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Unified Communications - collaborate Anytime, Anywhere, on Any device ?

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  1. S.38-3310 Master’s Thesis Seminar on Networking Technology Unified Communications- collaborate Anytime, Anywhere, on Any device? Ilona Raitakari 9.5.2007 Helsinki University of Technology Communications Laboratory Supervisor: Timo O. Korhonen Advisor: Jörg Ott Instructor: Timo Lummevaara / Satakunnan Puhelin Oy

  2. Contents • Introduction • History & former research • Unified Communications (UC) • Definition of the UC-concept • Benefits & expectations • Key technologies & standards • Market Structure • Challenges • Conclusions • Implications for further research

  3. What is e-Collaboration Co-located Synchronous Asynchronous Distance Collaboration activities supported by some form of ICT (Information and communication Technology) (Munkvold 2005)

  4. Motivational background: Contradiction between the potential and the reality • The expected benefits of e-Collaboration technology in enabling and facilitating more effective collaboration • Among geographically dispersed organisations and teams • Internally or with customers, suppliers and business associates • Broadening reach and increasing responsiveness • Time and cost savings • Decreasing the risks and bother included in travelling • Increasing flexibility in organising personal work • Current slow diffusion levels of e-Collaboration (especially real-time collaboration) technology • The promises of UC*), the value of expected new capabilities and the credibility of their realisation in near future -> What new will UC bring here? *) Gartner, Forrester, Wainhouse, Yankee Group 2005-2006

  5. Research problem & Methods • The goal of this thesis was to estimate the overall contribution of the concept of Unified Communications (UC) in the development, realising the benefits and implementing the e-collaboration technology • The expectations and key assumptions attached to UC are presented and evaluated considering the e-collaboration history, current technology levels and key vendor strategies • The study is based on literature research on • e-collaboration technology and standardisation literature sources • UC related vendor material and market analysis reports year 2005-2007

  6. Evolution of e-Collaboration supporting technologies • Video Conferencing since 1927 • Web conferencing since 1997 • Email since 1960s • Groupware since 1980s • Instant Messaging and Presence since 1980s • VoIP since 1970s Current technology convergence is transforming these diverse applications towards a multi-functional collaborative application with integrated functionality with any other e-collaboration technology

  7. Former research on….Real-time conferencing:How to explain low usage levels? • Bad usability & quality problems in earlier conferencing applications • Network bandwidth insufficiency • High initial investment on systems • Lack of ubiquity i.e. connections could only be made between the endpoints with conferencing facilities installed, tested and trained well in advance • Psychological and sociological factors e.g. • Shyness in front of the video camera • Decreased amount of informal discussions traditionally attached to face-to-face meetings • Unawareness of correct etiquette of dealing with someone far away • Reduced opportunity to travel • Not easy to quantify economical savings • The loss or increase in productivity vary on each occasion and is not easy to measure • The amount of substitution of travel by real-time e-collaboration has been questioned

  8. Former research on… comparing Traditional (local) teams and Virtual teams • In majority of research, virtual teams were considered as ”asynchronous” teams i.e. they use mainly non-real-time applications to support collaboration and have limited ability to engage in real-time interaction • Some key findings*): • (+/-) No difference found in performance and decision quality • (+) Virtual teams communicate more frequently than traditional teams • (-) Virtual teams take longer to reach decision • (-) Traditional teams are better able to manage conflict, particularly in the early stages of the team’s life • (-) Lower success in meeting team socio-emotional needs • (+/-) Mixed views on the ability to deal with cultural diversity *) The constrains of previous research and overall challenges in these kind of research settings has to be observed when evaluating the results

  9. Unified Communicationsaim at providing an integrated solution in Enterprise Communication and Collaboration… Email Calendaring Document & Files Team Workspaces Video Conferencing Business/ Workflow Applications Web/Data Conferencing Unified Communications Tightly integrated communications applications Audio Conferencing Instant Messaging Mobility Presence & Availability Telephone/PBX

