The battle for the top solution in the Unified Communications (UC) marketplace is absolutely not a battle, it's a war! This is a war between ideals, concepts, innovation, and territory. We all know who the major players are and how long they've been there. We've seen the acquisitions and the changes in solution design and implementation to stay up to date and retain customers by slapping an IP layer on top of their proprietary communication systems. We have seen the uprising of the new players and the general market confusion that has transpired over the past several years. Simply walking into the annual VoiceCon event can surely make one's mind spin over the number of "Unified Communications" solutions that are available today. We also know the features that customers want and need. They've been on the PBX feature guide lists for a century and boil down to the basic need of completing a call without interference.
So through the sludge of the market solutions today for Unified Communications, how can a winner, a true winning solution prevail. What separates one UC solution from another? Who’s foundation, whose platform provides the required features, the must haves, but also the wants and also prepares for the future of human communication?
The solution lies between providers like Microsoft and Avaya. Both providers offer a CEBP application interface and foundation, but Microsoft puts the power of this capability into the familiar hands of Visual Studio developers which in my mind has been the biggest strategy that Microsoft has to offer in this war. Yes, I am biased, yes, I have worked side by side with Microsoft for some time now. I have seen the platform from the inside and the outside, but I have bet my career, my employee’s futures, and my family’s future for that matter on a passion for a technology that I feel will change human lives. No, I don’t mean completing a call or parking a call or blind or warm transferring a call or having a conference call via audio or video will change human lives, I mean something that has not been evangelized enough to this day. I mean that CEBP will change human lives and it is and only is the value of CEBP that win the Unified Communications war. Through CEBP, a developer who has no expertise in the area of Unified Communications can create a communications-enabled application and it is this power that will change the way humans communicate forever. Microsoft, nobody else, only Microsoft, can provide such a platform of features; the must haves and the wants, to compete with telecommunications systems and UC solutions today and it is Microsoft, only Microsoft, who can provide what Gartner and others have clarified as the major differentiator in the Unified Communications war; what sets a provider from the rest and that war will be won through the power of software.
Instead of hospitals and physicians being disconnected from the Electronic Medical Record (EMR), Education organizations both Higher and K-12 being disconnected from the students or even prospective students, and Customer Services representatives only being tied to offshore response teams who have no idea about the product or company they are supporting, you will now see a wave of change that will put the power of Unified Communications software into the hands of the people, the true experts, the true decision makers, the people who drive the passion behind what they deliver and provide through CEBP.
So you might ask, what is CEBP since you are writing so passionately about it? How does it work? How can it truly integrate? Yes, I am famous for my general marketing-based writing style and was criticized heavily in my last book, Microsoft Voice and Unified Communications, because of this. But my first and most critical goal was to evangelize this platform to those who are non-IT focused so that they could see the value and I try to do the same so that we can finally see some adoption of this platform in the marketplace today in an effort to start building this platform for hospitals, schools, banks, and other industries, but now I will be specific.
