Embedding Communications in Applications
I’m often asked why unified communications isn’t ubiquitous, and what it will take to get more utilization of UC and collaboration tools. The answer is clear – in most cases, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) is too difficult and is still a separate activity from the way we work and do our jobs. The key to more utilization is to embed the UCC capabilities into the applications and business processes we use to do our jobs, making it easy to access these capabilities. If UCC becomes a natural part of the way we work, and is part of the applications we use to do our jobs, then its usage will skyrocket.
For the most part, UCC solutions have been deployed as part of the PBX or a software-based communication system that becomes its own silo. When you need to contact someone, you stop what you’re doing and go to your UCC client or dashboard, look in your contact list to see if someone is available, and then initiate communications. This is great, and has benefitted many end users and organizations. However, UCC solutions can be much more powerful when integrated with business applications and processes, rather than as a separate silo.
If you’ve been following UCStrategies, you know that we define UC as “communications integrated to optimize business processes,” and distinguish between two type of UC applications:
- UC-U, which focuses on individual user productivity, and
- UC-B (Business Process), where UC functionality is embedded or integrated with specific business processes and applications.
When tied into the business processes and applications companies use in their day-to-day business operations – whether CRM, Office applications, or custom programs – the benefits of unified communications are even more significant.
Wasted communication time can lead to missed critical deadlines, financial loss and missed business opportunities. UC helps to reduce "human latency" in business processes by integrating communication functions directly into the systems and applications that people use to do their jobs. Decisions can be made faster, products can be brought to market sooner, customer inquiries and problems can be resolved faster – all of which impact the bottom line in terms of improved competitive business position, reduced costs of doing business, increased or faster revenue generation, and increased profitability.
By embedding real-time communications into the business applications you use every day, organizations can save time and money, while increasing individual and team productivity. Embedded communications lets workers find the appropriate people, determine their presence and availability status, and have a real-time interaction with them using voice, chat, and even web or video conferencing with document sharing.
As we move to the cloud, it becomes easier to embed communication and collaboration into applications like ERP or CRM. The two primary ways of delivering embedded UCC in the cloud are:
- Directly embedding UCC inside of cloud applications like Jive, SalesForce.com, Google Apps, etc. When in the application, the user may see a tab or button that lets them access the UCC capabilities from within the app, without having to leave the application and go to a separate UCC client or interface.
- Embedding UCC inside of the browser. From a desktop perspective, the browser is where people communicate and collaborate. Delivering the communications inside of the browser lets the user open the UC client from within the browser, providing one-click access to the UCC capabilities. This makes the UCC capabilities accessible from more applications. The same user experience can be delivered inside the browser on the desktop or on a mobile device. For example, by using a browser plug-in that authenticates with Zendesk, Salesforce.com or another cloud-based CRM applications, users can log in to their profile from any computer or browser and access all of their contacts to set up a meeting or collaborative sessions. Depending on the browser used, the browser becomes the collaboration client and creates integration to the application.
When getting started, look for the applications that can provide an easy win, such as CRM or sales applications. Develop the value proposition for that application and then expand to other applications. For example, you may want to start with the sales group using UCC tools embedded into Salesforce.com, and then expand to marketing or R&D teams using other applications. Also, consider using cloud-based applications, which make it easier to integrate and embed UCC capabilities, providing a more immersive experience.
One of the vendors focusing on embedded communications is Esna Technologies. I’ll be presenting a webinar with them on June 4. You can register here. I hope to see you there!