What really is “UC”? – It’s middleware that flexibly connects people and applications

I am really getting tired of hearing people talk about UC as if it is some kind of product or a single piece of communication software!

It’s really a collection of communication software applications that hopefully can all share common network connectivity, user information such as identity, user availability (presence), and contact data (address information). The interoperability part will allow an individual user to independently switch from one mode of input or output interaction to another, while still retaining the same basic context information that all modes of communication need. That flexibility lets mobile users control how they send or retrieve different types of messages (“unified messaging”) or escalate from a message to a voice or video conversation.

Let’s face it, we are already seeing how telephony is being subsumed by both IP connectivity instead of the PSTN, as well as by multimodal smartphones, tablets, desktop endpoints that let users do more than talk or use the very limited old TUI. So, guess what? We are already seeing an increase in text messaging as a basic and initial form of contact, with user options to “click-to-connect” for real time chat, voice or video conversations.

What does that really mean for business communications? As I have frequently suggested, phone conversations will no longer have to start with “blind” phone calls that may end up as voice mail messages. Even with the increase in mobile devices, I am sure that the old statistic of 3 out of 4 business calls end up in voice mail is probably a little better with mobility. But, seeing how many mobile users look at their ringing cell phones and just put them back into their pockets after first looking to see who is calling, it is clear that mobile “accessibility” does not equate to “availability” or high priority for all callers.

So, where does UC come into the picture? it allows a contact initiator to choose any user interface mode of contact and information exchange they want at that moment from a single device.  Further, it allows that initial mode of contact to be dynamically changed depending on the needs of the communicating parties. Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, it provides more control to the recipient in terms of their time priorities and environmental circumstances to accept a real-time contact from either a person or an automated business process application. It is still the recipient that must be responsible for their own job-related time and priority management!

AVST, who has been in the voice mail and call management business for a long time came up with a clever way for business call recipients to diplomatically screen and acknowledge incoming calls to their company telephone systems by enabling them to be alerted to an incoming call that identifies the caller, and lets them decide at that point whether to take the call or deliver a voice message to the caller for later contact. That’s a step in the right direction, but there are lots more that can now be done for mobile user with smartphones that have display screens for text messaging. More importantly, there are new ways to avoid wasteful, “blind” real-time phone call attempts completely, making person-to-person contacts more cost and time efficient and controllable by individual end users, whether they are inside or outside of the organization (employees, business partners, customers).

Leave a Reply