Step 4

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2007-11-13 Print this article Print

: Expand the Application Base"> Step 4: Expand the Application Base A UC strategy may get its start as a platform to improve user collaboration by presenting a single interface for a companys workers to communicate more efficiently through a variety of mediums. However, the real power of UC will come once strategic business applications can be pulled into the collaborative mix and the by-products of these new types of communications can be archived as strategic data assets. Martin Suter, president of SMB-focused UC vendor Objectworld, sees unified communications as a continuum. "You have the voice over IP/dial-tone/low-value proposition at one end, and unified messaging—where your voice mail and faxes find you—in the middle," Suter said. "But really where companies need to aspire is further to the right. Unified communications is the convergence of communications with business processes and business applications."
"Integrating UC components into line-of-business applications will be absolutely essential," said Accentures Redey. "If we go back to how people work, they want to be able to launch collaboration straight out of working context, whether it is a CRM or ERP system they are working in."
Going beyond the model of user-to-user communications, a focus on the role of applications within a UC construct can improve automated services—where the application itself can, for instance, automatically generate communications to resupply a low-inventory item or conduct automated billing notification in several mediums. Or, customer requests and contact attempts can be automatically included in a customer management profile, allowing the company to retain more information about its client base, without relying on humans to perform the actions. Taking UC adoption to this next level will require that implementers discover what systems and applications workers use that would benefit from improved collaboration and automation, and then redesign or replatform these applications to integrate with the new communications model. Suter recommends that implementers identify potential pain points for a business to help identify applications and parts of the business that would benefit from UC. "Ask yourself where we can be hurt badly tomorrow, where we are expending a lot of energy and where we are putting out fires." Implementers should also consider whether a business process or application would benefit from the ability to archive real-time communications surrounding the use of said application. UC presents the opportunity to turn something as simple as a voice call into a richer form of communications that could include pictures, presentations, videos and whiteboard sessions. These richer information sessions can then be archived and indexed, and later be made searchable. This will save not only the core information that populates the application but also context, discussion and subsidiary information that could otherwise be lost in the ether. Page 6: Step 5: Bring Outside In

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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