When I first started using the term “unified communications” (UC), I was simply trying to expand the old domain of “unified messaging” (UM) to include initiating real-time telephone calls from a message. We had long been doing the reverse, creating voice mail messages from a failed telephone call, and I thought it was time to push the concept further by allowing recipients to easily respond to their voice messages more flexibly.

In the meantime, business communications have expanded to include video calls and near-real time text messaging, social messaging, but, most importantly, presence-based Instant Messaging (IM). IM is increasingly replacing legacy PSTN calls and becoming the practical starting point for real-time, person-to-person business contacts, through the growing adoption of UC platforms like Microsoft Lync Server or Lync Online available with cloud-based Microsoft Office 365. Unfortunately, however, IM presence information is still limited to end-users within the same organization, unless they are “federated” with other organizations through intercompany “cloud” services like NextPlane.

While IM and presence is very important for end-users to flexibly initiate person-to-person contacts with specific people in their organization or in other organizations they are federated with, there is yet another practical use for UC and federated presence to be applied to end users and consumers who need live assistance while using online self-service apps, particularly “mobile apps.” I have written about this in many of my posts, because it highlights the reduced costs and customer satisfaction benefits of UC flexibility in providing live Mobile Customer support.

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Author: Art Rosenberg