Let’s take healthcare as an example. My daughter is a nationally ranked ice skater. She loves it and her life is dedicated to it. She trains 5 days a week from 6 in the morning to noon at the rink, then goes to physical therapy for her three slipped disks and then Pilates for additional training. She became a vegetarian to lose additional weight to meet the demands of the sport. I have seen this dedication now for a decade now that she is 15 years old. Last year, during one of the most important months of my career, her mother and I were called due to her fainting on the ice. My wife rushed her to the hospital to see what was wrong. We thought it was low iron, or maybe she’s not eating enough, or just too much training period. No, alarmingly, it was her heart. The ER doctor stated that she had an irregular heartbeat and thought it may be CPVT which has been known to kill athletes on the spot and that we were lucky she just fainted. Here is this teenage girl, ripped to the core, as fit as a fiddle, fainting and almost now dying performing the sport she so loves and is dedicated to with such passion. We did not know what to do and thus began a 2 month long process which was beyond words to describe so I cannot say that frustrating, irritating, idiotic, or mundane would even begin to describe what is wrong with this system. To not turn this into a healthcare system attack story, I will stick to the point and the point is that at this first visit, she was given an EKG and additional tests, thus creating a record of the patient, in this case my daughter. We were then advised to see a specialist and due to her being a teenager, this was a very specialized specialist that we had to seek. Luckily, again, we live in Houston, Texas where Texas Children’s Hospital is located as well as a massive medical mall of hospitals and physicians are located in the downtown area, just an hour away. Well after many, many, many calls, waiting, driving back and forth to offices, and wasting what feels like a lifetime during this time vampire process, she had another episode and was now continuously getting dizzy. Needless to say we were freaking out and the specialist that we were waiting to see only came into contact through the office receptionist while we took her to the ER once more and a local practitioner twice. Also during this process, each time she visited an office or hospital, a new record was created, never once did any of these physicians have access to a single record to add notes, or collaborate upon, never once did any of these physicians collaborate with each other or even know who each other were.
So here I am, the CEO of a CEBP application software provider, struggling to understand how idiotic these systems are and although how intelligent these doctors are, how far behind the time, and I mean archaic these systems are, how disconnected they are. It made me feel as if I had stepped into another dimension, and I really had. So to make a long story short, we finally were able to see the extremely specialized cardiologist we had been waiting for due to a cancelled appointment, and simply by running the same tests she had endured at each of her other visits, this cardiologist diagnosed her with RBBB (Right Bundle Branch Blockage) which is present in 30% of humans and is not life threatening but causes misfires of electrical impulses of the heart and this skipping or arrhythmia caused her fainting and dizziness, but she could still continue to train and compete just knowing what the situation was and how to continue through it. So what is wrong with this picture? Multiple records, disconnected systems, disconnected physicians, an outright disconnection in a time where we have Unified Communications systems. But a normal UC solution from existing providers cannot solve this problem.
To solve this problem we have to connect the EMR, the record, to the communications system and this is only done through CEBP. How can this be done? Well, first, you have to migrate to a platform that can provide this level of integration. Through this platform, you would develop an integrated conferencing solution so that patients, physicians, and hospital providers can share the EMR between each other to quickly diagnose the condition.
Through the Microsoft Unified Communications platform with the power of the Unified Communications Managed API (UCMA) and Microsoft Visual Studio, you can create UC-based CEBP applications that integrate medical software such as EPIC (http://www.epic.com) with Microsoft’s Communications Server platform (OCS 2007 R2 and MCS 2010) and provide a combined physician collaboration platform. Add SharePoint 2010 to the solution and now you have a solution that can provide a truly Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) solution.
Through Microsoft Visual studio which has the largest developer following worldwide, you can add the Unified Communications Managed API classes with the CollaborationPlatform entry point class to add classes such as Conversation class to create and manage conversations and the ConferenceServices class to manage and schedule conferences. There are also controls with both the Office Communications Server R2 and new Communications Server “Wave 14” that you can drag and drop into your Visual Studio projects to create a rich experience for users by leveraging controls such as the Contact Card control for Silverlight which save massive amounts of development time and creates a very feature rich and innovative set of Line of Business enabled CEBP applications.
By creating such an architecture and platform, you save money on the proprietary communications systems you are paying for today, the disconnection between these systems and your Line of Business Solutions, and enable the individuals with the power of UC&C so that they can, yes, CHANGE HUMAN LIVES!
I can provide several additional examples of this with respect to customer service and education, but I feel as if I’ve exhausted this post enough and with keeping to the theme of my other posts, I hope that someone is out there reading and understands that it is not just UC that is going to make the difference, it is CEBP and the only provider that can reach into the minds of the millions of developers and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), in the example’s case; physicians, can see that it is the API that creates this change, this innovation, and a Unified Communications & Collaboration platform through the power of software!