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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If you have been reading the reviews of Cisco’s recent big conference of analysts, channel partners, and consultants in L.A., you will see the marketing emphasis is focused on “end user experiences,” rather than just technology cost savings. Although Cisco highlights “collaboration” as the epitome of their technology benefits, they really are going after all types of business interactions that UC enablement supports. That includes both people contacts as well as automated business applications.
As noted by my colleague, Blair Pleasant, since 95 percent 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.
What was not discussed very much was the impact of mobility and UC-enablement on 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 mobile users whose needs will constantly change dynamically. As “BYOD” policies, coupled with “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 change significantly.
When we talk about “end user,” we now have to include consumers/customers, who are all now able to access online applications from their personal 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.
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 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 low-cost local Wi-Fi networks for information and people access. Although enterprise organizations may still provide their own premise-based Wi-Fi facilities, the real world of BYOD users includes all consumers who can now exploit online access to self-services and live assistance.
To accommodate mobile 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 mobile applications move into the clouds, UC enablement will 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.
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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?