What does Unified Communication mean to me?

mobile device, unified communication
Courtesy of Dru Bloomfield
This blog post is a future looking, what I believe should happen with respect to Unfiied Communication in an organization.  Some of the concepts below push beyond what the current Unified Communication vendors provide today.  These thoughts and ideas are from my own personal perspective.
Before you read on, I want to make sure that the reader understands that I am making an  assumption that 1) you understand what Unified Communication means from the industry perspective.  2) you understand what technology and tools are included, based on what the industry provides.  If you don't understand these items, I suggest looking around for the definition of Unified Communication and talking with some of the technology leaders and vendors to get a more in depth perspective.  

Unified communication must be:

Multi-technology.  UC tools must be able to work with all types of technology: video, audio, video call, phone, IM, Presence.  It must be able to deal with multiple consumer based technologies and work on all types of devices. UC has to work for the customer and the employee.  

Cross over.  UC tools must be able to provide a means for the consumer/client to dial in and have it routed to the correct person. UC tools must provide a way to dial out to the consumer/client. And this has to work across all of the types of technology.  Consumers should be able to see employee status (for those special relationships) and the UC tool should provide an online/real time collaborative environment for the consumer/client and employee to work within.  And in it all, this cross over UC tool needs to integrate with the offline collaborative environment, such as a social business tool.

Flexible (integrated).Say that I am at work, taking care of a customer.  The transaction I am working on requires some special skills.  In line to the application that I am using, the application should provide me a list of experts or group of subject matter experts to talk to if I have a question about the transaction or to obtain special approvals.

Mobile.   UC tools need to be available from anywhere, anytime, on any device.  A phone on my desk at work.  A phone on my desk at home. My personal mobile device.  My company provided mobile device.  My personal computer. My company provided computer. And when I am out and about, the system better provide a means for me to connect, even on an old / slow data connection.  Any device, anytime, anywhere.  (in data connections are not high enough to support video, the system should recognize this and make that type of communication not available).

Security. The UC tool better be secure.  On any device, anywhere, anytime.  When a message is stored local to the device, it better be encrypted in case someone were to hack the device I use. The way the tool connects to the companies systems better be done in a secure manner (e.g. encryption).  Security is important since inevitably, the UC tool is going to be transmitting confidential information.

Intuitive.  Gone are the days that I have to type in #'s to get through a menu system.  Visual is the way of the future.  Simple intuitive touch screens, via the desktop or mobile device.  Don't make me use the system the way it used to be done. Don't translate those menu systems directly into the UI interface.  In fact, don't assume I am going to use the system the way you expect me to use it, make the system intuitive enough that it prompts me for thing I do most often, or shows visually the items that I am most interested in based on my previous use of the system.

Virtual.   UC tools must be able to work in a virtual environment - and I mean all features, video, audio, etc.  None of this, it audio only works and you are out of luck.  The virtual desktop is near upon us and these tools must work reliably and easily within a virtual server and desktop world.

Highly Configurable UC tools must be able to provide a way to configure them, so that I can  indicate I am available or not available (presence). In addition, I should be able to say that I am available over an audio connectin (e.g. phone) but not over video (think, bad hair day).  The system should be able to change the status based on rules such as time of day, the person trying to contact me, and the channel they are trying to connect with me.  Remember, if UC is available on any device, any time, any where, employees are going to need to setup ground rules of when they are truly available and when they are enjoying time with the family and are "off the clock".

A UC tool better be a tool that provides value to the way I talk and communicate with other people.  It better be easy to use, to find the person I am looking for quickly and easily, especially in in the context of what I am doing and better have the full range of ways of communicating included in the solution.  It better be integrated into my job, in such a way that it is intuitive and provide business value to my companies bottom line, via improved customer relations to improved methods of getting the job done.