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Are 'Smart Applications' the Real Target for UC-Enabled Cloud Services?

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February 29, 2012

Are 'Smart Applications' the Real Target for UC-Enabled Cloud Services?

By Art Rosenberg

I have constantly been looking for a term that would be understandable to end users/consumers who don’t really understand or care about technology and infrastructures, just what it does for them (UC-U). While it is the “user experience” and user interfaces that come into play here, “UC” doesn’t effectively describe anything about the flexibility that UC-enabled interoperability and integrations applications bring to an end user.

As I have mentioned in the past, the “smart phone” became the flagship for UC in many ways. Not only did it bring greater convenience and contact accessibility to end users, but because it was multi-media, it also supported UC-enabled integrations for both communications and automated business applications (including “mobile apps”).  I thought that if consumers already understood what a smartphone does, they could then readily identify that with UC capabilities. So, if we use terms like “smart communications” or “smart applications,” users would immediately recognize them as something that smartphones enabled and identify the benefits they get from UC-enablement.

So, I started Googling the Web for the term “smart communications” and found that most of the announcements came from a leading wireless services in the Philippines that calls itself “Smart Communications.” Needless to say, they sell a lot of smartphones and associated mobile services.

“Smart” Contacts For End Users

We can use the “smart” adjective at the application levels that UC-enablement can be applied to, e.g., CEBP and “mobile apps.” In particular, we can describe contact centers as being “smart” when they handle any form of contact, inbound and outbound, and use contextual information to simplify the end user interface and minimize manual effort. For self-service online applications, voice commands can be used when desired, rather than error-prone keyed inputs, and application outputs can be visual rather than speech. Addresses for messaging or call initiation can come from online directory look-ups or contextually from any document or message being viewed, rather than the contact initiator having to know this information beforehand.

The bottom line for “smart” applications for end users is that they allow users do things easier, faster, and in any mode of user interface that a multi-modal mobile device provides. It lets applications be more responsive to the end users “on the go” who can’t spend much time doing things interactively. The desktop user interfaces for the same applications don’t really have to change much to meet the new demands of mobility; they just need mobile UI front ends for the different mobile devices being used.

IBM Offers “SmartCloud” Integrations For Business Applications; Avaya (News - Alert) Announces Communications Outsourcing Solutions (COS) 

Hosted and managed services have been around for a few years from various providers, but with IP networking access have opened the door to integrated “cloud-based” hosting and hybrid (private/public) UC-enabled, application implementations. The cloud is becoming the meeting place for both business and communication applications, including “mobile apps,” and leading technology providers in both domains are positioning themselves accordingly. Microsoft (News - Alert) has been offering their Lync-based access to hosted versions of their business processing applications and has long recognized the role of UC-enabled applications.

So, business application providers, traditional telecom vendors, and wireless service providers are now offering everything as a service. That includes technology management and support, as well as consultative expertise in designing business process applications for both desktop and multi-modal, mobile endpoint devices. As service providers, they take care of integrating everything as well as using their expertise in UC-enabling communication and automated business applications. The bottom line for “cloud-based” services is that user organizations don’t have to mess with technology implementation concerns, but just have to focus on managing operational usage needs for their different types of end users.

What will be most interesting is the new role that traditional VARs and consultants will play in supporting their clients’ choices for cloud-based services. Who will they trust for this new future of information and communication access? The answer is that the cloud is an ideal environment for “best-of-breed” solutions to individual business needs and with more “open” integration access, will enable mix-and-match combinations to flourish, rather than locked-in proprietary solutions of the past. 

CIOs: This is your opportunity to get on board more quickly with cloud-based UC-enabled applications without necessarily abandoning legacy technology investments.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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