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Looking for Ways to Pick up the Pace on CEBP

Siemens Enterprise Communications recently announced its OpenScape Fusion Developer Program, a free community of resources and tools aimed at helping Systems Integrators, VARs, ISVs and IT teams integrate unified communications into their other applications. With links to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, the program hopes to leverage social networking to help its members form a close community and share information and best practices.

Because OpenScape is built on an open platform, it's easier than most UC tools to integrate with other software and services, and the program will offer free SDKs to help developers cost-effectively create new applications. And because OpenScape has been around for years--it's one of the most mature UC platforms on the market--the code that developers need to rely on is solid. Product experts will be on hand to inject specific advice, and hosted sandboxes let developers play with the technology in a secure, online environment from day one. And Siemens hopes that by using the program, community members will have better access to potential customers of the products they're developing.

The Siemens executives I spoke with hope the new program will go a long way toward helping developers inject communications into other business apps, and therefore into business processes. Certainly, the portal will make it easier for developers to do so, whether they are working on a custom project for a specific company or a business application they plan to sell into the market. But it’s worth remembering that the presumed benefits of communications embedded business processes (CEBP) remain largely theoretical, as few companies have actually implemented CEBP.

There are two reasons why CEBP remains an elusive goal for most organizations:

1.) CEBP and UC are not the same thing; in order to embed communications into a business process, you must have the communications in the first place--and the vast majority of companies haven’t deployed the communications that make CEBP work. These include presence information, chat capabilities, conferencing apps and services, and even Voice over IP (as a point of reference, only half of all enterprise voice lines are IP-ready).

2.) Understanding what your business processes are, and where communications can make them better, takes really hard work--and it's an undertaking many organizations can't or won't take on.

The first roadblock will likely disappear over the next three to seven years, as more companies deploy advanced communications. But the second is a tougher nut to crack. The truth is, CEBP is most advantageous when companies identify key elements of their processes and use communications to improve them in unique ways. But most organizations don't have the time, know-how or patience to do that. Consider that the vast majority of mid-size and enterprise businesses rely on packaged applications (think SAP, Oracle, etc.) to define and automate business processes for them. Why should CEBP be any different? Of course, relying on a software vendor to tell you which processes should have embedded communications, and where, limits the overall value of doing so. But for many companies to risk/reward trade-off is worth it.

So, look for embedded communications to be part of packaged business applications (and services) in the long run. Programs like the OpenScape Fusion Developer Program may help speed that process along, but it will be most appealing to internal IT developers, SIs, VARs and small ISVs. The SAPs and Oracles of the world will likely work closely with the leading communications vendors to find their own out-of-the box solutions--but it won’t take off until most of their customers already have the necessary communications in place.