In real-estate its location, location, location, in the UC world I believe it’s process, process process!
First I went to Wikipedia to see if they had a reasonable definition. The Wikipedia definition is “Unified Communications (UC) is a commonly used term for the integration of disparate communications systems, media, devices and applications. This potentially includes the integration of fixed and mobile voice, e-mail, instant messaging, desktop and advanced business applications, Internet Protocol (IP)-PBX, voice over IP (VoIP), presence, voice-mail, fax, audio video and web conferencing, unified messaging, unified voicemail, and white boarding into a single environment offering the user a more complete but simpler experience.”
UC Strategies defines UC as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes”, a much easier way to comprehend for simpler minds such as mine. Then there is an array of different definitions from Avaya, Cisco, ININ, Mitel, NEC and Nortel, sorry if I left any of my astute colleagues out.
The history of Unified Communications is tied to the evolution of the supporting technology. Unified Communications relies on the Internet Protocol (IP), which also supports e-mail and the World-Wide Web.
But I need to digress for a moment. Do you remember when the telephone company introduced PRI, in 1990? No body including the telephone company knew how to configure it properly, never mind install it correctly. Only through time and effort did PRI finally come to the common enterprise around 1993-1994. What about IVR and CTI? The first CTI was created by IBM in 1987. The problem was nobody knew the in’s and out’s of it. Everything became customer code and it took till 2002-2003 for CTI to be able to show it could work for the everyday enterprise. Read the book, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore, for a good history of CTI. Well although VoIP has been around 7 plus years, people are still not sure what to do with it. Yes, its here to stay but in order to make UC work you need the VoIP component. But you need other components as well.
Okay that’s all great but why has everyone in the world not jumped all over this? I think they do not know where to start. Everybody has such different needs, are in different stages and have different tools to work with. They do not know how to put the pieces together.
Most enterprise customers truly do not know what they have and what it will take to even consider UC. You do! Develop a tool kit or checklist of what the entry level to look at UC is. This can come from vendors, manufacturers, peers or research. Appraise the customer’s environment against that list. This creates a baseline to work from. We have a customer who is in the media business and across 10 divisions they do not share common email, business process or disciplines. How in the world is some one like that going to implement and benefit from UC with out taking stock?
Work with the client to develop a budget of what it would take to even consider UC in their organization after taking stock. Next determine the business solutions, revenue generation and cost containment opportunities that will make UC a success for that customer. Remember one organizations opportunity is not the same next door. Take the Hispanic customer in the USA. The latest estimates by the US Census Bureau at the time of writing put the US Hispanic population at 42,687,224 or 14.4 percent of the US population. That equates to one person out of every seven in the US being Hispanic. The projection for 2050 is that this will increase to one in four people or 25 percent of the total population. That means that the client wanting to serve the Hispanic customer needs something different then the client who does not, as only one example. The manufacturer client wanting to communicate out on the line has different needs then a retailer.
Third and most importantly develop the process that will be accepted, implemented and must be adhered too by all stakeholders. If this is not done up front it will never get done. There is no rule book on “How to implement UC” out there that I know of yet. Collectively the consultant community has the opportunity to develop a process that could be applied by anyone practice, group or enterprise.
No technology can fix poor people skills, as reported by Paul Stockford recently in the NACC “In Queue” blog or fix bad or non existent process. If you disagree with that theory please call me, I will gladly provide you with a myriad of examples. Even if you agree we want to hear from you.