Anything you read these days about business communications tries to align the technologies within the framework of “unified communications” (UC). What that really means is questionable.
UC is quickly becoming the battleground for all forms of business activities, not only from a technology perspective, but also for the primary constituencies in an enterprise organization. As new UC technologies continue to evolve and converge, legacy communications and new integrations with business process applications are challenging enterprise management to change the way end users do business. This will not only affect people within their own organizations, but key processes that involve their business partners and, most importantly, their customers who generate revenue.
Drilling Down to Enterprise UC Requirements
There are three main constituencies within any enterprise organization that need to significantly benefit from implementing UC technologies and services in order to gain their interest and support: They are:
--Business and operational management: To generate revenue, minimize risks and losses through strategic and tactical business policies, processes, and procedures
--Internal end users: To perform their different job responsibilities in business processes easily, efficiently and effectively
--Technology management: To provide flexible, reliable, and secure business process technology tools, network service infrastructure, and support services to for points 1 and 2, above, at minimal cost.
All three constituencies will be affected, directly or indirectly, by the migration to mobile, multi-modal UC, especially as it affects communication contacts with different types of people involved in high-value, time-sensitive business processes. These can be characterized as:
--Person-to-person contextual contacts (voice calls, multi-modal messaging)
--Person-to process on-demand access to information, automated transactions, and live assistance
--Process-to-person personalized contacts, especially real-time notifications and interactions
--Increasing personalized contact accessibility for all of the above through mobile devices and services
While Business Management will help identify operational work flow problems, requirements, and priorities for UC needs in enterprise business processes, and IT management will establish UC technology implementation plans, integrations, support, administration management and budgets, the third constituency, the end users, are really the most complex and critical elements to satisfy. Not only do enterprise end users have different job responsibilities and contact relationships, but they also have varying work environment needs for both desktop and mobile business contacts. Finally, what happens with the end users will typically affect the performance of most business processes.
More UC Payoffs – Partners, Customers, Inbound vs. Outbound Mobile Self-services
To complicate matters further, enterprise UC must realistically accommodate efficient business contacts outside of the organization as part of high-value business processes, i.e., business partners and customers. UC facilities must therefore be provided not only to support flexible communication contacts (e.g., federated presence) directly between people wherever they may be located, but also directly between people and automated business process applications, regardless of user endpoint device type and modality of interaction. Only then can business process performance be maximized and “human (contact) latency” be minimized across any group of involved end users.
There has always been a big revenue “pony” under customer contact communications, and traditional call center technology has always taken the lead in supporting both live and automated inbound call-handling activities for customer care applications. However, the real-time demands of voice telephony, coupled with the legacy Telephone User Interface (TUI), left much to be desired in terms of the user experience and efficiency of complex self-service applications.
Although on-line interactive application usage on the Web has now far surpassed traditional Interactive Voice Response (IVR) self-services, the two are starting to converge both at the PC desktop and with mobile communication devices. The screen interface provides greater flexibility for complex input and output of information, which the limitations of legacy IVR applications could not even begin to deal with and thus always required immediate access to highly trained live assistance.
Automated outbound contact applications were also hampered by the limitations of telephony-based voice contacts in successfully making person-to-person contacts with a particular individual. Now, with the rapid consumer adoption of personalized, mobile, “smart-phones,” all that is changing, for both business and personal service applications. Proactive Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), coupled with flexible mobile contact accessibility, is now positioned to bring the power of a variety of automated application services plus access to live assistance, when necessary, to individual end users, wherever, whenever needed.
Given these convergence changes, the enterprise market needs better UC-based products and services to replace legacy telephony technologies. For example, it will be inefficient for outbound application notifications to function simply as “Proactive IVR,” since outbound contacts from a business process application will have to capitalize on personalized, mobile “smart-phone” accessibility through mobile UC, not traditional, location-based phone call attempts that rely on the limitations of voice-only interactions.
Instead, consider starting with immediate delivery of a mobile notification message of any kind from a business application service to an end user, followed by the user’s option to access a multimodal portal that offers the recipient choices of automated self-service interaction (voice or online input/output), along with live assistance access options (chat, voice, video). This approach was demonstrated several years ago by Intervoice, since acquired by Convergys.
However, the real payoff can now be finally realized from the proliferation of proactive application contacts that will result from the explosion of “smart-phone” usage and “App Store” mobile applications.
Art Rosenberg, a veteran of the computer and communications industry, contributes his column, The Unified-View to TMCnet. To read more of Art’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard