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Arthur M. Rosenberg

[May 11, 2004]


By Art Rosenberg

Enterprise Telecommunications “Macro-productivity” Comes Into Focus

Two years ago, we wrote a "think piece" in preparation for discussions with a leading telecommunications provider on developing new technology for measuring the productivity benefits of improved and timelier communications between people. The world was starting to grapple with a way to cost-justify migrating from voice mail to “unified messaging” on the basis of individual user time-savings productivity, primarily as a message recipient (“micro-productivity”). However, we suggested that individual time-savings were just a starting point and that effective business telecommunications required new metrics for all forms of personal contact and responsiveness under the label of “unified communications.” (Now better termed “unified telecommunications?”) This would allow enterprise organizations to track and quantify the bottom-line results of task-related communications activities for what we called group “macro-productivity.” Correlating such new communication metrics with the results of enterprise business processes could then help quantify the payoff to the enterprise as a whole.

At that time, however, the technology for convergence and multi-modal communications really wasn’t working yet, although we foresaw the potential of SIP and presence management technology to provide both functionality and new tools for management. Unfortunately, with the bottoming of the telecommunications market, our project was tabled indefinitely. Rather than let them go to waste, we published our thoughts as a white paper and gave it away to anyone who was interested in our vision.  (For a copy of that white paper, send me an e-mail at [email protected].)

Now that IP-based communications are finally coming to market, we are seeing signs of progress in trying to quantify the benefits of timely, “always-on” personal communications management to support enterprise business process productivity. Most recently, two new market studies sponsored by Siemens (news), in cooperation with IBM (news) and Accenture (news) respectively, do a credible job of attempting to correlate the benefits of more efficient real-time communications between people with both cost savings and improved group task performance of traditional business processes.

What is most refreshing is that these studies, like our original white paper, are focused on time-sensitive productivity benefits that end users may get in the performance of their business responsibilities in conjunction with other enterprise personnel, customers or business partners and suppliers. Such benefits end up reducing operational costs of doing business, not just the costs of communications technology management and usage, as well as maximizing traditional business opportunities for generating revenues more quickly.  

The information produced in the Siemens-sponsored studies is based on analyzing the activities of enterprise managers in various vertical markets and are estimates of perceived benefits of more real-time interactions. We believe that these initial results also confirm the need for management tools and metrics that will provide better quantification of user communications activities and their performance.

The two studies focused principally on enterprise users who are typically “remote” from their offices or “mobile” (on the go), because they are the ones that often have the most difficulty in being contacted and/or successfully initiating contacts.  The pilot projects studied by Accenture included field service activities, sales and supply chain management, all of which can impact customers, the critical source of every business’s revenues.

While not everyone involved in a business process is remote or mobile, we all know that personal communication availability and accessibility are interdependent, and both may be constrained by the modality of communication (voice, text, real-time) available to all communicants. It is here that maximum flexibility in person-to-person communications is now required to insure efficient and effective access to people, regardless of the circumstances and the methods of communication.

As pointed out in the Siemens-IBM white paper, the “ideal” communication environment may be where everyone is sitting in the same room, looking at the same information, and thinking about the same problem. (Of course, they shouldn’t all be trying to talk at the same time!) In the real world, that is simply not practical, so we settle for people telecommunicating when they can, both synchronously (voice/video conferencing, instant messaging) and asynchronously (e-mail, voice mail, wireless text messaging). So, it is here that telecommunications technology has to become more flexible and efficient in order to minimize any form of people interaction delays caused simply by differences in the modality of contact.

Similarly, multi-modal access to database information and online data transactions provided through automated enterprise business applications are also necessary for completing time-sensitive tasks. This means that mobile and remote users need to gain immediate access to different kinds of information or data transactions, regardless of the interface device modality they utilize.

Conversely, for time-sensitive important information delivery, such as notifications and alerts, business application processes must also be able to initiate a communication contact to deliver such messages (“application messaging”) and/or enable a subsequent “push transaction” without knowing where the recipient is or what device interface modality is required. 

