"Business Communications" Upgrades UC
Unified Communications (“UC”) has long been confusing to business organizations, primarily because “communications” has been tradtionally defined as exchanging information beween live people. With the advent of the Internet and direct access to online applications, mobile end users, and particularly consumers, can now access information and perform self-service transactions without going through call center agents. In addition, because mobile users are more accessible anywhere and anytime, it is now practical for automated business process applications to proactively generate personalized notifications and response options for mobile custmer services.
So, UC has finally grown up to become more than person-to-person communications, and has been labeled as the more comprehensive “Business Communications” (“BC” )to also include business process applications that will interact and communicate with people. This shift was formally evidenced by the recent BC Summit in La Jolla, where there were many new sponsors from other leading technology providers, rather than just tradtional voice telephony vendors.
As highlighted by my UC Strategies colleague, Jon Arnold, three key changes included:
- UC Summit becoming the BC Summit
- Cloud (IP Network) software-based communication service offerings
- Less dependency on voice-only, wired desktop telephones, PBXs, or the PSTN
I found other interesting takeways, including some of the new types of vendors, large and small, who sponsored the event. These included:
- Tata Communications
- Vonage Business
These were in addition to more familiar UC Summit communication sponsors such as:
- Interactive Intelligence
The fact that the new sponsors reflect more than just voice telephony is an indication of how business communications are expanding beyond person-to-person contacts and becoming more multimodal and interoperable.
My Main BC Summit Takeaways
Most of the vendors have started to deal with the need to support mobile devices for business contacts, Mitel in particular, although the challenge of supporting BYOD was not well covered. Some vendors have also started to address the need for “dual persona” mobile device management (MDM), but, again, its still a work in progress.
Contact Centers (Customer services)
I noticed that most of the business communication vendor presentations have started to emphasize customer interactions, rather than just “collaboration” and conferencing between internal organizational staff members. This trend is consistent with the recent workforce survey report by Forrester’s Art Schoeller, that showed that 64 percent of business workforces communicate with customers, business partners, and colleagues.
The need for extending customer service access is becoming particularly important as mobile consumers start accessing live assistance from embedded “click-for-assistance” APIs within online mobile apps, using the likes of WebRTC for real-time contact over the Internet, rather than initiating a legacy phone call over the PSTN.
My colleague Kevin Lieller and I gave a presentaton on the subject of Communications Enabled Business Processing, where we highlighted the fact that mobile consumers can now be more accessible for more timely automated business process notifications and responses. Unfortunately, we didn’t hear much about CEBP from the business communications technology vendors (yet), who seem to be still focused on person-to-person contacts, but expect to see more in the near future.
Although Microsoft supports deferated presence status within the same organization, there is still a need to provide federation services between different organizations who may not be using Microsoft’s technology. Nextplane, who was not at the Summit, is a third-party service provider for such services.
Where Were The Carriers?
I have long expected to see the major wireless carriers come to the Summit with service offerings of business communication functions to business organizations in conjunction with their mobile device offerings to BYOD subscribers. Although we are seeing AT&T, Verizon, BT, etc. starting to offer such services, including “dual persona” mobile device support, they missed the boat in not addressing the Summit’s audience of consultants and SIs. (Maybe next year?)
There are obviously other interesting highlights that were discussed at the BC Summit, so I expect to see more takeways posted by my colleagues, so stay tuned for more!
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere