If Enterprise Voice is the most efficient way to achieve savings while increase productivity, Exchange Unified Messaging is the most beautiful part in the entire Unified Communications concept.
Georgia Military College currently employs Exchange 2007 as enterprise email solution. It have been said enough already of the advantages of the Exchange server – no need to repeat it here. There is, however, a role called Unified Messaging, which contributed a great deal to our Enterprise Voice solution. Remember the $3.00 per Voice Mail box with our former provider? Multiply this by the number of phone lines/users and a here where a good chunk of MRC goes in some cases.
With Exchange Unified messaging, a voice mail is no longer the simple registration if the fact someone called, said something and left a call back number. Now we have a visual representation of the call arriving via email. We can play it on our computer, listen it over a phone and once we upgrade to Exchange 2010, read it. That’s right; Exchange will email us a transcript of the voice mail. How about that!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy every bit of the ultimate visualization of the event. I can click to play the message on my PC speakers, to reply with email, or click to start IM session or… click to initiate a phone call. The common denominator here: “click”. No time wasted.
The other great feature of Unified Messaging role is Auto Attendant - voice recognition feature which can do wanders for your work flow in any area. It is still a running joke around the college what I said during the presentation of the Unified Communication concept – “English is my fourth language and if this system understands me – it is a darn good system!”
Here is one example:
EDU folks knows already how important is the communication between faculty and students in meaning of reachability. In typical scenario, the kid would know the name of the Faculties but not their direct numbers. They would call any number associated with GMC (typically the last number from which someone from GMC called) and the run around begins… frustrating for both sides. We Provisioned Auto Attendant to be a single point of reach for all faculty – one number is distributed in the beginning of the quarter to all students. The AA is “narrowed” to a list with Faculties only, and the caller can simply speak the name and be connected.
Another example is how we handled the K12 part of the school. The teachers do not have office, but rather the classroom is an “office” itself. During the planning phase we determined that having a phone in a classroom is not a good idea since it will disturb the learning process. However, while we were evaluating the current procedures, this is what we discovered:
A parent would call the school secretary and leave a message for a teacher, who in return would check several times throughout the day “Is there something for me?” and then handle it. Another, although insignificant for someone part, would be the missing indirect interaction with the caller, meaning of intonation and sometime anger etc. In our case, we decided to provision out K12 teachers with mailbox without actually participating actively in the call flow i.e. a phone or DID assignment. Now the school secretary forwards those calls immediately to the teacher’s voicemail, which in turn is delivered via email immediately to the user.
The possibilities are endless and UM role could handle wide variety of scenarios – it require good knowledge of the capabilities (and limitations) of it and patience. Patience to listen what your users need, not what “you think they need”.