.
Forward-looking (and well-funded) IT departments can dedicate the necessary resources to work with business units to understand and optimize their business processes through the judicious use of computer and communications technologies. However, all too many are “barely” funded, and all available resources must be focused on the core tasks of keeping things running, managing upgrades, and fighting fires.
Hopefully businesses will come to see the value of thinking about technology in the terms we do for both BPM and UC and recognize that “optimizing business processes” is about looking at the problem from a business standpoint and using the technology in the most effective way. In the end, business process improvement comes about by understanding the job and thinking creatively about how it can be done better, not by “piling on the technology.”
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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?