There’s UC Gold In Them There Mobile Business Apps!
When I first started using the term “unified communications” (UC), I was simply trying to expand the old domain of “unified messaging” (UM) to include initiating real-time telephone calls from a message. We had long been doing the reverse, creating voice mail messages from a failed telephone call, and I thought it was time to push the concept further by allowing recipients to easily respond to their voice messages more flexibly.
In the meantime, business communications have expanded to include video calls and near-real time text messaging, social messaging, but, most importantly, presence-based Instant Messaging (IM). IM is increasingly replacing legacy PSTN calls and becoming the practical starting point for real-time, person-to-person business contacts, through the growing adoption of UC platforms like Microsoft Lync Server or Lync Online available with cloud-based Microsoft Office 365. Unfortunately, however, IM presence information is still limited to end-users within the same organization, unless they are “federated” with other organizations through intercompany “cloud” services like NextPlane.
While IM and presence is very important for end-users to flexibly initiate person-to-person contacts with specific people in their organization or in other organizations they are federated with, there is yet another practical use for UC and federated presence to be applied to end users and consumers who need live assistance while using online self-service apps, particularly “mobile apps.” I have written about this in many of my posts, because it highlights the reduced costs and customer satisfaction benefits of UC flexibility in providing live Mobile Customer support.
UC in Business “Mobile App” Development
Everywhere you look in mobile technology development, you will see the huge opportunities that are being promoted for mobile app developers. While such mobile apps can target the large individual consumer market, they also can be developed by organizations specifically for their different types of end users, i.e., internal users (employees), their business partners, or for authorized customer/consumer use. Clearly, there will be many customized “mobile apps” evolving in the new “mobile first” environment of business communications.
The key to successfully exploiting mobile apps for online business self-services is to provide flexible options for the mobile end user to “click-for-live assistance” whenever there is a question or problem with the “mobile app.” Amazon’s “Mayday Button” for their Kindle Fire tablet is a simple example of that approach. That is where IM and presence come into play in initiating flexible contact with live support. Unlike traditional call center technology that required a real-time telephone connection, IM connectivity is “near real-time” to begin with, but allows escalation to voice or video connectivity when necessary to available participants. For many situations where the contact initiator doesn’t require an immediate response, multimodal messaging is now the most practical form of mobile communications.
Opportunities for Consultants and Channel Partners
Organizations of any size and in all vertical markets will need assistance in designing and developing UC-enabled “mobile apps” for their different types of end users. That includes employees, business partners, and consumer customers. Consultants, particularly “vertical” market specialists, can help identify and prioritize “use case” needs, as well as recommend “cloud” based service vendors and mobile application developers. Channel partners and vendor professional services can do the heavy lifting required to design, integrate, and customize mobile business apps for legacy, premise-based technologies, where necessary, as well as manage ongoing software changes and updates that will be required operationally.
Rather than going to just IT management, it is LOB management that will be the starting point for identifying new business “mobile apps.” They will be the ones who know “who” is important in key business processes and what their “mobile app” and communication needs might be. Once those needs are identified and prioritized, implementations can be initiated and trialed before being made selectively available to different end-users. Because there will be many useful mobile apps that an organization can develop for its different end users, there must be a well-organized planning effort to go down this migration path from existing business communications.
So, go for the future, not the past!