Hiding in Plain Sight: The Problem With Presence

In my role with Avaya, I’m frequently asked about my views on unified communication. Often what people really want to know is how important is presence and IM and how is this evolving in the market. This is a difficult question and I find different leaders may give different answers depending on the focus area or use cases.

I recently spent a week with a number of customers and had some time to share my personal views on this topic – which is now the subject of this blog. To my surprise nearly all the executives I spoke with hadn’t given much thought to the bigger problem with presence – one that I believe is right in front of them.

Let me begin by saying that the presence/IM model is initiator centric. What this means is that a person has a client that represents the state of a set of other people. The client indicates a change in the state of a person who is part of this set by changing icons, or colors, or reordering contacts. I decide to contact a specific person based on the indicated represented state, which opens a dialog window for text exchange – or IM. This IM may be escalated to voice or video or web-collaboration at a later time. Since I initiate a session based on this client dashboard – we refer to the model as – initiator centric.

On this dashboard, however, a person is attractively present – or available — when they are typing away on their computer. They are less attractively present when their keyboard has been idle, they are using a phone, they’ve been logged off the network, their computer is off, or they are known to be using a mobile client. A person is most present when they are actively typing on their computer.

The problem is this: In my book, a person typing away on their primary productivity platform is being productive, engaged in a mental flow resulting in documents, communications, and system updates. In a word, they are productive. When a person is being productive is when I’d least like them to be interrupted. It seems somewhat problematic to indicate that a person in the middle of a productive flow is attractively present.

Thus, the problem with the presence/IM model is that it seductively puts the power of collaboration in the initiator’s hands. The initiator gets immediate gratification, the recipient can hardly claim ignorance of the request with the blinking notification at the bottom of their screen as the recipient is published as being available right now on the primary productivity platform.

The result is that the productive workflow is interrupted. Is there a different model?

The obvious answer is yes. Both email and SMS provide a model where the message is crafted without respect to the recipient’s presence. The drawback to email is that the message does not receive the priority or timely response the initiator desires since it goes into a bucket with many other messages. . With SMS, the drawbacks are that delivery is best effort and requires a link to a device the recipient has, it might not be secure, but should be more immediate than email.

Is there a better model than this?

I assert that the answer to this question is a presence-aware model. This model would be totally different. Instead of focusing only on satisfying the needs of the initiator, it would focus on method of message delivery based on the needs/desires of the message recipient.

In a presence-aware model, for example, the recipient’s presence would be less attractive when he or she is in the middle of a productive work flow. I would change contact method when the recipient is in a meeting, with restrictions when the recipient is hosting a meeting, and even further restrictions if the recipient is presenting from the primary productivity platform while hosting a meeting. If the recipient is talking on a phone, sitting next to the primary productivity platform, I might change the notification method. If the recipient is away and on a mobile platform, I would want an iMessage or SMS delivery. Same might be true in the case that they are presenting whilst hosting a meeting. It would be easy to imagine changing notifications based on who is initiating and if they’ve marked the message as urgent (perhaps with even levels of urgency).

The point of the new model is that the needs of the recipient are respected and integrated with the needs of the initiator. A system built for this model would be aware of presence, device states, calendar state, location, and even productivity flow. A presence-aware model is more encompassing, reflecting a potential evolution of presence/IM systems that solves some of the flaws inherent to initiator centric dashboard style systems.

Before we define unified communications with a productivity-killing model as its base, we should collectively consider the impact to workflow and balance any unified communications approach to the needs of the initiator and recipient. Lets not just be present, lets be smart, lets be aware.

Until next time …

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Trust: The Fuel Driving Digital Transformation

Though they are heading in a similar direction, all of the CIOs I work with are on their own individual roads to transform digitally whilst ensuring they stay ahead in the race to satisfy their end customers.

None of these roads however, are a cruise through the countryside. It’s up to us as their vendor partners to figure out how far into their journeys they have come, to create clear road maps, steer them safely around sharp corners, and keep them grounded on rough terrain—all whilst keeping eyes on the objective: the satisfaction of a smooth drive across freshly laid tarmac.

