The New World of Unified Communications

Between the patent collection said to be a driver of Google's interest in Motorola and a post defining a new role for unified communications — as a focal point to squeeze usable data out of the exploding world of social media — it has become clear that things have irrevocably changed. 

By Carl Weinschenk | Posted Aug 16, 2011
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Yesterday, I posted a blog on the Motorola/Google deal and supplemented it with a reference to an interview I did at IT Business Edge with Constellation Research's Elizabeth Herrell on the need for IT departments to consider the specialized needs of Generation Y/Millennial workers. The bottom line of the post was that unified communications is broadening beyond the narrow definitions that technologists give it.

Instead of being a set of tools linked by presence and escalation capabilities — one of several perfectly good elevator-pitch explanations — unified communications now is broadening to become synonymous, more or less, with business communications as a whole.

Another example of this can be found in a very good post written by Jim Burton, founder and CEO for CT Link and the co-founder of UCStrategies. UCStrategies divided the first waves of unified communications into two groups: UC-user and UC-business (UC-U and UC-B). The first focuses on giving employees better ways to communicate. The second integrates those tools into business processes in order to drive efficiencies and improve ROI.

The next wave, Burton writes, is UC-analytics (UC-A). Essentially, UC-A is the mining of social networking for information and data that is valuable to the user and/or the company. Here is how he describes it:

Real-time analytics will add a new level of value to UC. Keeping with a contact center example--we are starting to see calls being monitored in real time for key words and phrases. During an interaction (call), a system looks for phrases such as "cancel service" or "let me talk to a supervisor" to indicate that a caller is dissatisfied. A supervisor can be advised of the problem call and a series of problem resolutions could be presented to the agent while the caller is still engaged with an agent.
Burton runs through a list of metrics on the use of communications that can be described as awe-inspiring (though he does not offer sources). He says that there are 4 billion cell phones on the earth, and 400 million can run 2.3 million applications; 200 trillion text messages are received in the U.S. daily, 140 million tweets are, well, tweeted daily and Facebook has 700 million registrants.
 
Unified communications is, in its own small way, helping drive this growth by making communication easier. The more important point, however, is that the use of analytics and analytic engines to make sense of everything — the category that Burton is talking about — is an absolute necessity in such an environment.
 
Burton and UCStrategies aren't the only ones who see the gradual immersion of what was thought of as unified communications into the broader universe of social media and related platforms. Today, Aspect Software unveiled Aspect Social Media Channel Integration. This is how the company describes the product:
Aspect's approach addresses the complete business issue of routing the right issue at the right time to the right resource, managing the resources needed for an effective social media response, and measuring the efficacy of the social media strategy.
This, and similar products, likely is what Burton has in mind. The world of unified communications is very quickly joining itself to the world of social networking. It's clearly more complex — and the rewards clearly are greater.

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