Unified Communication will play an important role in BPM (why ignore it?)

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There’s been a lot of talk about Social BPM recently (with IBM’s Blueworks and Software AG’s Alignspace being two notable efforts in that direction), and there’s enough buzz around collaboration and BPM in cloud (BPMS-in-cloud is more appropriate term to use as I noted in another post, but important nevertheless).

As for social BPM (now, even that term needs some demystification – but more about that later), most of the focus is around Web 2.0 and social networking. It’s amusing that Unified Communication (UC) has been overlooked. Or it may be hinted upon when someone brings up, say, telepresence or video conferencing but ignoring the fact that there IS much more than just that. UC community, on the other hand, is pretty articulate about offerings in Business Process Integration.

UC , by definition, is integration of real-time communication services with non real-time communication services. These real-time communication services could be very diverse such as instance messaging, telephony, conferencing (audio & video), telepresence, and even presence information and speech recognition. Non real-time services could be emails, fax, SMS, voicemail and unified messaging environments. In other words, UC allows an individual to send a message in one medium and receive on another. One can also receive the message (say, an email) in one medium and access it using another.

This can be really powerful technology for enabling reach of messages regardless of the recipients’ location and availability in a particular medium. For instance, a notification of SLA violation could be sent out just once, but made available to different people in their preferred medium (or the one driven by a set of rules governed by time of the day and the preset calendar).

How does this become crucial for achieving a social BPM objective? People may not be always available for a particular collaboration instance at the same time and place. Now, Social media are mostly targeted to make the real-time and non real-time collaboration possible and effective. Social media do their bit in terms of bringing people together on some of these media. But, a whole lot of duplication of collaboration effort can be reduced drastically when such media are powered by UC. You see?

There’s a lot of progress on UC, and some vendors like IBM, Microsoft, CISCO are already offering these services. It’s a matter of making them available and leveraging them. Beneath this, there is even more work happening on what is referred to as ABI (Appliance Based Integration). UC and ABI could become the fact of life not too far in future (without many of us being consciously aware of underlying technology) – just as we use VOIP phones or Skype today.

So, I’m convinced UC will play a prominent role in (social) BPM as well but could it happen just underneath the surface, again? Or would we benefit more by making conscious attempts to leverage it right from now?


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