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Unified Communications Grows Optimized Communications

The business communications industry has gone through many changes in the past 45 years--from the Carterfone Decision, to digital communications, to IP, mobile, and most recently to Unified Communications (UC). Unified Communications continues to serve its purpose, but for the most part, vendors and organizations have focused on individual productivity tools such as user clients with softphones, IM and presence. The next stage, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), sought to enhance productivity of individual users as well as communications among teams and groups of workers with conferencing and collaboration tools.

We've come a long way. We now have multiple channels of communication, across a multitude of devices, and multiple deployment models. New channels of communication such as social software have entered the picture, and we're seeing more integration with the contact center for customer interactions, as well as with enterprises' business processes, whether CRM, ERP, or vertical market segment processes and applications.

Users, both employees and customers, have different expectations than in the past. The consumerization of IT and the BYOD trend changed the way people want to work and the tools they want to use. As the saying goes, work is something you do, not a place where you go. The "new normal" is virtual workers and teams, working non-traditional hours, from remote locations, as well as empowered customers that want service on their terms and in the manner that's most convenient for them. Working 9-to-5 from a corporate office building is a thing of the past, and organizations of all sizes and across all verticals need to adapt.

In light of all this, we're about to enter the next phase of business communications. During recent discussions, UCStrategies called this new phase "Optimized Communications." We think this captures the current and future state of our industry pretty well. We welcome your inputs on this nomenclature--please add your comments to this NoJitter post.

The term "optimize" has several definitions, but it boils down to making something as effective, useful, or near perfect as possible, to achieve maximum efficiency, and to get the most out of it.

So, we're thinking that Optimized Communications can be defined as the use of a specific selection of communication and interaction tools and technologies for businesses and organizations in order to optimize organizational goal attainment while delivering an engaging user experience.

Rather than being unified, which it's not, communications should be optimized, allowing workers, teams, and customers to enhance their business interactions and to achieve their defined organizational or customer goals with their choice of endpoint devices while using the best and/or most convenient communication tools at any point in time. This goes beyond the concept of connecting with the right resource at the right time to using the most desirable or satisfactory tools in order to have the best user experience while achieving the desired goals. Whether it's collaborating on a project, interacting with partners, processing a transaction, or engaging with customers, it's all about having the best possible experience, leading to the desired business results.

Optimized Communications includes the various UC tools and technologies, including:

* Call control
* Conferencing/collaboration
* Mobility
* Messaging
* Social media (both public and private)
* Various channels and media, including voice, text, video, web, etc.

However, Optimized Communications looks at these tools from the perspectives of organizational goals and user effectiveness, rather than focusing on the technology or infrastructure. Optimized Communications includes interactions beyond the enterprise so that organizations can seamlessly collaborate with their customers, suppliers, partners, and others using a blend of public and private, cloud and premise solutions. Technologies such as WebRTC and others will help propel this, but technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

A key element of "OC" is context, which enables users to have information they need when interacting with colleagues, customers, partners, and others. Context helps to optimize communications in a variety of ways. For example:

* Users have awareness of the status of the business process they are seeking to advance at the moment, so that minimal time is wasted reviewing, recapping, or re-collecting the necessary information.

* Users have insights into the people they're interacting with, previous interactions and topics of interaction, as well as documents and resources that are part of the process. Users can easily search for and connect with the right resource and person with the necessary expertise when needed.

* Customer service reps have a full understanding of the customer--not just their purchase history, but who they've communicated with at the company regardless of channel, and the results of those interactions.

The goal of Optimized Communications is to produce business results and enable people to use the tools and communication capabilities, devices, and channels they want to use, when they want to use them, and how they want to use them in order to optimize the outcomes for the organization in which they are employed.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this--is Optimized Communications the right direction and the next stage of business communications? In addition to your comments here, please visit UCStrategies and let us know your thoughts. Or send me an email at [email protected].

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