What’s Wrong With This Picture of UC?

What’s Wrong With This Picture of UC?

By Art Rosenberg August 22, 2014 3 Comments
Art
What’s Wrong With This Picture of UC? by Art Rosenberg

As UC technology increasingly expands into the business marketplace, it means that more end users are beginning to take advantage of its capabilities for flexible communications. This movement is being driven heavily by mobile users who now have mobile, multimodal endpoint devices that can support all forms of communications between both people and between automated business processes and people. That last point is particularly important, because it highlights the benefits of minimizing the need for requiring other people to always be involved in delivering information or in performing simple online transactions. (Faster, more efficient "self-services!")

In a recent report published by Wainhouse Research and authored by Senior Analyst, Bill Haskins, there was a nice attempt to help organizations plan a UC implementation, based on the needs of different types of end users. There is no question that UC capabilities will vary from user to user, as well as under their dynamically changing circumstances. So UC functionality is not something that is "fixed," but must be dynamically available as a service to all types of end users, whether inside or outside of an organization. That means that whether an end user is an employee, a business partner, or a consumer/customer, they all need the benefits of UC for their interactions with others. In this context, UCaaS in “clouds” becomes very practical for implementation planning.

What is most important, however, is that with direct mobile access to online information and transactions, we can't keep thinking that UC applies only to person-to-person contacts. Furthermore, when it comes to person-to-person contacts, we can't limit such communications to just “real-time" connections. With increased user accessibility through different modes of communications, we are seeing a dramatic increase in various modes of asynchronous and near real-time messaging, including email, mobile texting (SMS), business process notifications, voice/video messaging, and social messaging. With text-to-speech and speech recognition technologies, we are also seeing the ability for message senders to create messages with voice, but the messages are sent and/or independently retrieved and responded to in text or voice by the recipients. 

The point here is that messaging is a major element of business communications and also a key component of UC, typically referred to as "unified messaging" (UM). Being able to switch from a telephone call attempt to a voice message is an old telephone answering technology that's been around for decades, but limited by the old, voice-only Telephone User Interface (TUI). Now that end users have multimodal capabilities with smartphones and tablets, the door is open to handle all forms of visual messaging and information exchange, which can, if needed, be escalated to a real-time voice or video connection "contextually." That is what UC flexibility is really all about!

So, Where's UC Messaging?

What is unfortunate about the Wainhouse white paper is that it doesn't say a single word about messaging of any kind, other than IM capabilities. IM is definitely important and a practical stepping point to voice/video conferencing, but still suffers from the limitations of requiring federated presence in dealing with contacts outside of an organization. But, even if that problem is eliminated, the need to communicate asynchronously is still an important part of the UC picture.

The real world user needs for different modes of communication is well described in the Wainhouse paper, but limited to real-time contacts only. The easiest fix for that is to simply add the messaging options to their current list of real-time communications for analysis. Not only will this reflect a true balance of communication modes, but it will also show the practical path for interoperability needs between synchronous and asynchronous usage. 

The good advice in the Wainhouse report for evaluating different user communication needs is fine, but UC HAS to include the power of asynchronous messaging options as well. This will include messaging activities between automated business process applications and people (notifications), which will produce further efficiencies by providing more "context" for users when they need to follow up with other people. This is just like forwarding a text message with attachments does in email. With smartphones and tablets, we can have our real-time conversational voice "cake,” and "eat" our visual information, too!

Just trying to be constructive about properly defining the role of “UC” in business communications!

 

3 Responses to "What’s Wrong With This Picture of UC?" - Add Yours

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Art Rosenberg 8/25/2014 8:53:44 AM

Just saw another example of preaching the gospel of planning for UC that doesn't include the role of messaging. This is a Ziff Davis white paper is aimed at IT management to help them understand what is different about UC from legacy and IP telephony. Some of the constructive suggestions are very valid, but, like the Wainhouse report, the emphasis is on UC integrating person-to-person "real-time and near real-time modes into a common interface."

Another major "sin of omission" in the Ziff Davis white paper is that it neglects to consider the mobile UC needs of different types of end users, something that the Wainhouse report tackled head-on. Their focus was on the business process, but not on the needs of the individual end users involved in the business process. Looking at a business process, without looking at the individual end user roles and interaction needs in the process, makes no sense at all!

http://hosteddocs.ittoolbox.com/zdwpguide_making-sense-of-unified-communications.pdf

(BTW, the Wainhouse report can be found at:
http://cp.wainhouse.com/download/19155/wr-guide2unified-end-user.pdf?redirect=node/95488)

The Ziff Davis paper is another attempt to educate IT management in order to help them protect their future role in selecting and implementing cloud-based UC services. My view is that the lead will be taken by independent consultants who can objectively help business management first define and prioritize business process "use cases" as a first step. This must be done before committing to any UC technology implementation and integrations with legacy telephony systems and PSTN and IP networks for wired and wireless connectivity .
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Kepa Ayerbe 8/29/2014 4:19:11 AM

Hi Art, interesting article showing the needs to give more power and flexibitilty to the new UC technologies and needs.
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Art Rosenberg 9/3/2014 11:19:39 AM

Bill Haskins, from Wainhouse Research, recently gave an interesting presentation comparing Microsoft and Cisco approaches to UC. This time he acknowledged the role of asynchronous messaging in UC. However, because he was targeting the enterprise IT management audience, he focused primarily on person-to-person end users within an organization.

Bill's presentation highlights the facts of life of UC evolution, meaning it is still evolving. Go to this link to see it:

http://wainhouse.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/c1fec42508bd467e8decc77e755add0d1d

As you may know, I consider the role of UC flexibility to be much broader than just internal person-to-person contacts, and must also include all modes of contact between an internal end user with external business partners, interactions between customers and live assistance, as well as CEBP "notifications" from and responses to automated business process applications. The challenge for doing all this and still satisfy different BYOD demands of end users, is not simple, and is one of the drivers for moving everything into a "cloud' environment to eliminate data storage limitations and maximizing ease of integrations and implementations with customized "mobile apps".

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