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Human Latency in UC: What Does the Business Process See?

The problem is that both Eric and Zeus are using the wrong definitions - for human latency and for UC. Let's do this one definition at a time.

Human latency is the time that a business process is pending or delayed while waiting for the humans who are required to act on the process. The important thing to the enterprise and to the enterprise's customers or constituents is that the process be completed. Many, many examples exist. How about IVR systems and ATMs and web sites, so that the customer or constituent does not even have to wait? How about e-mail, voice mail or texting so that a dialog can occur without waiting for both (or several) parties to be available for a phone call (simultaneous by definition)? How about audio and video conferencing so that meetings don't have to wait for transportation time? Even better, how about a collaborative workspace with wikis and blogs so that the collaborative process never even has to wait for two humans to be available concurrently? And, how about presence (for everybody) or agent state (in a call center) so that software can find the best immediately available and properly skilled human to serve the customer? The list goes on and on!

Unified Communications (UC) is not just the convergence (don't you just love that word?) of media types on a user interface. UC is "Communications integrated to optimize business processes." This phrase was first posted by UCStrategies.com in 2006 and has since been echoed in VoiceCon and Interop main stage events by the likes of John Chambers (Cisco CEO), Lou D'Ambrosio (Avaya CEO), Mike Rhodin (IBM Lotus Software GM), and Jeff Raikes (Microsoft UC Division President). In all cases, the emphasis is on making changes in the business that innovatively and relentlessly takes out the time, cost, and latency that exist in business due to inefficient communications processes, especially those that involve waiting for some person to respond, decide, or act. At UniComm Consulting, we call these communication "hot spots" and apply UC technology to eliminate or streamline them. It works.

It's puzzling why this definition of UC should be such a problem for our industry. We have done this with great zeal in the call centers and contact centers of the world, and the resulting improvements in both customer satisfaction and business profitability (from cost cutting, revenue growth or both) are matters of record. Why won't we do this in the rest of the business?

Some innovative, relentless, and even brave customers are doing this. They tend not to make much noise about it, since it gives them such an advantage. But you can look at my Tales from the UC Front panel at VoiceCon Orlando 2008 to see four real customer examples of UC innovations to optimize business processes.

Don't get me wrong - new, unified tools for communications are great things! But the measure of UC impact will be seen in how businesses can reshape their legacy, arcane, highly manual, individualized, and latency prone communications to optimize their business processes, not just the employee's convenience. Ben Franklin earned his place on the $100 bill when he said, "Time is money." He would have loved UC!

What do you think? Let me know at [email protected]