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Walkthrough Wednesdays

Clarifying the Two Types of Unified Communications


To help simplify the value proposition of unified communications, and to help enterprises understand the various ways to roll out UC in their organizations, my colleagues and I at define two types of UC solutions and benefits under the “UC umbrella” – those that focus on the user or user productivity (UC-U) and those that focus on the business or business processes (UC-B). UC-U provides benefits to individual users, while UC-B provides benefits to the enterprise as a whole. The goal of both types is to “optimize business processes.” In the UC-U case, the processes are very granular, at individual levels, and are usually hard to measure and aggregate into ROI.  In the UC-B case, the processes are the key business activities and the UC-B changes are easier to measure, providing significant ROI.

This month’s blog discusses UC-User, and next month I’ll cover UC-Business process.

When most people think of unified communications, they think of click-to-call and other UC-U capabilities that help workers to be more efficient and effective at doing their jobs, By being able to simply click on a person’s name on their PC screen and be connected via IM or a voice call, without having to leave the application they were working in, communication becomes faster and easier.

UC-U provides and integrates communication capabilities (such as collaboration, messaging, call control, click-to-call, instant messaging, mobility, etc.), with presence and a unified user interface. Click-to-call or click-to-connect is the most common instance of UC-U, letting users simply click on a name or telephone number to place a call. You can view a colleague’s name on your client (whether PC, handheld device, etc.), view their online and telephony presence status (are they available, in a meeting, away, busy, etc.), and click on the colleague’s name to initiate a phone call, video call, or interactive conference session with application sharing.

Mobile workers also benefit from UC-C. They need the same communication tools whether they’re in the office, on the road, at a customer site, or down the hall.  Some UC let you transfer mobile calls to your landline phone and vice versa with the click of a mouse. With Mobile UC capabilities, mobile workers can extend the desktop communication environment to the mobile device, giving them access to features like conferencing, unified messaging, integration with the calendar and enterprise directory, and other communication capabilities – letting workers be just as productive when out of the office as when in the office. With capabilities like single number reach or find me/follow me, UC makes it easier to reach an individual the first time.

UC’s personal productivity benefits are important, but are generally hard to measure and quantify. Workers can save from 20 minutes to over an hour a day, and can be more efficient at doing their jobs, but the way in which this impacts the bottom line isn’t always clear.

Another aspect of User Productivity is Workgroup or Team Productivity. UC-enabled workgroups can interact and collaborate more effectively, leading to faster development time, quicker time to market, and better and faster decisions – which all impact the bottom line. Collaborative UC tools, like web conferencing with whiteboarding capabilities, and the ability to initiate ad hoc or spontaneous audio, web, or video conferences with the appropriate people simply by dragging and dropping an individual’s name into a “conference room,” or by clicking on someone’s name and selecting “video chat” from the drop down menu, make it much easier for groups to work together. Teams can share files during an audio, web, or video conference, and workgroups are better able to work together as a distributed virtual team, efficiently communicating and sharing information.

Next month I’ll discuss UC-Business Productivity, which is generally harder to understand and implement, but can show a much greater ROI than UC-User.

1 Comment

Blair, thanks for illuminating the differences between UC for users versus UC for the business.  In general, much of the industry focus has been on the business, but it is exciting to see more and more emphasis on the user and the user experience.  The more streamlined and seamless collaboration becomes across applications, devices and workspaces, the greater the impact we'll all see on productivity.  I'm looking forward to your next post on UC-Business Productivity next month.  Hope to see you at VoiceCon!


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