Human latency is a term which describes the time it takes to set-up a human-to-human connection. For instance, it could be the time it takes to connect two people on the phone so that they could resolve an issue.
A human latency problem has existed for years now, especially with non-mobile communications. The old adage says “Time is money”, and so every delay costs. But as Zeus Kerravala explains, with time we all grew to develop workarounds that allowed us to minimize that latency, which minimized the costs.
Reducing human latency? (CC)
I have read about Unified Communication and heard lots of people trying to explain what it is. The best definition I’ve heard is from Gartner, which explains that Unified Communication is all about “the ability to reduce human latency”. Many argue that the main obstacles for UC deployment are human latency delays.
In most business decisions, 70-90% of the decision making time is idle time, during which messages are sitting in the queue (inbox, voice mail, etc.). Assuring that relevant people are available to intercept these messages in real-time can reduce idle time by 50-90%, which significantly increases productivity and opportunities.
As an example, imagine I get back to my room and I find in my inbox an e-mail from Tsahi asking me a question. This message has been idle for some time, and I would like to reduce latency as much as possible. Instead of replying, and starting a game of e-mail “ping-pong”, I open my instant messaging client, verify that Tsahi is “online”, drop him a line asking if he’s in his room, and then pick up the phone to call him and close this issue in a few minutes.
It’s true – I used 3 different communication means (e-mail, IM, phone) for my “work-around” and they are (typically) not connected to each other, but it works. Zeus argues that such a solution is much harder to perform on the go. Switching between e-mail client, IM application and the phone application on a mobile handset can yield to some latency (and requires some skill), but I believe that this latency is not the important one.
I couldn’t agree more with Art Rosenberg, who says that the main focus of UC should be not on human skills or performance, but the efficiency of making human contact. As you can see from my example, it is not skill that was required of me, but knowledge, or tools that can supply such knowledge as quickly as possible.
If you need someone to close a loose end regarding a certain issue, making contact usually means knowing:
- Who to contact (who has that valuable information that you require)
- How to contact them (which means of communication will give the best results in terms of latency)
- How to make that contact (“call”)
The recipient should be able to:
- Receive the “type” of “call” you have chosen
- Know who you are
- Know the relevant information regarding the “call” subject as quickly as possible
Phones making contact (CC).
So how does UC help with that?
- Knowing who to contact is sometimes trivial (if you are replying to an e-mail or getting back to someone who left you a voice mail), but in more complicated scenarios interaction with a company directory or other means of direction (IVR, for instance) may be needed.
- Presence information, which is regarded as a key element in UC, takes care of knowing how to contact someone efficiently. In my example above, I had presence information informing me that Tsahi was online, but human latency could have been reduced further if I had presence information saying that Tsahi “is @ home writing a post on his laptop”, for instance. It also provides info on whether people are free to accept such a “call” at this time. The more presence is integrated with the other communication tools, the more it becomes a valuable part of our daily communication routines.
- Numerous communication channels increase the ability to receive “calls”. Mobility increases accessibility, and the mass deployment of voice and video calls over IP also contribute significantly. All of these should be well managed so that more won’t mean less.
- Services like Caller ID and database systems that are invoked accordingly can supply the recipient information and matters that may be discussed to the caller.
So if we go back to my little example above, where Tsahi had sent me an e-mail and I had to get back to him, a UC solution would probably look like this:
- As my presence information is incorporated in my e-mail client, I can see next to Tsahi’s name (as sender) that he is “online” and “in the office”.
- My e-mail client can use company databases and knowledge management systems to present all relevant information on the subject of his query.
- I can right-click Tsahi’s details to automatically figure out the best way to call him immediately (“best” here means reliable, fast, cost-effective or HIS choice of communication means) so I can provide him with the answers he needs promptly.
- Tsahi will receive my call, and will be immediately prompted with our last “human contacts”, including his e-mail, so that it would take him no time to “freshen up” on his query.
And there you have it – negligible or not, work-arounds or none, UC does have a way of simplifying things, which makes “making contact” a simple, prompt task. It gives us the ability to dissolve barriers and delays inside the organization’s information systems and flows, as well as inside the organization’s cross-company interactions which involve cross-communications. And as everything eventually evolves around people, UC makes all of us humans work better.