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Bridging Contact Centers and Unified Communications

February 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm PST

I have to admit, I’m a bit of an isolationist. More than a decade of working in the contact center industry has made an impact on my thinking. I scoff at those enterprise voice people for their”simple” PBX deployments and their”back-office problems.” It’s customer care that drives the business, right? Let’s talk about service level and skills-based routing, not”moves, adds and changes.” Contact center people are different, and we demand our own specialized phones and our own specialized software! Yes, it may be more expensive to purchase and deploy our ACD systems but our communications are so much more important to the business.The contact center culture of isolation runs so deep that there is an entire product category designed to cross that divide between contact center systems and the rest of the IT world (and in some cases the divide between our different components of the contact center itself!) This specialized software is called CTI middleware, and it’s extremely valuable because without it the ACDs and IVRs that are vital to contact centers won’t communicate with any other systems. Why not? Because ACDs and IVRs were not designed with any other systems in mind.Fortunately for enterprises, and unfortunately for the isolationists, change is coming to the contact center.It started at the beginning of the decade with the introduction of IP telephony. The initial IP telephony value proposition revolved almost entirely around the convergence of voice and data and the transition from site-based telephony to enterprise-wide telephony systems. As the decade draws to a close, there is a new wave of change--”Ĺ“Unified Communications.” An appropriate label I’d say since it’s about even more convergence this time around and everyone’s included, even the contact center. Unified Communications will first bridge, and then merge the contact center and the rest of the enterprise communications applications and infrastructure.Those of us in the contact center like to take credit for the fact that many pillars of Unified Communications are derived from our little island. The Unified Communications evangelists speak of this new capability called”presence” that our contact center systems have had for decades. The new Unified Communications approach is holistic in terms of considering all channels instead of isolated solutions for voice, video, and messaging. Our contact center industry adopted a multichannel approach to communications many years ago. Unified Communications deployments involve integration between communications infrastructure and business applications; yes, we contact center people invented communications enabled business process. The overlap between Unified Communications and contact center may be a source of pride for the contact center community but it also signals the decline in differentiation between the contact center communications applications and the rest of the enterprise. It will bring an end to contact center isolationism.I believe the days are numbered for the isolationists, and the contact center community will need to start thinking differently. Whether you describe it as the contact center expanding into the enterprise or vice versa the resulting picture is the same: a complete Unified Communications system will serve the needs for all communications in and out of the enterprise, including contact center.by Tod Famous, product line manager, enterprise and hosted contact center.

The Phone that Wasn’t a Phone

by Laurent Philonenko, vice president and general manager, Cisco Unified Communications Business UnitThe growth in 3G cellular networks and proliferation of WiFi gave rise to one of the most compelling mobile service delivery platforms ever made.. I am pretty sure that your mind is already visualizing an iPhone. So what is it, and what does it mean for Cisco and collaboration?First of all, it is not a phone. It is a full-fledged computer, which happens to be sleek, lightweight, and delivers a revolutionary user experience. Oh, and you can even use it as a phone since it has a speaker (two actually) and a microphone. So yes you can make phone calls like you always did. In a world of “2 b or nt 2 b, tht is = ?”, how important is the phone actually?Cisco views the iPhone an ideal platform for delivering unified communications and collaboration services to mobile users. By extending some of our core capabilities to the iPhone, we can turn audio conferences on mobile phones into a rich collaborative experience and make sure the information you need is at your fingertips. imageThink of it as joining a conference by just clicking”join” when it’s time to get into the meeting and you are prompted to do so -because we have integrated your calendar and conferencing products.Think of it as being able to see who is on the call, who is actively speaking and actually view what’s being shared with the ability to zoom in. Think of it as seamlessly moving conferences from your iPhone to your office environment. Think of it as really intuitive voicemail, revealing the presence and availability of the message senders, also allowing direct access to the most important messages.Think of it has having a great interface to exploit more of your personal communications channels, which you might have overlooked so far. Bring more flexibility to your work and lifestyle with these new experiences.Is Cisco going to stop here? No, this is just the beginning of a new era of the user experience which we are very focused on. And we are staying true to the”Anywhere, Anytime, Any Device” paradigm. Stay tuned.

