Why “Mobile First” Means “Messaging First” For Business UC
As end users increasingly rely on multimodal smartphones and tablets for most of their communication and information needs, it is shifting the old person-to-person communication game away from legacy business telephone calls to more flexible and manageable messaging options. It’s not that voice (and video) conversations will disappear, but they won’t be the disruptive and inefficient starting point for business contacts that they have been in the past.
Because mobile users will be more “accessible,” doesn’t mean they are more “available” to communicate in real-time, and that is a key reason that near real-time messaging, like Instant Messaging (IM chat) and even email notifications, is rapidly displacing PSTN phone calls for initial business contacts. In addition, if a contact recipient can’t talk for a variety of practical reasons (in a meeting, noisy, public environment, etc.), they can still communicate via text and visual information exchange. As business communications become “mobile first” for both contact initiators and contact recipients, we should expect to see all forms of messaging being the starting points that can lead to a real-time conversational voice or video connection. That would require federated presence availability first, which messaging doesn’t.
So, as we see PSTN voice becoming VoIP and joining other communication modes as IP communications, users will be able to initiate multimodal messaging contacts more easily and cost efficiently with their mobile and desktop endpoint devices, and then escalate to a voice or video conversation, as needed. That has always been the essence of what we have been calling “unified communications” (UC), but, until we had the flexibility of multimodal endpoint devices to handle the dynamic needs of mobile users, UC never really took off.
The Expanding Role of “Multimodal Unified Messaging” for UCaaS
Now that there are many ways to send and receive asynchronous messages in near real-time, anywhere and anytime with mobile devices, we really have to rethink what “unified messaging” (UM) is all about. Until recently, UM was included as one of UC’s functions, where voice calls generated voice mail messages that could be stored and retrieved along with email messages. It even extended to voice mail messages being optionally converted to text messages by the recipient because text is faster to read and manage than voice messages.
Since there are many kinds of message services, ranging from short social network text messages to text messages with multimedia attachments (e.g., email), such messages are now providing practical context for generating person-to-person response messages or for real-time contacts. The key to putting all forms of messages together for flexible retrieval and selective modes of response by different types of authorized end users, is to store them in a secure, unlimited storage network environment, rather than in separate, legacy premise-based messaging systems. In that way, a “unified messaging” service can be more multimodal and support the dynamic needs of both message senders and recipients, regardless of location or endpoint device types.
Messaging and CEBP
As I have frequently pointed out, business communications are not just about person-to-person contacts, but, with the rapid adoption of multimodal mobile devices, must also include personalized interactions with auomated business process applications. This is where a business application will initiate a notification or alert message to an individual user, which, in turn, will enable the recipient to quickly and flexibly respond to the application or to a person asociated with that application.
This capability has long been labeled as “Communications Enabled Business Process” (CEBP), but until multimodal mobile devices came along, never really went anywhere. With smartphones and tablets being used by most consumers and business users, they are all now accessible for personalized time-sensitive notification messages from authorized business process applications.
Needless to say, message recipients must be able to selectively retrieve and respond to all their incoming messages, regardless of the original medium or source. In addition, business messages of all types can’t always disappear after being retrieved, but should be retained in order to provide ongoing context for further interactions, as well as for documenting business activities.
Some of the new communication service offerings are providing such persistent capabilities for both messaging and real-tme calls, as noted in my recent post. Again, the kind of unlimited storage required for “persistent” communications can now be practically and cost efficiently accommodated in cloud services associated with UCaaS.