Platform and Solution providers have different terms for their own flavor of Unified Communications; Omnichannels, CX, Aura, UCA, Multi-Channel, Convergence and Unified Messaging, amongst others. But what is the essence of UC? What are the base components? What is the… “Anatomy of Unified Communications“?
Looking at the history of Contact Center Communications, it’s easy to see how disparate areas of communications and technology evolved within an enterprise; first by letter, then voice, then telephony messaging (sms), then email – then the explosion of multi- and social media, followed closely by smartphone and wearable tech “channels” and the inevitable IoT (Internet of Things). Call Centers – and later Contact Centers were born from the necessity to connect, react and interact with a customer or client base, on any level, through any medium. But not all together. Frequently new technologies were brought on board through third party products – a type of “plug in” for a specific interaction type on a generic scale. That also meant new areas were created within an enterprise – “beyond voice” usually meant a whole team or department was created to provide and underpin new technologies or channels. As so, over time, those channels became entities in their own right – Voice, IVR, sms, Web Chat, Video Contact, Social Media… all of them with their own set of business rules and technologists keeping everything operating.
On the other side of this technology divide were the Providers, looking for easier ways to integrate their new channels into the core communications methods for Contact Centers. Originally providing “bridges” and middleware between technologies (CTI for PBX, Gateways for email and java plug-ins for sms), they too were evolving and honing their methods to create what would become a single, accessible Platform for “Unified Communications”.
Bringing those Interaction Channels together is really only one level of unification – technology. Having disparate technologies feeding into a single interface was a necessary step towards UC, but it lacked cohesion. The functions and operations of each channel were still separated, when they arrived at the Contact Center. Another level of control was required; Orchestration. The binding of channels through a common interface, with common business rules, knowledge and content management. Taking the core identifying elements of an interaction on a base level and pairing them off is a familiar method for orchestration; are these interactions from the same customer? Are these interactions related to the same product or subject matter? What makes these things the same – and what makes them unique? And so, over time, the new channels of interaction were slowly, carefully and meticulously combined – into Unified Communications.
And Unified Communications are really only as good as the tools used to support them. Having the right rules in place, knowing how to extract the right information and making the right decisions once again moves UC back to the operations and business requirements within a Contact Center. Having the framework to operate everything together is one thing – getting the rules right is entirely another. The UC Framework is all of those tools – together; Converged Channels, Interactions, Rules, Knowledge, Content, Contact, Orchestration, Administration, Access and Operations.
Peeling away the layers of Operations and business rules, we come to the nuts and bolts of UC. Beyond the generics are the components which comprise UC is the technical layer. And, not surprisingly, each UC Platform conforms to pretty much the same, basic model;
- Development Tools; the base-level tools used to create the interacting components of a specific interaction channel.
- Software; the operating-level components which can be combined to create Applications
- Middleware; software elements used to create the interfacing components of a specific technology or service peripheral
- Application Development; combining Software and Middleware, providing operations and Interfaces (UI’s).
- Solutions; combining Applications and peripheral elements provides a standard, configurable solution, usually specific to one interaction-type channel.
- Contact Center Services; the operational components which allow business rules, content and knowledge management, reporting and analytics to be applied to Solutions
- Technology Platform Services; the combination of all Contact Center Services, on one common Platform which also serves Access Controls, Administration, User Configuration and Solution Control Operations.
- Unified Communication Services; the combination of each Platform Service, peripheral, back-end, enterprise, Hybrid/Cloud/SaaS, IoT, CRM and other business services to the Platform models.
SOFTEL have been providing services in each of these fields for over 20 years – and we have supported the progress from the basic Voice and IVR channels, through to Unified Communications. From Management and Planning, through Operations and Programs, to Support and Incident Control, we have provided our Services to Sectors such as Education, Healthcare, Logistics, Banking, Government, Manufacturing, Retail, Utilities and Travel. We’ve taken the journey from disparate technologies to Unified Communications many times, leading and underpinning an enterprise or business transformation into a combined, coherent, operating UC Platform.
The future of UC is already knocking on the door; IoT and Wearable technologies are set to become the next interaction channels – and Technology Interaction (TI) is already here. Armed with the tools, knowledge and expertise in the Anatomy of Unified Communications, SOFTEL are poised and ready for that brand new journey…