Why You Can No Longer Afford to Consider Presence an Optional Component

Presence is one of the most critical, and least understood features in your Unified Communications arsenal

If I had to choose one feature provided by Unified Communications (UC) as being the least understood across the board, it would have to be Presence.  Perhaps we, the engineers in the field, haven’t done the best job of evangelizing the benefits and possibilities it provides.

By now, I would hope that everyone is at least aware of the concept behind Presence.  It’s been a part of our lives for a decade or more in numerous forms. But, for most people (including me), the first experience with Presence came in the form of status on an Instant Messaging (IM) client.  For me, it was the late 90’s when I began using ICQ with my colleagues. We’ve come a long way since then.  Presence has become an integral part of our day-to-day lives in both work and personal arenas.  Only in the past few years have we come to realize the power and versatility afforded by such a seemingly simple aspect of communications.

Setting your status in an IM client works well, but it only shows your status when you’re logged in.  If you logout of the client, it no longer tracks your availability.  Cisco Unified Presence has taken things a few steps, further.  Cisco implemented the idea of persistent presence.  That is, regardless of whether you’re logged into the system or not, we’ll show your availability.  How do we do that?  It’s simple.  We associate your status with the devices and features you make use of throughout the workday.  With Cisco Unified Communications, the intelligence to monitor your phone status (on/off hook), your Outlook Calendar, your voice mailbox and your collaborative meeting schedule all factor in.  As you move through your workday, your Presence status will change automatically based on all of those variables. 

If you’re on the phone, your status will reflect that.  If your calendar shows that you have a meeting scheduled, your status will change to reflect that you’re in a meeting, then back to available at the end of the scheduled meeting time.  The degree of automation is up to you.  With Presence, you and your users can define how, where, when or even IF they wish to be reached at a given time. 

New possibilities have come into being simply as a result of the power of Presence.  If you’ve not yet seen Cisco Pulse, I would encourage you to reach out to your Cisco Account Team for a demo.  Pulse is a web-based utility that allows me to find the right resource for a particular issue, right now.  Figure 1 shows a screenshot of Pulse.

Cisco Pulse with Presence

Figure 1 – Cisco Pulse with Presence

Pulse leverages Cisco Unified Presence, User Profile Tags and Google Maps, among other things.  In Figure 1, I performed a search on the keywords “Cisco Unified Presence” then specified in the left-hand column that I wanted an engineering resource in Texas.  I see the Presence status indication as available.  Were I to hover the mouse pointer over the name, I’d see contact information and click-to-communicate options including IM, phone (single number reach), email and WebEx.  The point is that I find the person I need, when I need him/her.   On the right side of the figure are potentially relevant documents, presentations and videos pertaining to the key words in my search.

Consider this capability within your own business.  For example, hospitals can find a neurologist, cardiologist, radiologist, nurse, janitor, administrator, admissions tech or IT resource who is available for a consult right now.  There’s no chasing, paging or panic, simply quick, efficient contact.  Read more about Cisco Pulse.

Presence is at the very core of the value proposition of UC as a solution.  It’s what takes what was known as Unified Communications and evolves it into Collaboration.  Presence has graduated from the realm of optional features.  For my customers, a brief conversation about the power of Presence is all it takes to place it at the top of the list of required features.

It eliminates the phone-tag game.  It empowers you and your user community to choose how and when they wish to communicate.  It enables anyone to find the right resource for a specific problem, right now.  You simply cannot afford to ignore it anymore. 

Your Presence is requested.

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