The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
This section offers learning tools to help you plan your unified communications implementation.
This section provides a practical, vendor-independent service to any Enterprise that is seeking the benefits of Unified Communications. How do you pull everything together to implement unified communications? Use the tools in this sequence to define unified communications for your business.
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Marty Parker recently posted a great article on NoJitter.com describing how many companies have not deployed the UC capabilities they have already purchased. Is that your situation?
In summary, Marty points out that vendors are increasingly including the licenses for UC capabilities in bundles with other mainstream communications platform software licenses. This means that many companies already have all or much of the licensing they need to take advantage of UC opportunities.
Here are just two examples, representative of the ways many vendors are doing this sort of bundling. For Microsoft, the Enterprise CAL (Client Access License) Suite includes the Microsoft Lync 2010 Standard and Enterprise CALs. Further, the Office Professional Plus license includes the license for the Lync client. Together, these enable rapid deployment of many UC-U (User Productivity) capabilities, such as presence, instant messaging, click-to-communicate peer-to-peer voice and video communications, desktop sharing, federation, voice or video conferencing, and integration to Outlook and other Office tools. You may need to add Lync hardware, but you already own the user and server licenses.
The situation is similar for Cisco. The Standard Edition Cisco CUWL (Cisco Unified Workplace License) includes presence, IM, and a desktop client with Jabber. This enables peer-to-peer voice, video, and desktop sharing, the mobile client, and simultaneous ringing of desk and mobile phones. The desktop client integrates to Microsoft Lync, and there are plug-ins available for IBM Notes, and Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint. The Professional Edition CUWL adds voice, video, and web conferencing and a mobile voice client. Again, you may need some additional servers, but you may own much or all of the licensing required.
When enterprises modernize their infrastructure, upgrade their desktop environment, or install a new IP-PBX, the focus of the purchase usually isn’t on unified communications. Often, the goodies buried in the license bundles just come along for the ride. As a minimum, enterprises should make these tools available, if just for the UC-U functionality.
While that approach will certainly bring some benefits, there are often much more powerful opportunities available. The question is what is the best way to find them? Our consulting experience is that the UC-U approach can serve as a good base for getting familiar with the capabilities. But the real benefits come from identifying ways to integrate communications directly into the business processes.
The approach we use is to work with line-of-business managers and business analysts to understand how employees use communications in the tasks they do every day. We find that patterns emerge – use cases. In most companies a total of five to seven use cases define the communication and collaboration functions for most of the staff. Yet some of those communication activities are frequently characterized by inefficiencies or breakdowns. The disruptions that these breakdowns can cause are often unnoticed because “that’s just how things work.” But the bottom-line impact can be significant when streamlining communications cuts days out of cycle times for routine processes, or enables teams to work together much more effectively toward project goals.
This is where the new tools of unified communications can often make a difference. These new capabilities can be integrated directly into a UC-B (Business process) application to solve an existing communications bottleneck.
There are several ways that UC tools can accomplish this goal. Sometimes, it’s just the ability to find an individual who can answer a question immediately – similar to first-call resolution in a contact center, or get approval for the next step in a business process. Using presence and IM is an improvement; but today presence usually means a “buddy list” – individuals that someone knows. Even better is to organize that list by skills rather than by names. Your buddy may not be available to answer, but someone you don’t know is equally qualified to help and available.
In other cases, it’s changing typical ways of doing things to take advantage of UC’s new capabilities. Collaborative workspaces can support a project team driving toward a goal – capabilities include repositories of documents relevant to the project, persistent meeting rooms, logs of interactions for subsequent review, easy ways to convene scheduled and ad hoc meetings, and much more.
For some use cases, these tools work best as desktop applications; for others, integrated into their mobile communications devices. For employees who mostly work within a business application, the best answer may be to embed communications and collaboration capabilities directly inside that application software. Consider someone processing insurance claims. When an issue comes up that requires an expert consultation, the software knows the nature of the claim, and is aware of the context of the issue by knowing where the worker is in the process. When the worker presses the “I need help” button, the software might bring up a just-in-time help page, or locate and connect with an expert who can resolve the issue.
The point of Marty’s article is that access to the capabilities to bring about these important changes is more readily available than many enterprises realize. You may already have the licenses to enable you to significantly change how work gets done through implementation of unified communications and collaboration capabilities. In some cases, it’s little more than turning on the feature and letting people know it’s there. In other cases, it’s organizing to discover the use case opportunities and implementing them. As has been shown in hundreds of case studies, the bottom line benefits of UC implementations are significant.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?