Don Van Doren
Don Van Doren brings 25 years of experience as the founder and president of Vanguard Communications, a leading independent consulting...
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Don Van Doren | July 02, 2009 |


Interoperability and UC

Interoperability and UC Unless interoperability is thoughtfully addressed, UC will be seen as an annoyance by many people. Like voicemail, it will be relegated to its lowest effective use.

Unless interoperability is thoughtfully addressed, UC will be seen as an annoyance by many people. Like voicemail, it will be relegated to its lowest effective use.

Fred Knight recently wrote about the need for UC interoperability and the challenges of getting there. I concur that interoperability is critical; indeed, UC can't achieve its potential without it.It's ironic that UC is coming into the market at a time when there's a groundswell of grumbling about being "too accessible." Cell phones, mobile email and the growth of IM can be seen as just the next generation of the pager - communications technology that puts the recipient at the mercy of the sender. Viewed in this way, UC promises to carry intrusions to new heights of sophistication.

A key problem is the current incarnation of "presence" capabilities. What most people understand of presence is based on the model of the IM "buddy list." It's only a list of names, and the individuals behind those names are responsible for setting their presence status, usually as a manual step. When this isn't done frequently or well, annoyance ensues.

There are three problems with the current presence model, and better interoperability addresses each of them.

* In the most beneficial UC applications, what's needed isn't a specific person, but rather someone with a particular skill or knowledge. When I have to get information to complete a task, I don't need Mary (who was helpful last time), but anyone with the required information. But buddy lists aren't organized by skill. More subtly, the inputs needed to populate and update skill sets will come from many different systems- and that requires interoperability.

* Status in many current presence systems is largely a manual process, and a pain to update. First, our status and availability changes continually, even if we are working at our desk. Do we change our status each time? Of course not, and therefore currently presence indicators are too much of an approximation. Second, information about what I'm doing right now comes from many different systems--desktop applications, phone system, maybe even my car. All have to feed into one system to automatically update presence status; once again, the need to interoperate.

* My availability is contingent on who's trying to reach me, and the urgency of the contact, as well as what I'm doing. We need much more sophisticated rules and policy engines than are generally available today. And, for them to be effective, these engines will have to interoperate with a broad spectrum of systems that will communicate caller identity and urgency.

Many different systems from different manufacturers will be providing presence-impacting information. These will operate within a single enterprise, as an innovative way to link companies with customers, and to connect various companies comprising a supply chain. Interoperability of all these systems will be critical.

We have seen how interoperability or lack thereof has impacted technology adoption. Just contrast the acceptance of email vs. voicemail. Voicemail was hampered by inadequate AMIS and VPIM standards reluctantly cobbled together by the suppliers. Its original conception was verbal interactive messages (think, "verbal email") with forwarding functions, distribution lists, etc. Inability to interoperate helped relegate its use only to answering telephones. By contrast, email's interoperability lets you send a message to anyone on the planet. The result was that email usage exploded, despite the fact that typing is a lot slower than talking.

Unless interoperability is thoughtfully addressed, UC will be seen as an annoyance by many people. Like voicemail, it will be relegated to its lowest effective use--just setting up communications with your buddies. Interoperability is key to enabling those process-altering applications where the most significant ROI opportunities reside, and therefore to transforming how better communications helps get work done.Unless interoperability is thoughtfully addressed, UC will be seen as an annoyance by many people. Like voicemail, it will be relegated to its lowest effective use.


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