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UC Friday: CEBP and the Unified Communications Continuum

Based on the UCStrategies.com definition of UC, "Communications integrated to optimize business processes," UC includes both the personal productivity elements of UC, as well as the business process integration element, by which I mean integrating or embedding communication capabilities such as presence and call control (i.e.; click-to-call or click-to-conference) with applications such as CRM, ERP, or vertical applications such as claims processing or loan processing.

Important note: I'm using the term CEBP as a generic term for communication-enabling applications, which is different than Avaya's CEBP. Avaya's CEBP approach, based on the Avaya Communications Process Manager and Event Processor to monitor events, focuses on machine-to-human communications rather than human-to-human communications, is initiated and triggered by an automated process, and may or may not use UC components.

I am all in favor of automating business processes via communications integration, as Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, and others are doing. I believe there's a strong need for this in the market, and I believe that vendors can greatly increase their services businesses and revenues, while helping companies reduce the "human latency" that causes business processes to come to a standstill. I am not anti-CEBP. What I am against is taking the business process integration element out of the realm of Unified Communications.

I see UC as providing and integrating communication capabilities (such as collaboration, messaging, call control, click-to-call, instant messaging, mobility, etc.), with presence and a unified user interface, providing Personal Productivity capabilities - this can be considered the Personal Productivity Zone of UC, or Basic UC. Going the next step, these communication capabilities can also be integrated to applications (again, CRM, ERP, and vertical applications). To help explain this, I've developed a "UC Continuum," based on three models or ways to implement a UC solution (see the Figure below):

* Telephony Model, which starts with the telephony switch, * Real Time Communication Model, which starts with the presence/IM server (generally Microsoft or IBM), and * Business Application Model, which starts with an application such as Oracle/Siebel, SAP, Salesforce.com, or a vertical application.

Companies can move along the continuum to Unified Communications by adding capabilities such as presence, mobility, collaboration, etc., providing personal productivity benefits to employees. The top of the curve or continuum is what I call "Enhanced UC", which is the communication-enablement of business processes or applications, or what some call Communications Enabled Business Processes (remember, this communication enablement is not necessarily automated or machine-triggered as in the Avaya CEBP offering, although it could be). Some enterprise customers will get significant value from UC capabilities providing personal productivity benefits, while the goal for other companies will be to get to the top of the curve to Enhanced UC. It's important to recognize that not everyone will need to get to the top of the curve, although that's where the greatest ROI lies.

From my perspective, CEBP is an enhancement or continuation of UC. While business process integration is a key part of UC, you can have a basic form of UC (i.e.; personal productivity) without necessarily communication-enabling your business applications. However, to reap the real value and get better ROI from a UC solution, business process integration is critical. Some enterprises will move along the continuum from UC to Enhanced UC, while some will simply implement basic UC, while others will go straight to Enhanced UC (although this is less likely, as business process integration is more complex and requires more systems integration).

There is value in both basic UC (personal productivity) and Enhanced UC (communication-enabling applications), although it is easier to prove the hard dollar benefits and ROI of Enhanced UC. The personal productivity benefits of UC are important and provide value to individuals and workgroups in a variety of ways. By being able to view someone's presence, you can determine how best to contact them, while conferencing and collaboration are simplified, saving time and making workers more productive. Moving to Enhanced UC by communication-enabling applications makes communications an integral part of the business process rather than a separate activity, and provides value to the organization in terms of increased sales, reduced costs, improved customer service, faster time to market, etc.

My main point is that rather than viewing CEBP and UC as separate entities, they should be seen as part of a continuum, with CEBP going beyond the basic personal productivity aspect of UC to providing the integration and embedding of communication elements such as presence and call control to business processes and applications. There is value in both basic and enhanced UC, and companies need to determine what works best in their particular environment.