The Fuzzy Future – and Present – of Unified Communications - Page 2

Communications-enabled Business Processes (CEBP) are the future of unified communications. That isn't surprising, since CEBP is, in a sense, UC's past and present as well.

 By Carl Weinschenk
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CEBP, he suggests, will be closely tied to the UC infrastructure – but have a home in the business processes, not the telecom network. Said Murphy:


“Where CEBP is clearly going is in the business process management, the business logic and business intelligence sort of direction. That's where it will be playing in the enterprise. I'm not saying that it's there yet.”
Indeed, this dichotomy – in which CEBP and UC are closely related but distinct – can be seen in the context of the tense relationship that exists between the IT and telecom worlds ever since the ascendance of the Internet protocol led the two formerly separate discipline to share quarters on the same network.

You See, It's UC-B and UC-U

Finding the dividing line between UC and CEBP is not the only way in which the industry slices and dices UC. An increasingly popular approach – and one that apparently originated with industry observers and consultants associated with UC Strategies -- is to split UC into two subgroups, UC-U and UC-B.

UC-U, unified communications, user-oriented, is the set of customer-facing tools that are most readily identified with unified communications. UC-B, or unified communications, business-oriented, represents the ways in which communications can be built into business processes to wring inefficiencies out of back-end processes. These most closely track with CEBP.

The bottom line is that technical capabilities are evolving quickly, and the conceptual thinkers – technical folks who have to harness those capabilities and marketing people who have to sell them – are struggling to make sense of the new realities. Opus Research's Miller says the economic slowdown has enabled organizations, which were not as engaged in revenue-generating activities as they would be during other times, to push the envelope on the underlying enablers.

One enabler is the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which allows devices and software to communicate. The telecom and IT industries also created application-programming interfaces (APIs) and service-oriented architectures (SOA) that promote creation of sophisticated platforms.

These advances enabled communications tools from different areas to be knit together in more creative ways. Just as importantly, it enables the platforms to be created by folks without the technical abilities that were necessary for similar tasks in the past. “So it's easier than ever before for solution providers, application developers [and others] to choose best of breed technologies from anywhere in the information and communications stack,” he says.

The semantics of UC is very interesting. To some extent, distinctions are overstated. Don Van Doren, the president of Vanguard Communications, sees beyond UC-B or UC-U. “Irrespective of which terms you are using, the important concept is that both refer to conceptual ways of thinking of communications in business. Some people like to say UC-U and some people like UC-B. In my view, it is a pretty artificial distinction. The whole industry is shifting.”

The companies that control the message are the ones that will thrive. The importance of aligning terms – UC, CEBP, UC-U, UC-B and others – may be to enable the industry to organize itself and enable vendors, service providers and current and prospective customers to understand more clearly where it is and where it is heading.

This article was originally published on Feb 9, 2010
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