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Creating a Unified Experience

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Being in the web conferencing / workshifting space I hear a lot of discussion around the topicdavidbaeza.jpg of Unified Communications (UC), and plenty is being written about it.  In a recent article from CNN, Citrix Online was highlighted for its performance in the market. While this is very noteworthy (more so because I work there), it is the direction of the market, and more importantly, the view point of the end user that I’m most interested in.
In my role I have the opportunity to interview customers and non-customers alike.  One message resonates above all others, and that is simplicity.  No matter how cool your latest augmented-reality, real-time, location-based, cloud computer widget is; it doesn’t mean squat unless it’s easy to use.
Customers want unified services but only as long as the integration doesn’t add complexity and improves the experience.  A good example of this is iGoogle.  I have my calendar, docs, etc., all in one easy place.  The experience is not defined by the tool(s), it’s what you are doing when you use the tools.  Striving to create a unified experience is more important then Unified (ubiquitous) Communications.  One of the best examples of this is the iPhone.  The applications improve the user experience.  That experience is so important that people make a conscience tradeoff in value, i.e.., dropped calls.
How does this apply to workshifting? Improving the experience of workshifters should be the goal of those striving for Unified Communications.  To accomplish this, companies need to be asking the right questions around the experience, and stop selling tools and start selling solutions.  If you’re a technology slinger, a musician, a hotel, an airport….we are all in the Unified Experience business.
Here’s an example of when the Unified Experience fell apart.  I recently attended Jeff Pulver’s 140Conf LA Meetup.  Since I knew it would be a long night, I booked a room at the local Marriott.  I made sure they had Wifi and a business center so all I packed was my toothbrush and my iPod Touch.  While I was there I could not get their WiFi to work, ever, and I needed to get to my desktop at work but they blocked GoToMyPC…gasp. My last resort was our corporate webmail which worked, but I still couldn’t get to my applications.  I have some stuff in Google and that helped a bit, but overall my experience was bad.  It was a real challenge to workshift.  
The calamity of technology failures created a bad experience.  I’m sure each vendor will say, “if you’d only done this…”. What it comes down to is the technology at the hotel failed.  Instead of focusing on the user’s needs (mine) they were hell bent on locking down their network.  The hotel didn’t focus on the experience.  They thought that providing the tools was enough, as opposed to focusing on how the tools would be used then developing a solution to support the experience.
I know it sounds like I’m picking on Marriott…I’m really not.  I have stayed at their hotels many times and will continue to do so.  It just happens to be my most recent experience.  But it demonstrates that we are all in the Unified Experience business.  To steal a phrase from Gary Vaynerchuk: “don’t get romanced by the tools”. The tools (I.e., Twitter, Facebook, etc.) will come and go.  Focus on developing tools that complement and enhance the experience.  
Workshifters unite for a Unified Experience.  To accomplish this, you should be vocal.  Guest post on Workshifting and other blogs, shout-out on Twitter, and talk about your experiences, but don’t just complain.  Offer up some solutions.  I don’t care how crazy they may be.  Be an effective voice and lets work together for a better (unified) experience.
Over the weeks and months to come I’ll be interviewing execs at Citrix Online and other companies, so you can listen to their opinions too.  
What are your thoughts on this?

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  • http://www.coffeehouseideas.com Justin Rasmussen

    David, I completely agree. It seems that often we start with the product or solution and work backwards to the customer, telling them that they must conform to the way we work. The problem is people don’t work that way, well, we do but not for long. It’s amazing how often we will look at solutions for an experience and simply provide it and check it off the list without truly understanding how it will be used, the actual experience.
    I believe we should start with the customer experience and the product/solution and work towards the middle. Because if we always start simply at the customer experience and only work towards the product it ends up being too convoluted for the vendor. They can’t produce a proper product with all of the whims and ever-changing requests of a customer, as they often don’t fully know what they want. I’m sure you guys experience customers asking for new features when they don’t fully understand the current feature set.
    Now this isn’t to say that the customer is intellectually deficit or lacking proper feature set comprehension skills but as customers we all have a different workflow or mindset that allows us to see problems and answers in unique ways. Therefore, allowing or barring us to see how certain feature sets can or cannot be used properly.
    I do agree with you and Gary, it’s easy to become enticed with the cool tools but I do think that it is more that we shouldn’t focus on the companies that offer features. We still want an experience that exhibits cool features such as talking to our friends and customers, our documents at our fingertips, our programs when we need them, ability to show people what we’re doing, etc. Isn’t flocking to new technologies is what the technology arena built on though? We’ve been doing it since the PC hit the scene, we’re obsessed with new things. Then we adapt those features into our own technology product. I think our obsession for technology and features makes us lose sight of the actual human experience we have.

  • David

    Hey Justin:
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment to my blog post.
    All the best,
    David Baeza

  • http://melissaleon.tumblr.com Melissa Leon

    David nice post. You bring up a good point about a unified experience. I have not put much thought into hotels and such and their role in making a workshifters experience better.
    I have always thought what else can I throw into my bag so that I can workshift effectively. But now thinking about it my life as a workshifter would be so much easier if hotels, airports, cafes, etc thought about creating a unified environment.
    You raise a good question what can we do, thanks for giving me something to think about.