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IP PBX Feature Article

[January 4, 2005]

Telephone Systems Can Be Sexy


When was the last time you really thought about your telephone system? Its certainly not a commodity that most people were thinking much about until the advent of IP telephony and vendors began touting its cost advantages. And while emerging internet-based phone systems and VoIP are becoming a cost-savings reality, it still isn't exactly Sexy. What is sexy is the emerging presence and call control applications that are beginning to revolutionize your once boring telephony system.

These new presence-based applications not only improve communication efficiency with productivity-enhancing desktop tools, they also interconnect all your communications vehicles -- PDA, office phone, cell phone, laptop computer, desktop, etc --. into an any-to-any communications system.

Why did it take so long for the emergence of these new telephony applications? Well, as is usually the case, it is due to a number of factors influenced by market dynamics and economic uncertainties. Plus, the old system worked, so whats the big deal? You just pick up the handset and dial a number. How much easier could it be? It just needs to work; it doesn't need to be sexy.

But, wait a minute! Consider for a moment a converged network capable of supporting all your communications needs along with new applications designed for presence and call control. This is very appealing, especially for businesses with geographically dispersed offices and teleworkers, when you consider the cost savings of telephony integration.

Imagine a desktop application that could control your phone, provide you with presence information about co-workers, new capabilities that are integrated with everyday applications such as email, instant messaging, CRM and directory services. And, what if these applications, along with an operator console, worked across your entire enterprise regardless of geography and whether you had a TDM-based PBX, IP-PBX or mix of both from one or multiple vendors? Truth is these applications are available today and, with a mix of phone systems and preferred communication methods now being used by employees, presence and call control solutions have started to reach the masses.

Previously, telephony vendors focused on infrastructure issues (or the plumbing, as some might say) to make systems more attractive, because that is what they do best. They worry most about speeds, feeds, port density and such factors that make them competitive from a box standpoint. Theyve put a lot of time and effort into designing their new IP telephony systems, and some have done a better job than others with respect to enabling these systems to coexist with their older product lines. The implementation approach most vendors are suggesting for these new systems, particularly the pure play IP-PBX players, is that of a rip-and-replace of the old system. However, most businesses prefer an evolutionary approach to a change of this magnitude to minimize any risk in disrupting their communications and day-to-day business. And many are still leery; migration, no matter how you look at it, takes time and money.

What about the bigger picture, once the infrastructure is in place and you simply want to get more out of your system? You may have a new IP phone system or you may be thinking about taking the leap and buying one -- or perhaps you still have an old one thats running great. Whether its new or old, besides the plumbing, it pretty much does all the basic things youve come to know and expect from a phone system. Certainly not very sexy, yet; but what if you could add productivity-enhancing applications?

As I mentioned, businesses are more inclined to migrate to a new phone system over time as opposed to the all-at-once rip-and-replace approach. Well, some of these new applications can seamlessly unify an entire enterprise, allowing businesses to migrate on a timescale and budget that meets their needs. For instance, the TDM-based PBX can continue to do its job at the home office while you deploy IP-PBXs in your branch offices. To the user with a desktop application with presence and call control embedded in their Outlook or Messenger client, the underlying network is completely transparent. Users can place calls from contact lists, easily transfer callers and setup conference calls by dragging and dropping participants into a virtual conference room from within these common office applications. Think about how many times people seem to fumble through the setup of a conference call using the phone buttons, often losing conference participants. This problem goes away with just a click of the mouse.

Today workers can see at a glance the availability of co-workers, status notes that provide information on a persons whereabouts, and instant messaging status updates that are done automatically while theyre on the phone. Through popup messages, the criteria of which can be set by the individual user, these applications can present contact information, CRM records or directories providing a host of information on the best way to contact co-workers located across the office or on the other side of world.

The convergence of communication mediums, coupled with desktop applications that work across disparate environments, has proven to make it easier and more efficient for people to conduct everyday business communications.

You probably thought that you had to wait for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) to be ubiquitously deployed for this kind of robust application support. The good news is that not only is it available today but such presence and call control capabilities can be deployed within your new IP telephony system, older TDM telephone system, or even a mix of systems. Now thats sexy.

Greg Pisano is director of marketing and product management for IQ NetSolutions, innovators in enterprise presence and call control application solutions. For more information, visit www.iqnetsolutions.com

Enterprise Telecommunications Software

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