The technology convergence of all forms of business communications between people has been labeled as “unified communications” or “UC.” What it really means is that individual end-users in a business environment can now choose any form of communication to either initiate a contact with another person or group of persons, or to receive and respond to such a contact in any modality (real-time, asynchronous messaging) or medium (voice, text, visual) that is available to them. This flexibility is defined as “multi-modal” communications, and includes “trans-modal” communications capabilities, where individual users can dynamically change from their current form of communication to another modality more suitable to their immediate situation.
More flexible communication is largely being driven by the increase in mobile communications, which requires individual users to communicate under real-time limitations of their changing personal environments. Can they talk? Can they listen? Can they look at a screen? Can they push buttons for input? Rather than wait until they can communicate in any particular way, UC enables communication tasks to be done selectively and immediately in one form or another, thus reducing the inherent latency in business communications due simply to a lack of a specific network access connection or device interface.
UC not only provides general flexibility in traditional person-to-person contacts, but, when coupled with the growing use of multi-modal mobile endpoint devices (smart-phones, iPads), also enables greater end-user access to (inbound) and from (outbound) automated self-service applications. This shift not only reduces labor costs involved with a business process through direct online access to information and proactive process-to-person “notifications” and information delivery, but also provides overall efficiencies through automated contextual person-to-person contacts with others involved in the business process.
With real-time federated presence information and “click-to-connect” capabilities, UC brings the communication efficiencies long found only in customer-facing contact centers to all segments of enterprise business activities, including back-office operations, branch office activities, field support, teleworkers, subject matter experts, outsourced staffing, and efficient contacts with business partner organizations involved in a common business process.
The big question now is what responsibilities does the enterprise have for evaluating and managing such expanded UC-based activities and what tools are available for doing that?
Managing Multi-Modal Communications
Enterprise organizations have always had difficulty in fully understanding and separately managing different forms of location-based, business communications activity, ranging from messaging to real-time telephone calls and conferencing. UC technologies enabling greater flexibility in crossing the silo boundaries of communication applications for different types of users will only increase the complexity of communication access and activity management. Managing various shared communication resources across different modalities of communications is something new that enterprise organizations will have to learn and understand. In particular, the sensitive area of customer contacts and interactions will be a key target for new management reporting tools (“UC Analytics”), just as it was for traditional call center telephone activities.
The detailed analytical data generated by UC activities will be applicable to a number of enterprise management responsibilities, including:
- Operational UC requirements planning: Technology infrastructure, traffic capacity, support staffing, applications design, device interfaces. This will be an ongoing challenge.
- Alternative UC implementation strategies and operational cost implications
Traffic activity management and support: User activity, network capacities, user devices.
- Operational business performance analysis: Reporting the “What” and “Who” of business processes – what people and automated applications involved in communication activities associated with key business processes actually do and how efficiently
- The “Why” of business communication activity: Capturing and analyzing key information and communication content within business processes (person-to-person contacts/process-to-person notifications/person-to-process self-services) in order to understand what is causing the communication activity
- Person-to-person contacts: Basic communication between individual end users, whether internal to the organization, customer-facing, or with business partners. This will provide insights into the communication efficiencies within business process workflows.
- Speech analytics: Harnessing the voice of the customer in voice calls and messages to gain valuable insight on everything from products and processes to competitors and market opportunities
- Data analytics: Mine data associated with voice calls such as contact metrics, productivity metrics, sources of contact/response delays, etc. to uncover scenarios positively or negatively impacting process performance
- Process and desktop analytics: How desktop activity and application usage as part of person-to-person communications is contributing to or impacting task performance and business process effectiveness
- Messaging analytics: Text, speech, asynchronous, real-time notifications/delivery, access to and from real-time connections (“trans-modal communications”), etc. This also covers all “unified messaging” functions available under the “UC” umbrella, where messages (text, voice) can be dynamically converted across media, depending on the needs of the recipient not just the sender of the message.
“Trans-Modal” Communication Activities
Effective Use of Presence Management information for Real-Time Contacts Security and Privacy Issues
- Process-to-person contacts – Contacts between an automated business process application and specific individual users. Such users may be customer-facing staff (contact center personnel), business partners involved in a shared task, or specific customers involved in a business process.
- All such users can be contacted automatically and directly by self-service applications or can initiate contacts, with a choice of modalities, to enterprise personnel through such online applications. Generally referred to as Communication Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), such applications efficiently exploit the flexibility of UC to connect people with both self-service automated applications and/or with specific other people involved in a common business process.
UC Flexibility Offers the Following Capabilities to End-Users:
Outbound text-based “notification messages” generated by a business process application can be delivered via a choice of communication applications (E-mail, SMS, social network postings, etc.). Depending on the recipient’s presence status or preference, unified messaging options can convert such text-based notifications to voice messages.
Responses from the recipient can be flexibly generated to a self-service automated application and/or selectively to appropriate qualified and available personnel in a choice of media and modalities (“Click-to-Contact”).
Business Process Analytics – UC Analytic tools can identify and evaluate all such communication activity for analysis of who, how, where, when, and why a business process has been affected by different people in the process.
Trans-modal interfaces for time-sensitive notifications
Proactive user contacts vs. on-demand access to applications and information
Responsiveness of people to all forms of contact and automated notifications, which will be indicative of “accessibility” and/or “availability” and time priorities
Such information can be used to locate and audit patterns of people-based communication delay and error in business process performance.