Cisco Attains #1 Position in Worldwide Voice and Unified Messaging

By Laurent Philonenko, Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Business UnitIntelliCom Analytics has named Cisco the number one vendor of voice and unified messaging solutions in the world for the third quarter of 2008. For the first time in our history, Cisco has taken over the number one position in both messaging seats shipped and messaging revenue worldwide according to the 3Q08 IntelliCom Market Performance Dashboard Global Market Report. Our customers have spoken, and they are selecting our voice and unified messaging solutions -Cisco Unity, Cisco Unity Connection, and Cisco Unity Express -more than any other messaging solution.We are pleased with our ascension to number one in messaging not just because Cisco is the market leader, but because Cisco has become the market driver, growing faster than all competitors and the market as a whole. Cisco’s seat shipments in Q3 grew 29% over the previous quarter, while our two largest competitors Avaya and Nortel grew 7% and 2%, respectively and the total messaging market grew 14% during the same quarter. Not only are we growing faster than the competition, but Cisco’s 19% share of seat shipments and 17% share of revenue in Q3 represent the highest shares in each category by any vendor since IntelliCom began tracking the global messaging market.Cisco has long been recognized as a leader in IP telephony and the number one provider of enterprise telephony solutions. Earning the top spot in the messaging market shows that Cisco’s customers respect and value our Cisco Unified Communications solutions as a way to increase collaboration in order to gain a competitive advantage and drive down costs. Effective and efficient collaboration with customers, colleagues and partners is the key to surviving difficult times and thriving in the new flat world.Thank you to all our customers and congratulations to the entire Cisco Unified Communications team. I look forward to 2009 being the year of collaboration where we continue delivering on our vision and further integrating messaging into a seamless and productive user experience, anytime, anywhere, on any device. Stay tuned.By Laurent Philonenko, Vice President and General Manager, Cisco Unified Communications Business Unit

Cisco Mobile Collaboration on the iPhone

January 7th UPDATE: I just learned that the Cisco iPhone application won a Best of Show award today at Macworld. Congratulations to the collaboration team and thank you to the Macworld editors!Today, Cisco made an exciting announcement about the availability of some of our collaboration applications on the Apple iPhone. Cisco will be offering two conference applications, to start with, on the iPhone. First is the Cisco WebEx Meeting Center application on the iPhone, which is available to download from the AppStore today. With this application, attendees can fully participate in WebEx meetings on their iPhone (both the web portion and the audio portion) on 3G and WiFi networks. Mobile users are no longer limited to audio-only participation.The second application on the iPhone announced today will be available in CY Q2, 2009. This application is a superset of WebEx Meeting Center plus Cisco Unified MeetingPlace enhanced audio conferencing on the iPhone. It also supports”dusting” by seamlessly transferring WebEx Meeting Center and Cisco Unified MeetingPlace conferencing sessions from an iPhone to Mac or PC and vice versa. I’m personally excited about this announcement because it’ll help me be more productive and responsive. I already spend my day”webexing”. Now I can easily start a meeting on my phone using WiFi on the Cisco campus, walk over to my office and move the meeting from my iPhone to my PC with its larger screen without missing a beat. My meeting experience is no longer defined by my place and device. And frankly, the user experience on the iPhone is just fun! So whether on PC, Mac or iPhone, on 3G, WiFi or wired, Cisco allows me to meet while moving freely from one platform to another, one network to another, one location to another. I call it meetings in motion. Post by Alex Hadden-Boyd, Director of Marketing, Cisco Collaboration Software Group

Cisco takes lead in enterprise telephony market according to Infonetics Research

Customers are voting with their wallets. In the recent release of Quarterly Worldwide Market Share and Forecasts: 3Q08 from Infonetics Research, Cisco took the lead for the first time in the overall PBX-KTS equipment market after growing its revenue 19% in the quarter.”Cisco is the only vendor gaining significant market share in this market in 2008; most other vendors are holding steady or decreasing slightly”, according to Matthias Machowinski, Directing Analyst, Enterprise Voice and Data for Infonetics. (Note: Infonetics defines overall PBX-KTS as IP PBX, hybrid IP+TDM including KTS, and TDM-PBX.)You may recall a similar post just a few quarters ago where Cisco took the number one market share position for Enterprise Telephony, surpassing Avaya for the first time according to Synergy Research. A quarter later, we also captured the number one spot for overall PBX line shipments, surpassing Nortel according to research firm Dell’Oro. The market ultimately votes with budgets — we are seeing solid uptake for IP phones including softphones and recent releases of Cisco Unified Communications Manager both from existing customers migrating from earlier versions as well as through competitive displacement. The Infonetics report also showed that the IP PBX segment grew 7% in both lines and revenue in 3Q08 from 2Q08, while year-over-year, quarterly IP phone shipments were up 25% (Cisco shipped 50% of these units) and IP softphone shipments more than doubled from 2Q08 to 3Q08. Much of this softphone growth is in fact attributable to our success with Cisco Unified Workspace Licensing.One thing is clear, customers are continuing to invest in solutions that will let them drive down costs and break away from their competitors by providing better service and higher employee productivity. We’re proud to be their number one choice for unified communications.by Steve Slattery, vice president, Cisco’s voice technology group