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The Different Types of Unified Communications - Part 2


Last month I wrote about the two types of unified communications under the UC umbrella - UC-User (UC-U) and UC-Business Process (UC-B).
In addition to the personal productivity I discussed last month, 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 – all impacting the bottom line. Collaborative UC tools, such as 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. Teamwork can be facilitated through effective and efficient communications such as the ability to share files during an audio, web, or videoconference. Workgroups are better able to work together as a distributed virtual team, efficiently communicating and sharing information.

UC-Business Process is where things get confusing. Some people refer to this as communication enabled business processes (CEBP), and different vendors have different terms and acronyms for it. Based on the definition of UC, “Communications integrated to optimize business processes,” UC includes both the personal productivity elements of UC, as well as the business process integration element, by which I mean integrating or embedding communication capabilities such as presence and call control (i.e.; click-to-call or click-to-conference) with applications such as CRM, ERP, or vertical applications such as claims processing or loan processing.

When tied into the business processes and applications companies use in their day-to-day business operations, the benefits of unified communications are even more significant. UC-B helps to reduce "human latency" in business processes by integrating communication functions directly into the systems and applications that people use to do their jobs. UC-B can also proactively deliver information to the right people at the right time. Decisions can be made faster, products can be brought to market sooner, customer inquiries and problems can be resolved faster – all of which impact the bottom line in terms of improved competitive business position, reduced costs of doing business, increased or faster revenue generation, and increased profitability.

While user and personal productivity benefits are important, the real ROI comes from tying UC to the company’s business processes and enterprise goals. Early adopters of UC are transforming their businesses, and as a result, are saving thousands or even millions of dollars. Enterprises need to look at how UC provides benefits to the enterprise as a whole – especially in terms of reduced costs, increased sales, and improved customer service.



This is a very illuminating set of posts and very useful since distilling the different categories of benefits is a necessary first step in an enterprise making an informed effort in trying to capture optimal value from each category.

I'd love to get your thoughts on a couple of aspects related to this classification...

a) At what point does UC-U morph into UC-B? For example, lets take the example of presence and click-to-collaborate (Call/IM/start a web conference) capabilities being embedded in a PLM tool to speed and ease interaction between distributed design team members. Would that, in your opinion, be sufficient to turn this into an example of UC-B instead of UC-U even though the business impact (e.g., faster time to market) would be essentially the same?

b) In some cases we're seeing new processes being designed around UC and Collaboration capabilities e.g., virtual sales expert in financial services. However at least till now, that does not involve integration of UC&C capabilities into a business application...Would you place the Virtual Expert in the UC-U category (due to lack of integration with a business app) or the UC-B category (due to its business impact)? Or do you think there's potentially a third category that involves using UC to transform existing processes substantially enough so that they really are new processes being enabled by new UC&C capabilities?



Those are great questions, and difficult to answer. I would include a virtual sales expert as a UC-B application since it changes or transforming the way a business process, such as sales or customer service, is being done. I think business transformation is the next level of the UC ROI and value continuum and is the highest level of UC-B. I have a chart that shows this - I'll include it in my next post.

As far as embedding UC or click-to-collaborate capabilities in a PLM tool, yes, I think that's an example of UC-B. When I give presentations, I explain that the most basic example of UC-B is adding click-to-call capabilities in a Word document. It's important to realize that UC-B doesn't have to be complex or complicated, and while business transformation is great for some companies, it's pretty scary for others.

Thanks for these great, thought-provoking questions.

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