Inevitably, on this winding road, UK CIOs hit a number of barriers. In particular, there’s one challenge that can end a journey before it’s even managed to clock up a few kilometers. It’s the ability to build trusting relationships with decision makers, internal lines of business, and external vendors and partners. They all play an integral part in creating the right ecosystem, alliances, and consensus towards the journey of DX. Gaining their trust is a complex and delicate process—and it is a necessity.

It is incredible what leading CIOs in the UK are achieving as they work at building enough trust internally to bring their internal audience into the journey. After all, the value of this transformation needs to be articulated, measured, and organization-wide. When this is achieved, the journey of digital transformation becomes an enterprise wide initiative, internal champions are brought into the process, support from cross organizations is established from the start, and the political and financial barriers begin to disappear.

Once trust is established, automatically, technology stops leading the conversation but supports it. The discussion between the CIO and his internal ecosystem becomes business objective centric, defined by the use cases that his internal customers see value in bringing into the business. The technology is then used as a highway to connect defined checkpoints in order to create the shortest most efficient route.

Building internal trust is essential to a CIO’s success in driving digital transformation for his or her organization and in delivering results valued by the organization as a whole. A key outcome is the ability of the CIO to shift the conversation with his or her external ecosystem from a technology to a use cases led dialogue. With this shift, the technology is no longer chosen for its features, but for its ability to be to be a malleable vehicle ready to be taken apart at swift pit stops and pieced back together to suit the ever-changing environment. The focus is no longer on the finish line but on relevant and agile roadmaps defined by short- and long-term goals that support their transformation. Roadmaps that are not simply laid out and driven across at full throttle, but consistently checked and measured to ensure they are progressing and on track.

The CIO needs to be confident that their Vendor as co-driver is an experienced mechanic with that roadmap engraved on the back of their eyelids. They have to trust not only in the technology, but that that their co-driver is guiding them in the right direction towards their vision ahead and will remain by their side as their partner on the road to Digital Transformation.

A Prison Partnership That’s Changing Lives with Intention and Compassion

As someone who passionately advocates for female empowerment and corporate social responsibility (CSR), you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to visit the Phoenix-based contact center of B2B lead generation agency Televerde. I had been familiar with Televerde as a sales and marketing solutions company, but I soon found out it’s so much more. Four of Televerde’s five contact centers in Phoenix are employed entirely by women incarcerated at Perryville-Arizona State Prison Complex. Here’s what I experienced during my recent visit.

Stepping Inside a Prisoner-Run Contact Center

The unsettling experience of entering a prison complex was immediately brightened by the smiling faces of Televerde’s contact center employees. Behind these smiles were infectious personalities, positive outlooks and ambitious attitudes that permeated the four walls of the facility. Underneath each woman’s classic orange jumpsuit was a deep propensity for learning, the kind that many organizations now consider their “steel bridge.”

Keeping this in mind, it didn’t surprise me to learn that 25% of these women continue to work with Televerde after they’re released from prison. Even more impressive, about half of Televerde’s Phoenix corporate office employees came from Perryville. Working in departments like IT, marketing, finance and HR, these women are qualified and educated with a GED at minimum. In fact, with Televerde’s support, numerous ladies have gone on to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and one Televerde alumna received her M.B.A. at Arizona State University and now heads the customer service organization, globally.

In conjunction with the two contact center managers appointed by Televerde to supervise the facility, these women were clearly helping to successfully run the operation. As I observed the contact center in action, I could see one woman acting as head of training. Another worked as a sales primer. These women were writing scripts, handling calls and managing data just like any other organization. They engaged in friendly conversations before starting their shifts. Each employee worked fluently and expertly in what looked like any other call center in the world.

TELEVERDE

I had the privilege of sitting down and speaking with these incredible women, where I learned more about who they were and how they came into this business. Each woman met Televerde’s work eligibility requirements: a sentence of 10 years or less for a non-violent crime, a specific level of phone articulation and personality skills, and at least six weeks of training. Each woman is paid a minimum wage for eight-hour shifts. In addition to training, Televerde supports these women by offering educational opportunities, mentorship, and career building skills as they transition out of prison.

It didn’t take long for me to see that this group of women had profound ideas about business, social responsibility, and female empowerment. Each of the women I sat with had far-reaching career goals. They desired to excel by continually developing their interpersonal and technology skills. They had countless questions about how to launch a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). As a female CMO working in the male-dominated tech industry, I was honored to help these women develop a foundation upon which they could continue to build.