Both studies produced examples of people’s time productivity, cost-savings benefits and quality of final results that can be realized through more efficient, converged telecommunications for selected business processes (tasks) associated with enterprise operations.

The IBM report focused upon productivity “scenarios” benefit estimates for four core typical business process operations:

  Time savings Cost Savings Quality
 Software sales 7% 20% 25%
Industrial production 25% 26% 15%
Product rollouts 40% 20% 5%
Customer care/service 20% 24.5% 5%

The Accenture study drilled down further into three typical core processes that can benefit the most in any business operation, by examining the needs of individual users and communication infrastructures within each of these operation areas:

  • Field operations management
  • Sales management
  • Supply chain logistics

One of the metrics reported on in the studies was that of “quality.” This can be characterized as “doing things right the first time.” That means having all the facts and up-to-date information available, including opinions from qualified people, before making decisions and taking actions that may be faulty.

Needless to say, the estimates of benefits presented in the reports are only examples and guidelines for where the next-generation of converged technology is taking enterprise telecommunications. Clearly there will be significant benefits, but, as pointed out in the studies, they don’t come automatically by virtue of the technologies themselves. They have to be deployed strategically and managed effectively on an ongoing basis because the benefits are so dependent on people and their actual communication usage. The studies stressed the fact that the benefits of automating business application processes have been pretty much maxed out, and it is now time to look at integrating “telecommunication applications” to derive further operational benefits from computer and network  technologies.

As usual, the question of managing enterprise productivity is laid at the door of business executive management who are responsible for overall business directions and improving overall enterprise productivity. A second audience for the studies includes technology and operational management, whose job is to implement telecommunications technologies and insure effective usage of these technologies.

While the industry has been promising “new” communications applications, the reality is that those applications are not really new. What the new technologies are offering are some new functionality which will make those old applications perform more effectively for the end users, as well as more cost efficiently from an infrastructure perspective. So, this means that, once business executives understand why convergence is necessary to improve enterprise productivity at both the individual “micro” level and the group “macro” level, technology and operations managers must be prepared to upgrade their traditional responsibilities to meet the needs of the future.

What will be most interesting about this shift to converged, multi-modal telecommunications is that the two levels of management mentioned above will also share greater responsibilities for how their organization telecommunicates effectively on an ongoing basis. Traditional telecom responsibilities will no longer be just for voice infrastructure costs and long-distance usage charges, but also insuring that multi-modal “telecommunication applications” are indeed effective and productive for people at all levels. At the executive level, we see managers reviewing new “communication productivity” reports, which will include various operational groups in the organization and customer interaction activities, along with the standard revenue reports.

What impact do you think converged multi-modal telecommunications will have on enterprise productivity? Which level of productivity do you think is more important for the enterprise, “micro-productivity” or “macro-productivity?” Will the “office” and “meetings” remain as important for collaborative work in the future world of multi-modal, presence-based telecommunications? Who do you think should take the lead in migrating the enterprise toward telecommunications convergence?

Let us know your thoughts by sending your comments to [email protected]. You can also participate in our forums.

I will be speaking at the annual conference of the Siemens user group (JUST-US) in Palm Springs, CA (May 23-26), to discuss the initial findings of the new ongoing survey of Siemens enterprise customers about their migration to converged, multi-modal telecommunications. Whether you are a Siemens customer, an old Rolm user, or just an interested prospect, the conference is open to all enterprise users and the informative program is available at the JUST-US Web site.

Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer are veterans of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. They focus on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as consumers and as members of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.

Considered to be objective industry thought leaders, Art Rosenberg and David Zimmer have been publishing their highly-acclaimed syndicated column on unified messaging and unified communications for over four years to a worldwide audience of consultancies, technology providers, service providers, and enterprise technology managers. Both principals are popular speakers at leading technology conferences and organized the first programs in the industry focused on the subject of unified messaging/communications. The Unified-View's website (www.unified-view.com) is also considered to be a leading source for information on the evolution of unified communications.

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