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User Experiences: The Key to Simplified Communications in a Complex World

Strategies for Harnessing IP Innovation for a More Productive Workforce

By Geoffrey Baird

October 2006, Volume 9/ Number 10

 

Since the introduction of the telephone, businesses have counted on new technologies to fuel even greater levels of productivity. Today, the technology choices are plentiful, ranging from IM to e-mail to cell phones, and the landscape of business communications is changing rapidly. But the proliferation in technologies has also meant more complexity for users. By implementing a communications strategy that focuses on simplicity, ease-of-use, and seamless integration of technologies and information, businesses can reduce the complexity of having too many options � and drive greater levels of employee productivity.

Simplifying access to communications functions is critical to serving the varied needs of today�s workers. Today�s employees are challenging companies to deliver advanced communications that support a more mobile workforce, and serve those with an �always on� lifestyle. This includes a savvy �iGeneration� of employees that grew up using a vast array of consumer technologies and is now entering the workforce. But to truly benefit from today�s advanced capabilities, devices must be intertwined with easy interfaces tailor-made for the way people work. The Web itself is just one example, having been invented in the 1960�s, but not gaining widespread use until the simple Web interface became available in the 1990s, offering greater access and seamlessly integrated information to users.

To achieve simplified user experiences, a new foundation for workforce productivity is required. IP telephony delivers the solid foundation on which businesses can deliver easier access and richer user experiences � and drives faster and more productive interactions. And to obtain this type of experience, regardless of the tools employees use, the phone is still a central device that most people turn to for quick and decisive communications.

Avaya (News - Alert) has taken steps to ensure that all of its communications tools, including its IP phones, are geared for the way people work, and bridge with every facet of business communications. Today�s desktop phone should seamlessly bridge with cell phones to serve mobile needs. They should deliver an interface that makes full use of messaging and applications to reflect industry-specific needs. And of course, they should up the ante on voice quality to deliver a new audio experience fit for today�s global enterprises. This all adds up to ubiquitous, seamless access that lets a modern workforce thrive in increasingly distributed businesses, whether they are working from home, in the office, or on the road.






But this is just one approach that harnesses IP innovation. There are other key tactics that companies can implement in order to enhance user experiences with communications. Here are a few:

Look for Consistency Across Devices

Many employees now manage several communication devices at once � such as Blackberries, cellular phones, PDAs � with each one supporting a different set of capabilities. For example, voicemail on a cell phone is different from a business desktop phone, which allows message forwarding to other parties. In today�s multimedia, multi-device business world, users must have a seamless and consistent set of capabilities across all of their communications devices.

IP telephony solves this by supporting all of a user�s devices on a single platform, providing an integrated, enhanced user experience. Unified communications, for instance, delivers a business advantage by allowing users to obtain emails and voicemails through the same application. Consistency across endpoints is essential when it comes to ensuring more productive communications.

Choose Simplicity � and Specificity � in Design

Functionality and sturdiness in a device have always been qualities held in high regard. But now, streamlined aesthetics can be a key decision making factor. Business phones, for instance, should provide a streamlined interface that expose all of the capabilities of IP, yet hide the complexity. When choosing phones for the workforce, fewer buttons can make users more comfortable. When it comes to design, make sure a phone�s model fits a specific user profile. Those requiring lots of mobility capabilities, for example, will require an interface different than those requiring just basic functionality.

Select Tools That Combine the New with the Familiar

Advanced IP features are great incentives, especially those that put control at the user�s fingertips. Enable users to manage an entire conference call more efficiently by letting them organize, add, and mute parties via a phone interface. See someone that was not invited to a conference call? Simply disconnect them with the touch of a button. These advanced features not only make communications easier; they also invoke curiosity so people learn new ways of interacting � helping to build a productive and efficient workforce.

In the end, devices serve people. That is why businesses should ensure advanced devices and functions have a familiar look and feel, catering to the human factor and encouraging adoption. Today�s phones should come equipped with cell phone-like functions � such as call logs and menu-driven interfaces � that are familiar to users. Devices that bridge the advanced with the familiar create a happy medium that enhances the user experience.

Prioritize Sound Quality

Wherever you conduct business, communicating with clarity and quality is a prerequisite. And, with more businesses facing information overload, it�s the clarity of voice communications that cuts through the clutter and gets things done. There will be little patience if workers cannot properly hear colleagues and customers, whether through a desktop phone, a softphone, or a cell phone. Advances in audio technology can deliver higher quality experiences for users of leading edge phones. Choose vendors who place a priority on high-quality voice technology, and your business will be well prepared to support a higher level of communications.

Ensure Communications can be Customized

IP telephony brings applications to the table that can be tailored for businesses and evolve with future needs. Take, for example, a hospital that needs access to patient charts, or a manufacturer that needs inventory data. Modern IP telephony devices are capable of supporting functions on the devices that are not just connected to your network, but tied to enterprise needs. Ensure your communications strategy anticipates the evolution that will occur through customizable next-generation applications. And whether you are a finance, retail, manufacturing, or healthcare organization, employees will reap greater rewards through communications.

Depending on an employee�s function within an organization, one strategy will, of course, be more effective than another. Yet when considering the entire workforce, all of these tactics are powered by a key factor: simplifying the user experience. Once the workforce realizes the positive effects on their productivity, they will be ready to employ a better way to communicate. In turn, your business can realize the full potential of IP Telephony and its ability to generate improved productivity and returns on your investment. IT

Geoffrey Baird is vice president and general manager of Avaya�s Communications Appliances Division. For more information, please visit the company online at www.avaya.com.

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