VoiceCon Orlando – What a Show!

Updated: April 06, 2010

Social software is becoming an integral part of enterprise communications, and is increasingly being integrated with UC and contact center applications. We saw some great demos from Siemens, Cisco, Avaya, and others, showing the integration with public social software services like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. While the demand isn't quite there yet, these companies are getting ready for the eventual need to route tweets just like another contact center channel. Siemens demonstrated how tweets can be sent to contact center queues and agents who can best handle the request. Contact center agents can have a "social pad" on their agent desktop that displays tweets that came into their agent desktop based on key words and phrases. Most of the VoiceCon keynotes included social software demos, and the integration of social software and UC is well on its way. In addition to contact center capabilities, we'll soon be able to click-to-communicate from public social software services, and the ability to do so from enterprise services from IBM and Cisco is already here.

On the user side, customers are expanding their UC implementations, and achieving substantial results. While we always hear from users at VoiceCon, with a couple exceptions they haven't always been at the forefront of unified communications - even on UC User Panels. The UC panelists this year provided great insights into what their organizations are doing, the benefits they're achieving, who is making the decisions about implementing UC, and more.

It's clear that the decision to purchase and implement UC is based on input and coordination from both the line of business side and the IT side, and they need to work closely together. Both the users and vendors agree that business process integration is an essential part of the UC ROI equation, and that the future of UC depends on this integration. In fact, during his keynote, Microsoft's Gurdeep Singh Pall noted that in three years, "75% of new applications will be communications-enabled and have communications built into them." While I don't believe the market will move that quickly, I do believe that we'll see more communication-enabled applications being rolled out over the next few years. As Donna Zett, Chief Innovation Officer, Serta International, noted on the end user panel, "We need to be able to respond to consumer and dealers quickly, and let dealers track their own orders. When dealers produce orders, they need to track it and see where the orders are." This clearly requires UC-enabled applications.

Darrius Jones, Executive Director Channel Management - Technical Fellow, USAA, took this one step further, focusing on the need for "context-enabled applications," noting "The challenge is human latency, so when we can cut out having to go through voice mail, email, and the time it takes for setting up meetings, it helps. Voice mail and asynchronous communications are being brought in context to users so they can pick out relevant information, which is helpful."

I'm extremely interested in hearing about who makes the UC decision in an organization. As most of my readers know, I (and the rest of the UCStrategies team) advocate having the line of business people involved in the decision-making process. I was pleased to hear Duane Longhofer, Telecom Manager, AccuQuote, explain that the decision to implement UC is "Driven by the business - first the need is driven by the business and then IT comes in and brings in vendors and lets the business unit choose the vendor."

Jason Norton, Director of Operations and Telecom, Scripps Networks explained that because Scripps is a small company, "IT is responsible for keeping up with technology and seeing what's coming down the road." Line of business people can go to the IT team and tell them about what they need, and then a steering committee makes the decision as to whether or not to move forward."

At a small Microsoft luncheon where we heard from three OCS customers, Bill Johnson of Stoneridge Inc. noted that he got a lukewarm reception from his company's leadership team when he demonstrated OCS. But - there was an "aha moment" when they realized that they could have video meetings with their joint venture partners in India. Using OCS, Stoneridge can have collaborative, full video board meetings, which saved $50,000 in one day alone, by eliminating some trips to or from India. The decision came down to whether or not OCS will be able to save them money or help them make more money, and by being able to show that the company could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel and cut 10% of its travel budget, Johnson was able to win over the decision makers.

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