Understand Federation?

Richard Bennett, EMEA Director and CTO Lead for Avaya EMEA asks the question: ‘Can we articulate and introduce federation and collaboration to users?’ 

We’ve witnessed a radical shift in measurement for technology investments in recent years. The evolution of both employee and customer expectation in terms of communications experience is effectively driving business transformation and as a result, requires organisations to provision more for that transformation.

But these technology investments, aimed at ensuring a strong user experience, must also be as simple as possible for both user and IT in order to drive down the cost of OAM&P (operations, administration, maintenance, and provisioning). In short, businesses today need to ensure their technology ‘backbone’ is structured to handle appropriate communications processes as well as end-user requirements simultaneously.

Core to this challenge is the implementation of federation. For businesses to gain the most momentum and value from user-adoption of UC or Collaboration tools, federation is the key.

How can businesses best understand the benefits of federation?

So what IS federation? Put simply, federation is a service designed to deliver functionality and features seamlessly across multivendor platforms for communication, contact centre and collaboration technologies to create ‘session based context’ – which maintains the relevant details, past interactions, content and conversations between two individuals who work together.

Today’s multimodal approach to communications – IM, voice and video, to name a few – requires federation, because end-users include employees, customers, partners and suppliers. It’s simply not possible for businesses to demand that these many stakeholders adapt to the tools one company has chosen. Instead, an open approach must carry the day in order to keep communications stable, streamlined and seamless.

In addition, many companies are grappling with the issue of successfully adopting strategies to support employees who insist on using their own devices in tandem (and sometimes instead of) their company-supplied ones. Vendors that offer open-standards-based solutions that support federation via a flexible communications architecture that incorporates legacy products as well as new technologies therefore stand to offer a significant differentiation of their business in their customers’ eyes in parallel to the proven increases in return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Of course, end users don’t need to understand federation, any more than they need to grasp the subtleties of industry buzzwords including convergence, unified communications or collaboration. They simply need the communications to be there when they pick up the phone, open an IM screen or answer a video call. But it’s critical for organisations to understand the importance of federation because it ensures that they can run communications properly, so their investment will pay dividends in the years to come.

How does user adoption support the case for federation?

Users today often want to use their own technologies and devices and/or the ones they prefer personally. This puts the onus on businesses to create the proper backbone to support the numerous technologies in the workplace which can ensure seamless collaboration, security and system stability. Businesses often need to realise the benefits of CEBT, or “communications-enhanced business transformation” (a concept that is used to describe the state achieved when communications and collaboration tools are also able to increase the efficiency of a process beyond the traditional boundaries of the enterprise to include; partners, suppliers and customers) by planning today, for federation services.

How can companies measure the success of their projects? 

When focusing on supporting customer investment it is important to recognise that the world has evolved beyond a pure ROI/TCO conversation and also beyond a “phone”, an “IM client” or an “agent desktop”. The solutions most effectively adopted in many organisations deliver business-grade services (for solutions such as video and voice) which users can adopt seamlessly across a range of devices.

ROI no longer purely stands for return on investment, and this is common to all verticals. Businesses today now measure success in terms of user productivity and user enablement, not just cost savings or CAPEX reduction. Businesses want to increase customer revenues through timely adoption of technologies – but they don’t want to be ‘guinea pigs’ for the technology. Therefore, business partners, system integrators and vendors must demonstrate clearly how each technology supports and delivers a true end-to-end interaction with the company’s customers.

What do end-users need to know? 

Very little! The measurement of success for a user when federated technologies have been deployed is the ease of use they experience – and the speed of communication and ease of collaboration. Users as a general rule don’t need to care about industry acronyms like BYOD or terms such as federation. Their expectation is built on the basis of consumer-driven tools that offer the business-level benefits of persistence, context and ease of use such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Users want the same experience at work as they have at home with these consumer services.

End-user success can also be measured by polling speed of adoption and employee engagement/empowerment within an organisation. With federation, a consistent and compelling user experience can be maintained across platforms, regardless of operating systems or devices.

Another interesting development is the availability of these tools as services, offered via the cloud. Companies can take advantage of provisioned services using the Avaya cloud (UCaaS) to change the customer investment from CAPEX to a scalable and manageable OPEX, giving the same benefits of ‘owned’ communications technology.

Final thoughts?

Implementing communications in the coming years will require not only a good grasp of the benefits of federation within the IT team, but increasingly at a business, decision-making level. The business benefits offered by these communications technologies and processes is attractive not only to technology specialists, but also to business leaders, who can easily understand the benefits of a communications system that offers multiple access points, ease-of-use, and security, while improving productivity, employee engagement and customer delight.

The value of a truly federated communications solution applied to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, with the right context, is a valuable proposition as it will address the key to user adoption and acceptance.



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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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