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January 2007
Volume 10 / Number 1

What Business End Users Want From UC!

By Art Rosenberg


Depending on whom you talk to, you will get different perspectives on the need and benefits of integrating all forms of business contacts under “Unified Communications” (UC). These include technology infrastructure needs, operational management needs, business process benefits, and end user benefits. Although they are all important, UC capabilities ultimately have to help business users do their jobs by communicating efficiently and selectively with people they both know and don’t know.


People Are Both Contact Initiators and Contact Recipients

It is critical to recognize that all end users wear two different “hats,” depending upon whether they are attempting to communicate or are contact recipients. You might consider these two roles as another “modality” of individual communications, which already include:

  • Real-time exchanges (voice, video conversations, instant text/voice messaging) vs. asynchronous messaging (email, voice mail, SMS)
  • Person-to-person vs. multi-party contacts (someone they know, anyone, conferencing, group messaging)
  • Content medium — Voice, text, video
  • User device interface controls — Speech, visual, buttons, combinations
  • Business vs. personal needs
  • Business contact relationships — Intra-enterprise, inter-enterprise, customer, specific individual vs. anyone qualified and available
  • Desktop vs. handheld mobility

User choices will depend upon the dynamic circumstances of both the initiator and recipient, affected by:

  • Location — Office desk, home, mobile
  • The capabilities of the communication device and the network access they have available at the moment
  • The environment that they are communicating in (hands-free/eyes-free activity, noisy, non-private, silence required, collaborative and/or informational context required, etc.)
  • Personal real-time preferences — voice, text, video
  • Time availability of all parties for real-time interactions
  • Cost considerations, if significant

If you compare the complexity of communicating with people to accessing information, the latter is a piece of cake!


Fixing Real-time Voice Contact Problems With UC — “Death of Location”

End users could care less about technology and TCO; all they see is the device convenience, the ease of user interfaces, and the flexible functionality for communicating with people easily and quickly, both as contact initiators and as contact recipients. Real-time contact accessibility is a particular problem for people who make or get a lot of phone calls. Not only do call initiators usually have to know specific contact numbers (devices), they usually have little information about the recipient’s availability to communicate from that number at that moment in time.

  • Contact “unavailability” could be because:
  • The recipient is physically away from the device location
  • The device is “busy”
  • The recipient is busy doing other things that can’t be disturbed, e.g., a meeting.


Making Phones Location Independent

Wireless mobility has become a quick fix for (1) above, enabling recipients to be contacted anywhere. Wireless mobility also enables contact initiators to immediately initiate new contacts or respond to urgent messages from anywhere, shortening the “contact latency” time in any time-sensitive business process. IP telephony and SIP make even a wired desk phone “virtual”, i.e., a person, not a place, enabling “one-number” accessibility wherever the recipient is “logged in.”


Personal Call Management

While people can multitask text messaging with a voice conversation, they can’t multitask two voice activities at once. Interruptive “call waiting” was the TDM telephony solution to the problem of handling a second incoming call. Because real-time phone calls are hard to schedule, multimodal UC capabilities will help to both minimize and to manage real-time calls more effectively. The payoff to both contact initiators and recipients will be less interruptive contacts and better control of contact priorities.


Integrating Business Process Applications and “Orchestration” With UC People Contact

We see UC, federated presence, and both business process application “orchestration” and online software tools providing more intelligent and efficient “multimodal” access to people, both within an organization, across organizations, and with consumers/customers. The flexibility of UC will provide greater real-time business process efficiencies to both human and automated contact initiators, as well as to human recipients, than the “blind” telephone call alternatives of the past. Understanding the different communication needs of individual end users as contact initiators and recipients will therefore be key to strategic implementation planning for the enterprise migration to UC.

Art Rosenberg ([email protected]) has been a pioneer in both the computer industry with interactive time-sharing mainframe computers, as well as in telecommunications with the first call center and voice messaging system technologies. He coined the term “unified communications” as a logical extension to the convergence of multimodal messaging and telephony, and has been writing his syndicated thought-leading web column, “The Unified-View” since 2000, and consulting to the industry and enterprise clients since 1983.


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