  10. Unified Communications (UC) • The purpose of UC (as defined in this thesis) is to improve the efficiency of interactions in personal and collaborative communications by providing • an integrated solution for asynchronous and synchronous collaboration • better possibilities for real-time-collaboration • capabilities adjusting personal reachability (Presence) • UC must be seen more as a concept than a technology • The concept relies on technology convergence between enterprise Information Technology and IP communications systems

  11. UC – analyst expectations • Increases the efficiency of communication and collaboration among enterprises by • resolving day-to-day communication and reachability problems • creating Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) • Provides a centralised control, management and infrastructure for multiple enterprise communication methods • Gives rise to a major industry transition as the traditional vendor categorisations and roles change • Presents the third wave of information and communication technology” - compared to the impact of mobility, the internet and www-technology in the late 90s

  12. Presence – a key enabler of UC “Presence is expected to provide an ability to tune out distractions selectively and automatically and – in the same time – be optimally and immediately available for critical communications” • Presence can be used for informing other team members of current availability, willingness to communicate and how they wish to be contacted • Presence-capability is seen as a basis and key enabler for Unified Communications, as it is offering new, more effective ways to • initiate ad hoc interaction • select the communication medium that is best suited to the current situation • Rich presence offers ways for automatic presence update according to communication device status or profile, calendar schedule, location presence

  13. Initiating an ad hoc live collaboration session using an UC-type solution

  14. Communication-enabled business Processes (CEBP) • => Business systems that are able to directly integrate with communication systems and networks: • CEBPs that are initiated by a person • E.g. Click-to-call-capability and co-browsing integrated into an online banking solution • CEBPs that are initiated by an application • Linking certain system events to certain automated and proactive communication suggestions • E.g. system alarm triggers an IM/SMS message for person currently responsible and available. Message escalates to a broader group in case of no response • CEBPs are expected to automate communication processes, accelerate decision making and provide faster responses to customer requests e.g. in sales, customer support or in a contact centre

  15. Key technologies and standardsaffecting UC development • Technologies: • IP Communication and Conferencing • IMP Instant Messaging and Presence • Mobility and 3G: Mobile IMP, (conferencing) • Standards: • SIP and SIMPLE • IMS • Proprietary peer-to-peer-technology like Skype • SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) approach

  16. UC Market structure • Existing UC vendors • Traditional video/web conferencing providers • Enterprise software vendors • Telephony-centric vendors • “Wildcard” companies like Skype, Yahoo, Google • Most mobile telecommunication manufacturers haven’t published any UC strategy

  17. Challenges of UC-development • Unmature technology: products are still on early stage and lack functionality • Standardisation shortages • Basic UC-related standardisation (SIP, SIMPLE, IMS) still lacks key elements • There is no comprehensive solution supporting UC • Even though UC vendors have announced support and adoption of SIP and SIMPLE, current interoperability between vendors is achieved through partnerships’ and vendors’ own agreements on ’open interface’’ • As UC benefits are mostly ’soft’ e.g. related to productivity improvements it is not easy to produce measurable benefits • Societal and psychological difficulties in understanding and implementing the concept • Presence-capabilities may be seen as a threat for managing own time • Fear for being forced to multichannel resources i.e. participate in multiple concurrent conversations using different media

  18. Time for Conclusions…

  19. UC related market expectations are relying on the assumptions: • That possibilities for ad hoc real-time collaboration and integrated presence-capabilities contribute to the success of e-collaboration significantly • That UC provides/will provide good capabilities for managing this kind of polychronic communication, and diminish unnecessary task interruptions • Providing integrated and converged solutions are justified by clear benefits over traditional fragmented applications

  20. Factors supporting the first key assumptions (1&2) • Results from previous studies: • Spontaneous interaction with coworkers is found to be an essential element of collaborative work • Many functional constrains of virtual teams with limited ability to engage in real-time interactioncan be interpreted as consequences of the lack of effective information exchange, delays in sending feedback and differences in interpretation of written text • To diminish unnecessary disturbances, accepted team interaction rules should be created including timing and media selection • UC’s Rich Presence-capabilities seem to offer a reasonable way to create structured use of various communication facilities • People may start adapting the Presence concept if it is automated enough (e.g. updates from calendar etc.) and brings benefits to themselves (e.g. by being able to control personal time better) and not just for their working mates