Getting to the Heart of Operations (Literally)

My experience at the Perryville-Arizona State Prison Complex can be summed up in one question an employee asked during our group conversation: “Did your impression of us change when you came in and saw us in our jumpsuits?”

These dedicated women were noticeably concerned about what others thought of them. They wanted to be accepted and respected, despite the poor decisions they’ve made in the past. Televerde reminds these women daily that just because they’ve made poor choices doesn’t mean they are bad people. The organization’s unique rehabilitation and education model allows us to see ourselves in these women. In showing compassion, empathy and respect, Televerde pulls back the curtain to reveal who these women really are. They are indeed convicts, but they are also part of the 14 million Americans who desire a full-time job. They’re flourishing members of today’s growing labor market. They’re hard-working, forward-thinking individuals who simply arrive to work in a different uniform than you and I do.

The benefits of this movement are astronomical. Televerde is helping to actively lower the rate of jobless individuals with a prison record, which is currently as high as 60%. The organization is empowering women by helping them determine what kind of leaders they want to be as they work to complete their sentences. The brand is reversing the psychological effects of U.S. penitentiaries that drive so many back to prison. Above all, however, Televerde’s mission serves as a critical reminder of the things we all must be constantly aware and in pursuit of: compassion, intention, kindness and respect.

TELEVERDE

We hear how companies need to go above and beyond for their customers, staff and communities at large. To me, there’s no better way to do this than by showing compassion and respect as an organization. Despite today’s rapid pace of innovation, the best way to connect and drive change is to simply be human. Imagine the profound global impact of more organizations understanding and embracing this sentiment. At the end of the day, we’re all in need of some help. We’re all in this together.

When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Televerde is walking the talk. For that, I give the brand a standing ovation. Learn more about Televerde’s mission.

3 CX Stats That May Change How You Think About Digital Transformation

Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, automation, big data, and the Internet of Things have made digital transformation an absolute necessity for organizations. With people, processes, services and things more dynamically connected than ever, companies are feeling relentless pressure to digitize, simplify, and integrate their organizational structures to remain competitive.

But there’s a big hole in the fabric of most digital transformation (DX) plans: the customer experience (CX). The problem isn’t that companies fail to understand the importance of the CX in relation to digital transformation. Rather, most fail to understand their customers well enough to envision a truly customer-centric, digitally-transformed environment. Just consider that 55% of companies cite “evolving customer behaviors and preferences” as their primary driver of digital change. Yet, the number one challenge facing executives today is understanding customer behavior and impact.

A massive part of digital transformation involves building a CX strategy, and yet customer centricity remains a top challenge for most. In fact, I encourage you to be your own customer within your organization. Walk in your customers’ shoes, contact your organization as your customers would. What was your web experience? Was the expert knowledgeable during a chat conversation? How well did the mobile app work for you? Did you have a connected experience? Given your experience, how brand-loyal would you be to your organization?

Here are three statistics that will get you rethinking your CX strategy in relation to digital transformation:

  1. 52% of companies don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center. In other words, over half of companies are limiting the customer journey to the contact center even though it naturally takes place across multiple key areas of business (i.e., sales, marketing, HR, billing). Businesses must ensure customers are placed with the right resource at the right time, whether it’s in a contact center or non-contact center environment. The key is being able to openly share customer data across all teams, processes and customer touchpoints.
  2. 60% of digital analytics investments will be spent on customer journey analytics by 2018. Customer journey analytics—the process of measuring the end-to-end customer journey across the entire organization—is critical in today’s smart, digital world. Companies are rapidly investing in this area to identify opportunities for process improvement, digitization, automation and, ultimately, competitive differentiation.
  3. 60% of customers change their contact channel depending on where they are and what they’re doing. This means organizations must focus less on service and more on contextual and situational awareness. Businesses must work to create a seamless experience—regardless of device, channel, location or time—supported by customer, business and situational context captured across all touchpoints.

The CX should influence every company’s digital transformation story. For more tips, insights, and impactful statistics check out our eBook, Fundamentals of Digital Transformation. Let me know what you think. We look forward to hearing from you.