New Model for UC Activity Data Collection
The ability to capture and track all forms of contact activity and associated information content from personalized, user-owned, mobile, multi-modal devices (“smartphones,” iPods) is a new challenge for enterprise and IT management. This capability will require all business-related activity data from different communication applications to be collected, centralized, and consolidated for analysis and reporting.
“Business communications” will no longer be based on a specific communication device or the modality of contact, but will be focused on the identity of the contact initiator and the business relationship with the recipient. This now covers everyone who will be involved with a business process regardless if they interact with people or automated business applications. With this perspective, “UC Analytics” will be able to identify the “who,” “where,” when,” and “why” of business process performance issues.
Who Should Be Responsible for UC Analytics?
Since UC analytics will cover a broad range of communication activities, the responsibilities for using such analytics will vary across different operational management groups and by type of business organization. It has been reported that best results will come from using an objective business analysis group that understands the value of various performance metrics and can track those metrics to their sources.
Other aspects of UC Analytics, such as “Who” is initiating or responding to various forms of business process contacts, can be the responsibility of specific operational groups directly involved with the management of the processes in question. Contact center management of dedicated customer-facing agents and individual subject matter experts, as well as self-service applications, would be key targets for UC Analytics, as would customer relationship management (CRM) and back-office/branch oversight.
IT involvement will be useful primarily when it comes to ensuring that pertinent activity data is collected wherever it is generated and then consolidated for analyses. They will also be involved in determining the need for integration between data systems, the cost of implementation and support, and the choice of new technologies and their providers. However, line of business management must take responsibility for how the data will be used in properly evaluating operational business performance.
What’s Available Today? Verint (News - Alert) Takes the Lead in UC Analytics
The nature of UC Analytics, which includes the performance of people involved in a business process, comes closest to traditional call center operational management tools. In fact, UC technologies can generate the greatest ROI when applied to customer services, facilitating both operational cost reduction and the generation of faster revenues from customers. This makes customer contact interactions a practical candidate for realizing maximum ROI from UC applications. However, the integration of all forms of customer communications for analytics is still evolving, e.g., social networking.
One of the leading providers of traditional call center workforce optimization technologies, Verint Systems has already started the migration of its comprehensive call center analytical tools to work in a “Customer UC” environment. This will include all forms of live assistance and automated self-service applications, not just traditional telephony and voice interactions.
Verint’s analytics-driven Impact 360 Workforce Optimization suite captures a variety of information on workflow and workforce performance, including interactions with individual customers and online business process applications. By capturing customer interaction content, especially in person-to-person voice calls where important information is usually lost in the workflow process, Verint’s speech, data, customer feedback, and desktop and process analytics applications can reveal the “Why” of enterprise communications and how well, or not so well, a specific operational activity is taking place.
As pointed out by Blair Pleasant (News - Alert) in her article, Verint has adapted its technology expertise in call center analytics for workforce performance management to provide a practical basis for UC interactions with all types of end users involved in a business process, not just call center agents and customers. This will include all enterprise staff regardless of location (back-office operations, branch office locations), as well as external staff from supply chain, field support and business partners, outsourced agent staffing, etc.
Highlighting the adaptation of these technologies that have been driving customer service people and process efficiency and effectiveness in call center environments for years, are the recent successes some organizations have had in leveraging the analytic tools to drive even wider enterprise results and process optimization. This coincides with the realization that the customer service value chain extends well beyond the call center and addressing UC interactions more broadly and holistically across the business is vital to achieving customer centricity.
For example, a Fortune 500 insurance company faced an array of challenges within its back-office life account services group, ranging from lengthy and inconsistent turnaround time to excessive overtime and considerable rework. Implementing an array of back-office solutions from Verint’s Impact 360 suite, including forecasting and scheduling, workforce management, strategic planning, performance management, and desktop and process analytics, the insurer reduced turnaround time from nine days to just six, with bill processing nearing a four-day turnaround.
Similarly, despite a significant increase in staffing, the wholesale lockbox department of a financial services firm had not experienced a commensurate increase in productivity. Partnering with Verint to determine the source of the disparity, the firm was able to identify process improvement opportunities, develop a high-level capacity plan, and create schedules that best utilized available staff skill sets. As a result, throughput increased by 11 percent, operating margins increased by 38 percent, and headcount decreased by six percent, saving the firm over $600,000 a year.
These are examples of the value and reach of UC Analytics. By providing real-time insight into day-by-day or even hour-by hour incoming activity, actual throughput, and employee productivity in virtually every area of the business, key organizational stakeholders can make rapid, fact-based decisions to increase efficiency, manage time more effectively, identify flawed or inefficient processes, train staff, match staff scheduling to actual demand, and achieve service level agreements with lower costs, backlog, and overtime.
UC Analytics is still in its formative stages especially when it comes to including all key UC customer interaction data. As pointed out in Blair’s article, there are some new UC-oriented analytics that are expected beyond Verint’s current offering, including all forms of device-independent UC contact, mobile interactions, as well as all inbound and outbound self-service applications (online, IVR, IVVR), and social networking activity.
With the increase in new communication activities, there will be new sources of data for UC Analytics in the enterprise. Verint’s “open” software solution to UC Analytics can offer practical benefits to an enterprise in many areas of business operations. Its current offering provides a logical and solid first-step towards a flexible, future-proof toolset for enterprise UC activity management reporting.
What Do You Think?
You can contact me at: [email protected] or (310) 395-2360.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 Erin Harrison