Business UC Means Mobile & Messaging First
The old person-to-person business communication game is shifting away from intrusive telephone call connections toward more flexible and manageable messaging options.
Normal business communications are not life-or-death emergencies nor related to criminal activities that require instant notification alerts and conversational voice descriptions, so it's time to look at the new role of multimodal messaging in business interactions.
As end users increasingly rely on smartphones and tablets for most of their communication and information needs, the old person-to-person business communication game is shifting away from intrusive and demanding telephone call connections toward more flexible and manageable messaging options. It's not that voice (and video) conversations will disappear, but they won't be the disruptive, costly, and inefficient starting point for basic business contacts that they have been in the past.
Even though mobile users are now more "accessible," it doesn't mean they are more "available" to communicate in real-time, and that is a key reason that near-realtime messaging, like instant messaging and even email notifications, is rapidly displacing PSTN phone calls for initiating business contacts.
In addition, if a mobile contact recipient can't talk for a variety of practical reasons (in a meeting, noisy, public environment, etc.), they can still communicate via text and visual information exchange. As business communications become "mobile first" for both contact initiators and contact recipients, we should expect to see all forms of messaging being the starting points that can still lead to a real-time conversational voice or video connection if needed. This would require "federated presence" availability first, which normal messaging exchanges do not have.
As PSTN voice communications migrate to VoIP and become part of IP communications, end users will be able to initiate multimodal messaging contacts more easily and cost efficiently with their mobile and desktop endpoint devices, and then escalate to a voice or video conversation, as needed. That has always been the essence of what we have been calling "unified communications." But until we had the flexibility of multimodal endpoint devices to handle the dynamic needs of mobile users, UC never really took off.
Growing Role of Multimodal Unified Messaging for UCaaS
Since there are now many ways to send and receive asynchronous messages in near-real time, anywhere and anytime with mobile devices, we really have to rethink what unified messaging is all about. UM was always included as one of UC's functional applications, where voice calls generated voice mail messages that could be stored and retrieved along with email messages. It even extended to voice mail messages being optionally converted to text messages by the recipient because text is faster to read and manage than listening to voice messages.
There are many kinds of message services, ranging from short social network text messages to text messages with multimedia attachments (e.g., email), so such messages are now providing practical context for generating different kinds of person-to-person response messages or escalating to real-time voice/video contacts.
The key to putting all forms of messages together for flexible retrieval and selective modes of response by different types of authorized end users, is to store them in a secure, unlimited storage network environment, rather than in separate, legacy premises-based messaging systems. In that way, a unified messaging service can be more multimodal and support the dynamic needs of both message senders and recipients, regardless of location or endpoint device types.
CEBP: All About Messaging
Business communications are not just about person-to-person contacts, but, with the rapid user adoption of BYOD multimodal mobile devices, must also include personalized interactions with automated business process applications. This is where a business application will initiate a notification or alert message to an individual user, which, in turn, will enable the recipient to quickly and flexibly respond contextually to the application or to a person associated with that application.
This capability has long been labeled as Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP), but, again, until multimodal mobile devices came along, it never really went anywhere. With smartphones and tablets being used by most consumers and business users, they are all now accessible for personalized time-sensitive notification messages from automated business process applications -- not just people.
Managing Interactions with Persistent Messaging
Needless to say, message recipients must be able to selectively retrieve and respond to ALL their incoming messages, regardless of the original medium or source. In addition, business messages of all types can't always disappear after being retrieved, but should be retained for future reference in order to provide ongoing context for further interactions, as well as for documenting business activities. All related contacts and interactions are now being described as part of an ongoing contextual "conversation" that can be easily referenced and retrieved as needed.
Some of the new communication service offerings are starting to provide such persistent capabilities for both multimodal messaging and real-time calls, as noted in my recent UCStrategies post. The kind of unlimited storage required for supporting such "persistent" communication content can now be practically and cost efficiently accommodated in cloud services associated with UCaaS, so expect business communications to move away from premises-based systems to trusted and secure cloud UCaaS providers.