Introducing Optimized Communications
For a long time, understanding of the term “unified communications” has been hampered because most vendors define it based on the specific capabilities they provide. They tend to define it based on their particular set of UC tools, rather than on the fundamental UC concepts underlying improving business processes and outcomes. In addition, many communications are not unified, and we still have islands of technologies that are not integrated in a seamless or meaningful way.
A lot has changed since the UC market first came into our consciousness, and several trends have caused businesses to re-evaluate their communication tools.
- Mobility – most workers (and consumers) are mobile, using smartphones and tablets to interact, both inside and outside of the work place.
- Consumerization of IT has changed not only the tools we use in the workplace, including devices such as tablets, but also by providing new ways of engaging and collaborating, such as through social software. Employees want to use the communication tools they want, when they want, and how they want them. Demands and expectations for workers and consumers have changed, and businesses would be well advised to adapt to these changes, because business value can be derived from the effective use of these tools.
- The distributed workforce is the new reality. Teleworking has gone mainstream, and the number of people who work in the company’s office has shrunk, with people working from their homes, satellite offices, and in many cases, coffee shops and hotel rooms. Most knowledge workers work beyond the traditional 8-5, and need the tools to be productive and effective any time of day, from any location.
- Globalization has led to distributed and virtual teams, whereby workgroups and teams need to collaborate across geographic boundaries.
- Collaborative capabilities have become essential both to streamline business processes, and to produce better outcomes. Best practices include extending collaboration to partners, suppliers, and customers.
This has led to a new workplace, with new expectations and requirements. The role of business communications has been transformed. We’re now entering the next phase of business communications, which UCStrategies calls “Optimized Communications” (OC). We define Optimized Communications as the use of a specific selection of communication and interaction tools and technologies for businesses and organizations in order to optimize organizational goal attainment while enhancing the user experience.
Users have the flexibility to use the tools they want, when they want, how they want. Communications and interactions are optimized for the organization as well as for the users (both internal and external to the organization) allowing user choice in terms of:
Device - desk phone, mobile phone, tablet, desktop, etc.
Channel or mode - voice, text, video, web, social, etc.
Consumption model – premise, cloud, or hybrid
The goal is to optimize both the experience and the business results for both the user AND the enterprise. As Marty Parker points out, “Optimization often means lower labor content. In some cases this is through more efficient processes; in others it is because effective solutions encourage convenient self-service alternatives. We have seen both these factors at work in call centers for decades. Optimized Communications provides the opportunity to extend these capabilities into other parts of the organization.”
There are various aspects that must be taken into account:
Interactions and Engagement – It’s all about interacting, engaging, and collaborating with individuals, teams, information, data, processes, even machines. Optimized Communications extend to a variety of business interactions, including contact center and customer care interactions.
Business – it must be business or enterprise grade, providing security, policy, and defined processes.
Communications – It’s all about connecting and sharing ideas and information through various modes and channels, whether in real time or non-real time.
Integration – combining the silos of communications, as well as integrating with business processes and applications.
Personalization – personalized for the individual user's situation and preferences as either a contact initiator or a contact recipient.
Flexible and seamless – it must be location and device independent, with the ability to switch devices and channels as needed (e.g.; being able to continue an interaction when moving from the desktop phone to a mobile device).
Social – using social media tools to drive business value and results by providing connections, information sharing, and engagement through communities.
Context aware – understanding the user’s situation, including contact history, previous interactions, current device and location.
Context is an important element of Optimized Communications. For example:
Users have awareness of the status of the business process they are seeking to advance at the moment, so that minimal time is wasted reviewing, recapping, or re-collecting the necessary information.
Participants in a collaborative session can easily access documents and resources needed both before and during the session, rather than wasting valuable time trying to find the relevant information.
Users can easily search for and connect with the right resource and person with the necessary expertise when needed.
Internal staff, such as customer service reps, know who the customer is, their purchase history, value to the company, as well as who they’ve communicated with at the company, previous interactions on the various channels, and the results of the interactions. In the future, these contact capabilities will extend beyond the contact center to other staff members.
Building on unified communications, Optimized Communications uses the same basic tools and technologies, including call control, conferencing/collaboration, mobility, and messaging, while expanding to include other tools such as social software (both public and private), and whatever else will come down the pike. One key difference, however, is that Optimized Communications focuses not on the technologies, but on how people use the technology to achieve their desired goals and results, whether it’s attending a scheduled meeting, inviting business partners to a collaborative session, helping a customer with a support issue over video, or working with a geographically distributed development team. The differences can be subtle and a matter of perspective:
Too often, UC capabilities have been defined by vendors in a way that serves their own point of view. Optimized Communications is based on the enterprise or organizational perspective, including the relevant participants in each process.
UC is focused on integrating technologies, while OC focuses on achieving organizational goals while providing users with the flexibility and choice in terms of communication tools, while providing information and context to help optimize interactions.
What are your thoughts on Optimized Communications? Is this just a pipe dream? What do you like or not like about it? What’s missing? We’d very much like to hear from you. Please share your comments and let us know what you think.