25 October 2013
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Recognizing the importance of UX for the Unified Communication marketplace

Each year, research consultancy Gartner surveys the Unified Communication marketplace – the vendors responsible for hardware and software driving enterprise-scale telephony and communications systems. The 2013 edition cites a number of “clues to the future”, and one of the important factors for the future of this sector is at the core of what we do: User experience.

The Unified Communication (UC) market is a significant one, representing some of the biggest names in technology, significant investments, complex products and services, and great numbers of end-users. How is the market defined? Gartner says, “The primary goal of unified communications is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes. Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal.”

And vendors (such as Cisco, Microsoft, IBM and Alcatel-Lucent) qualified for inclusion in the report by demonstrating a presence in six areas: Voice and Telephony, Conferencing, Messaging, Presence and IM, Clients, and Communications-enabled Applications.

In their review of where significant opportunities lie, Gartner cited “clues to the future“:

  1. User experience
  2. Industry leadership
  3. Interoperability
  4. Cloud and Hybrid options
  5. Mobility

It’s the first item that bears noticing; as Gartner says: “The quality and effectiveness of the overall user experience across all devices will heavily influence the effectiveness of the solution, its adoption rate and, ultimately, enterprise productivity. While consolidated administration and management are important characteristics of a successful solution, it is the high-quality end-user experience that will drive adoption and productivity.”

In analyzing the report, Marty Parker looks at how the newly-recognized importance of UX is affecting the UC vendors. The following are edited observations of his from a recent post:

  1. E-mail is by far the highest-volume communications tool, and therefore the most common UX, in most enterprises. Despite the challenges of email, users want to stay in Outlook, Notes (or Connections), Gmail, or similar interfaces and be able to see the presence of all involved in any e-mail thread, and then click to IM or call or conference with those persons. No new client, no change of habits, just click and done.
  2. Next, let’s have communications embedded in Instant Messaging (IM) buddy lists and social network pages. There is no doubt this has happened in our personal lives, as we can chat or call or view from so many tools (Skype, Facebook, Facetime, Google, et al.). IM clients are readily available in most enterprises, too. Some are limited only to IM messages by enterprise policy, but this will likely change–either because the users expect to be able to click to communicate from IM, or because IM disappears inside other application UXs like e-mail. Social networks are gaining traction in enterprises and may, over time, subsume the e-mail UX.
  3. Software Applications are the really new UC&C UX–both for personal and business. Just take a look at the communications tools built into Amazon (personal) or Salesforce.com (business) to get the point. More and more vertical market software apps such as in healthcare, CRM, transportation, and manufacturing are also including direct e-mail, IM, presence and some social networking capabilities. Can the voice and video UX from those applications be far away?
  4. Mobile smartphones and tablets, of course, are becoming the “platform” for all of this. The mobile devices have communications tools built in to capture the user’s attention (and usage patterns) in ways that produce value for the carriers and/or the device makers… But enterprise e-mail has a prominent place on these mobile devices, and software applications are increasingly expected and preferred there, too, providing the context for the Enterprise UC&C UX.

Source: “User Experience: The X Factor of Unified Communications” (Marty Parker, nojitter.com)

Employee experience (5), User experience (37)

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