  21. Factors supporting UC’s integrated approach Benefits of integrated solutions: • May create more efficient working patterns as users do not have to switch between various devices and applications • Easier access to various capabilities of real-time-communications without the need to initiate the session and start all over • Automatic update of presence information from other systems containing information of the user’s status • The prerequisite in creating CEBP-processes is the integrated approach between applications • Facilitating centralised control and management of multiple enterprise communication methods

  22. The effects of UC… the writer’s personal conclusion • UC-type solutions clearly have potential for achieving an important role in future enterprises- not just as a collaborative solution but providing an overall solution for enterprise communication • UC ideology seems to have potential to overcome some major obstacles that may have been hindering the usage of real time collaboration • The increase in real-time collaboration can increase enterprise-level efficiency as people may start to include e-collaboration features into normal interaction. This way tasks can be conducted in less time and at a lower cost than equivalent e-mail-chains and by waiting for face-to-face meeting • First implementations of UC will be related to improving day-to-day communication and offering better customer service utilising personal/group presence information in contact centre applications • UC type services as hosted/managed ASP-services would be the easiest model for customer and prevents being tied to one vendor architecture • Considering the early stage product offerings, current technological maturity and psychological challenges known from the history, the true breakthrough and market realisation of the ideas behind UC could not be expected until in 2-4 years’ time

  23. Implications for Further Research • On the basis of this study, the writer recommends further studies comparing a traditional virtual team (using phone & email for real-time interaction) and a virtual team using UC-type solutions: • What benefits UC-type technology could bring regarding e.g. • team and trust building among the team, • effectiveness of communication and coordination of work • performance and satisfaction achieved among team members • Interesting questions for further research would also be • What are the differences in technology adoption rates and models between groups? • Has UC changed e-collaboration models and will it produce new innovative ways of using the technology i.e. are new working environments creating new working practices? • What kind of new accepted team behaviour and interaction rules should be created and trained among virtual teams to optimise the positive effects of UC? • What is the effect of consumer-type UC solutions and future social networking solutions (Web 2.0 etc.) on business UC?

  24. Key references Former research of e-collaboration; • Gibson Cristina B., Cohen Susan G. (2003): Virtual Teams that work- Creating conditions for Virtual Team Effectiveness • Kartsten Helena (1999): Collaboration and Collaborative Information Technologies : A review of evidence • Kock Ned, Nosek John (2005): Expanding the Boundaries of E-Collaboration, IEEE Transactions on professional communication • Mark Gloria, Poltrock Steven (2001): Diffusion of a Collaborative Technology across distance GROUP’01 • Munkvold Bjørn Erik (2005): Experiences From Global E-Collaboration: Contextual Influences on Technology Adoption and Use, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication • Powell Anne, Piccoli Gabriele, Ives Blake (2004): Virtual Teams: A Review of Current Literature and Directions for future Research • Rennecker Julie, Godwin Lindsey (2003): Theorizing the Unintended Consequences of Instant Messaging for Worker Productivity Market analysis reports: • Elliot Bern, Blood Steve, Kraus Drew (2006/6):  Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications, 2006, Gartner Report , June 2 2006, • Elliot Bern, Blood Steve, Hafner Bob (2006/4): Achieving Agility Through Communication-Enabled Business Processes, Gartner RAS Core Research • Driver Erica, Mines Christopher, Herrell Elizabeth Schooley Claire, Kim Eric (2006) Collaboration Trends 2006 To 2007, Forrester report • Forrester (2005): Unified Communications Transform Business Communication, A Forrester study commissioned on behalf of Cisco, August 2005 • Kelly E. Brent (2006/B) Wainhouse Research: Avaya’s Unified Communications Strategy: Business Accelerator or Technology Trap? (Chapter 1: Unified Communications: flattening the enterprise knowledge chain published on-line) Wainhouse Report, March 2006 • Kerravala Zeus (2006): The Impact of Microsoft’s Unified Communications Launch, August 2006, Yankee Group publication funded by Cisco

  25. Thank You! Any Questions?