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11/26/2007
12:56 PM
Melanie Turek
Melanie Turek
Commentary
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Putting CEBP Into Perspective

At Avaya’s recent analyst conference, much of the talk centered around communications-enabled business processes. The vendor was among the fist to start touting the value of CEPB and the fact that it’s changing how business gets done, and this year CEO Lou D’Ambrosio said the trend is going to be as big as the transition from TDM to IP.

But it’s not that simple. The move from TDM to IP was a technology change; CEPB is about, well, business processes—and we all know how hard it is to change those.

For starters, to change business processes you have to know what they are in the first place. That’s not always easy, and it requires experts with deep knowledge of either vertical businesses or horizontal applications (or both). To that end, Avaya is aggressively seeding its CEBP sales team with business experts, many of who come from the contact center, where reducing latency and improving processes is par for the course (at least in theory). The company had to change its sales process, because CEBP requires selling to a line of business manager (which may be IT, but only insofar as IT is the group whose processes you’re trying to change).

Avaya reports more than 50 ongoing customer engagements, but they require a long sales and services cycle and are in various stages of deployment. Services equal anywhere from 50%-400% of the software sale—no wonder the vendor is ramping up its services business at breakneck pace.

According to Lawrence Byrd, Director of CEBP, Avaya is also focusing initially on those processes that have a clear ROI case to be made—otherwise, he said, “you’re just implementing technology for technology’s sake.” The examples D’Ambrosio gave were all about customer support and interaction—a shipping company that tells a customer pro-actively where their package is, whether it needs a signature, what time they should deliver to get the feedback they need, etc. Or a financial services company that monitors customer activity on a web site to see what they’re interested in, then offers them new services via phone or IM.

Other low-hanging fruit includes business processes that already embed some kind of communication (typically an e-mail or SMS alert) and improving upon that communication to make it more specific to the recipient’s status and needs ( a conference call or web session where appropriate instead of a static message, for instance); and finding the gaps in existing processes where communication is required but confused, reducing the human latency therein.

And how’s this for a new business process (that has nothing to do with real-time enablement, mind you)? Avaya SVP Stuart Wells talked about using a content management system to locate expertise in the organization by tracking e-mails for certain keywords and content, so that when someone calls in to ask for that expertise you know who has it. That’s a pretty interesting idea, because individuals aren’t all that great at self-defining their true skill sets and areas of knowledge. But it’s a little scary, too, to think that companies would know more about what I know than I do.

Finally, for all their business value, UC applications won’t solve all our communications problems; at the end of the day, sometimes people just aren’t available to communicate. At the Avaya conference, both the cellular service and wireless connection were unreliable. The problem isn’t unusual, but it’s also non-negligible for a business that is going to redesign its processes around communications.

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