Secrets To Unified Communications & Collaboration Success - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Enterprise Agility
09:06 AM
Marty Parker
Marty Parker

Secrets To Unified Communications & Collaboration Success

These seven usage profiles will help you trace the communications activities of workers and uncover bottlenecks and inefficiencies.

The days of the one-size-fits-all PBX are gone. The new paradigm is to match communications technologies to the specific workflows and business processes of users, and the secret to success lies in developing usage profiles.

Think mobile sales representatives, collaboration teams, and administrative workers. Note that each group is involved in different processes and has different communications needs, so each group would have a different usage profile.

As you develop each profile, trace the communications activities for those workers in your business processes and workflows and uncover the communications bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Then look to the 7 Ways To Escape Communications Dark Ages to streamline those communications. This is the basis for the usage profiles.

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These profiles let you change the question from "What enterprise communications products should we buy?" to "What do we need?" They help you break up your communication system into manageable pieces. You no longer have to implement one communications "solution" all at once. You can approach communications as a set of solutions that can be implemented in increments. Select the technology set needed for each usage profile, and then roll all of it out in a sequence that captures wave after wave of business improvements and returns on investment. Such an approach lowers risks and produces benefits faster.

While usage profile names differ in every organization, experience shows that seven generic profiles prevail:

1. Mobile field sales and service workers use cell phones with plans that allow unlimited voice calls. They use their phones for contacts, directory, texting, instant messaging, email, calendar, and presence indication. The trend with this profile is to connect calls through a software app on the smartphone, such as Microsoft Lync and IBM Connections, rather than through the PBX. This approach cuts costs while still providing a satisfactory user experience. If the user is called on the corporate telephone number, the call can be routed to the mobile phone by directory-enabled gateways, rather than requiring an expensive PBX extension.

2. Collaboration teams work in R&D, marketing, design, legislation, policy-making, professional services, and similar functions. This usage profile is best served by "collaborative workspaces" in which teams work, share documents, and communicate. Collaborative workspaces include leading content management products and some emerging business social network products. Collaboration teams need to access these workspaces from any location using laptops, tablets, and smartphones with built-in audio and video capabilities.

3. Administration/information processing workers are at the core of workflows for transaction processing, customer account maintenance, and employee services. Typically they do their jobs in one or more primary software applications. By embedding communications functions into those applications, communications can occur directly from the screen, simplifying the workflow and tracking transactions from start to finish. Those communications functions can come via plug-ins from an IP PBX or a unified communications system. Alternatively, vendors such as and SAP are including communications tools in their platforms.

4. Retail workers include clerks, bank tellers, and food servers. Their communications are usually face-to-face and don't require unified communications and collaboration (UCC) or voice PBX technology. These workers place orders or process transactions via application terminals, which may also support a simple text chat application. A phone may be available on a side desk in case a worker needs to make a voice call. Employee communications such as emails, meeting notices, HR calls, and training are provided by shared technology in a back office or break room area.

5. Production teams work in business processes that source, produce, and deliver goods and services.

For example, the care team in a clinic or hospital is a production team that follows strict procedures, though they may occasionally collaborate to adjust a treatment plan. Educators and instructors, lawyers and paralegals, and restaurant cooks also fit the production team usage profile. For these workers, communications often are embedded in application software and working tools, such as the electronic health record software in a hospital, the learning management system at a university, and the menu ordering system in a restaurant. Many workers in these roles are mobile within the facility and may use wireless devices for communications.

6. Contact center agents, a well-known usage profile, have automated communications controls embedded into their visual information screens. Typically, their communications technologies have already been optimized. Most contact centers use

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Marty Parker, Principal and co-founder of UniComm Consulting, has more than three decades of experience with computing and communications technologies. He has been a leader in strategic planning and product line management for IBM, AT&T, Lucent, and Avaya. Now, as ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Strategist
10/13/2014 | 3:15:13 PM
UC Use Cases Must Accommodate External End Users Too

Absolutely right on as to different end user "use cases." However, UC&C is not just about internal employees that need to communicate and exchange information, but also external users like business partners, as well as customers. As they all increasingly exploit multimodal mobile smartphones and tablets, they will all need the flexibility of UC-enabled contacts, both as contact iniators and as recipients.. 

So, as you have often emphasized, the starting point will be the business process, followed by identifying the different types of end users involved with each process and their UC needs. Obviously, an end user may be involved with a variety of business processes and, with BYOD, will need to be accommodated by each business process for their device choice accordingly.

In addition to person-to-person communication flexibility, we also need to include the role of CEBP notifications from automated business process applications, particularly to mobile end users who are now more accessible for such contacts.


Christopher May
Christopher May,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/11/2014 | 7:11:59 PM
A Secret Indeed
Great article Marty. This secret really is the core of an effective UC design. So often we see a pure focus on the UC application technology and the effectiveness, or not, of that application in improving business productivity. But of course you have hit the nail on the head with this "secret", that in fact you should first look at user (and device) profiles in your organisation and see what each profile needs for their work to be as productive as possible. It's so obvious, isn't it? Yet you rightly position this as a secret, since so few companies actually do this. They buy the latest technology, because of the technology, rather than focusing on what their various user profiles need. Productivity is optimised when companies effectively profile their organisations and then select and activate the UC tools for those employees. What you could have added, of course, is that no UC vendor today provides this capability to custom design a set of use profiles for an industry, or individual company. Fortunately there are 3rd party, specialist, UC service management vendors who do provide this capability. But, you need to ensure that they don't only deliver a fixed set of profiles (one flavour fits all). The real secret is to find the UC service management system that allows for complete customisation of user profiles and then also allows for customisation of the workflow and service activation required to fully automate the settings and features of the various devices and UC applications.
Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
8/2/2014 | 6:21:34 AM
Use case and usibility
I think the key point for UC and collaboration success is the correct identification of use case and the usability of the tool itself. Nowadays it's not difficult to develop feature-rich applications with reliability, etc. But identifying the correct use case is always the most difficult part. After identifying use case, developing software with good usibility is another story - the ideal tool would be something the end user cannot tell exactly how they launched it but it helps your daily work everywhere.
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