Use Cases Provide Foundation for UC Investments

1 Jul 2010

There are more and more choices in Unified Communications these days, from an expanding list of suppliers. This is great, but it can make the Unified Communications decisions tougher, rather than simpler. At UniComm Consulting, we have successfully and repeatedly shown that the identification of the core Use Cases for communications in the enterprise and the business processes will highlight the optimal set and sequence of solutions and investments. Let's look at these points. was first to define UC as "communications integrated to optimize business processes." This can include both the daily tasks of individuals, to which UC is integrated to produce UC-User Productivity (UC-U) enhancements, and the processes are the major value producing activities of the enterprise as a whole, to which UC is integrated to produce Business Process (UC-B) gains and profits.

Either way, the advice is to analyze the communications activities within the major roles and processes to define the current Use Cases. Then examine these Use Cases to find the problem areas, which we call 'hot spots'. These are the places where communications-related activities are queued up, mis-directed, delayed, or needlessly labor intensive and are causing errors, rework or delays in the business processes. This is exactly parallel to the Lean Six Sigma method already in use to improve business workflow; now we can apply that to communications elements, as well.

In our experience with clients, about 5 to 7 Use Cases can define the preponderance of the work. With this manageable number of Use Cases, the analysis of communications issues and opportunities can move along quickly and with reasonable effort. Then, selections of UC tools and technologies made to best resolve the issues and 'hot spots'. This set of UC technologies becomes the template for cost estimating, ROI analysis, management approvals, vendor selection, and implementation sequencing.

Usually, a very logical sequencing emerges. The easier, high ROI Use Cases are addressed first, to allow the fastest payback. A portion of the returns (profits, margins, or savings) from the first projects can fund the subsequent phases, steadily multiplying the benefits, savings and returns on investment (ROI).

Notably, we have never seen a Use Case that requires every possible UC technology that the vendors are proposing. Often, in fact, each Use Case requires a separate or distinct set of technology, even from more than one UC supplier. Thus, the Use Cases become the guide to investment and implementation.

Here are some examples:

  • Healthcare Care Providers need to contact others via text and voice for orders and consultations. This can be accomplished by integrating information and communications on mobile devices (WiFi in-house and cellular for physicians when out of the Hospital). No desk phone is needed and the general purpose UC interfaces don't do the job.
  • Insurance claims adjusters need to combine information and communications to manage the entire process of information collection, settlement valuation, agreement with the insured and claimant, and authorization of repairs. This requires communications integrated to the claims processing software and routing of communications between multiple parties within the insurance firm.
  • Manufacturing, governments, educational institutions, healthcare, professional services firms and many other who produce new products, policies, publications, etc. need to accelerate the collaborative processes. This requires integrating communications into the documents, workflows, collaborative workspaces, and directories of the teams. This will be both among and beyond the enterprise employees, such as running on-line focus groups for validating new consumer products.

These are just a few Use Cases that we see. Also, we find the Use Cases are very consistent with the major UC applications we've seen in the UC market for the past three or more years. The RFP Toolkits pages here at already demonstrate the ability to tailor UC technology selections based on the five top UC applications. Use Cases are a further refinement of that methodology.

Once the use cases are determined, your enterprise will know what UC technologies to buy and how you want them implemented. The recent UC eWeekly on "Putting Video in the UC Context for the Enterprise" an example of where Use Case definitions will guide the selection of media (from IM to Telepresence), so as to optimize the solution and avoid over-investing or missing opportunities based on erroneously high budget estimates. Similarly, deciding which communications devices to purchase and from which supplier (a question raised by the recent Cisco Cius announcement) will be guided by the Use Cases.

The results can be impressive. In one case, understanding the Use Cases avoided spending $6 million for a campus-wide PBX replacement, when the UC functionality could be added to an upgraded version of what was already owned. In another case, over the client avoided $1 million of new IP phone purchases and was able to afford the professional services from the Systems Integrator to deliver the mobile UC applications they really wanted and needed.

Thus, we really encourage beginning the UC journey with Use Case identification and definition. That knowledge will then guide the shape and pace of UC investments to achieve the greatest benefits and return on investment.

We will, over time, be adding more information on Use Cases to the UC Resources section of Meanwhile, please contact us ([email protected]) for more information on the topic, or for assistance in discovering the core Use Cases in your enterprise operations.


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