Imagine a modern city where business, trade, society, architecture, religion, culture, continents, and history all come together in one place. Got it? OK, then Istanbul, Turkey, is very likely that place. Istanbul (formerly Constantinople and Byzantion before that), sits astride the Bosporus, a magnificent waterway that connects the interior of eastern Europe with the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. One side of the Bosporus is the southeastern tip of Europe and the other side is a southwestern corner of Asia (locals chat about how they commute to work from Asia). People and their goods have flowed up and down that waterway for over 8,000 years and have established business and culture in the very fabric of Istanbul; just visit the Grand Bazaar to be overwhelmed by what’s available and how many people there are to help you find something that you would like to have. The Aya Sophia church and mosque was the largest known church for centuries, beginning in 537 C.E. (A.D.) and is marvelous even to this day. Symbolically, Istanbul is celebrating its role as one of two “European Capitals of Culture” for 2010, beginning the weekend before the UC Road Show event.
Against that backdrop, it’s no surprise that customers were out in force to find new ways to enhance business and trade. Attendees included financial institutions, trading and distribution companies, food manufacturers, and many others.
Most of the attendees and their firms had thought through UC and were taking action. Most had either pilots or some level of deployment already in place, and were pleased with that progress to date. The major themes were:
- Improving productivity: Essentially all of those I spoke with were focused on helping their people work more effectively. Having both presence indication of who is available and the ability to click-to-communicate via Instant Messaging, or voice, or desktop sharing, or even video is seen as a major step forward compared to the past where each media type was in a separate application or services. on the desktop. IM and voice got the most emphasis, but video interest was increasing for branch office communications, training, or expert services (link to an expert without the time delays or travel expense).
- Office application integration: A significant portion emphasized the value of linkage between Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) and the other applications in the Office family, especially Outlook and SharePoint. The comments indicated that each product got more valuable by virtue of linkage to the other, again due to productivity increases.
- Remote working – in branch offices, home offices, or on the road. Widespread use of the Microsoft Office Communicator client so that employees could maintain their productivity while also cutting both their telecom and travel expenses.
- Linking with clients and business partners: This application was one of the “next things” being considered by several companies. The attendees could see the value for optimizing their business processes, and were working on the policies and practices that are required for including outside people and companies in the UC operations. The sense was that the initial versions would by inviting third parties into OCS Live Meeting conferences rather than by providing those people with guest accounts on the enterprise’s OCS system or by federation (which will come later as more companies have UC systems with federation capabilities).
- Mobility: Last but not least, there is always interest in cutting the mobile phone bills. With the “caller pays” billing found in most GSM networks, OCS was being used to let the user click on their mobile to make a call, then to have the call come out to the mobile device (no fees) from the OCS server in the data center which then extends the other leg of the call to the intended party.
While there was some discussion of embedding UC into business applications such as SAP or Microsoft Dynamics CRM or customer portals, it seems that the embedding of UC into apps will be in the next set of projects, in late 2010, 2011, or beyond.
So, Istanbul lived up to, and exceeded my expectations. I wish all the attendees the best of success as the extend the Turkish business tradition.