As expected, 2005 and the acceptance of VoIP network infrastructure, is becoming the tipping point for enterprise market migration towards IP-based communication application convergence. It is interesting to see the impact this is having upon IT organizations and we have some practical feedback from two recent conferences to confirm the practical steps needed for such migrations.
The first conference was sponsored by The Open Group’s Messaging Forum (the old Electronic Messaging Association), focused upon enterprise email, while the second conference was a repeat of last year’s successful BCR VoiceCon show in Orlando, which takes a predominantly IP Telephony perspective. Our “end-user” view is that IP communication technology is enabling a convergence of both multi-modal Messaging and IP Telephony, so that the enterprise responsibility to its users must converge both forms of communication contact.
What’s most interesting is that both perspectives are revealing the need for organizational convergence of technology management, as well as other areas of executive management. In addition, the enterprise market is extremely interested in experiential feedback on how to avoid mistakes in moving forward with planning and implementation of new capabilities, in which they have little or no experience, and where their migration requirements must be customized for their individual business operations.
Open Group Messaging Forum Conference – San Francisco, CA, January 27, 2005
The Unified-View was asked to organize a special one-day session on enterprise converged communications for their messaging conference. We included all forms of messaging communications (email, voice mail, Instant Messaging, etc.), as well as the integration of such messaging with wired and wireless IP Telephony to comprise what we are calling “transmodal telecommunications.”
Participating technology providers included Avaya, Nortel, Microsoft, and Interactive Intelligence, who discussed their perceptions of how the enterprise market is migrating to convergence. In order to involve enterprise telecommunications management in this discussion, we created a “virtual” session sponsored by Avaya, which teleconferenced invited enterprise managers who were members of the International Association of Messaging professions (the old Octel voicemail users group), as well as Avaya and Nortel enterprise customers.
- Mobility and remote accessibility, real-time interactions, and customer-facing public contacts are the biggest drivers for convergence.
- Biggest obstacles are cost/ROI issues, legacy organizational, and cultural mindsets.
- Reliability, QoS, and security of IP Telephony are a typical enterprise concern that is slowing down migration movement to VoIP infrastructure that is fundamental to IP Telephony applications.
- Individual desktop converged communications management and wireless mobility, exploiting speech interfaces, are usually the first two user needs that are addressed in convergence implementations.
- Younger, mobile and remote users are the champions of converged communications, while older office workers are resistant to such change.
- Key decision makers are usually the business unit managers and business-oriented technology managers, who understand the productivity value of converged communication applications.
- End of life PBX life cycles are common starting point for migration planning.
- Key new enterprise requirement for using new forms of communication are management tools that track all forms of communication activity, end-to-end.
Enterprise Panel Findings
- Wireless mobility interfaces for messaging were key, including both speech and text.
- Initial migration steps were limited stepping stones.
- Pilots were critical before any rollout even to restricted user groups.
- End of life cycle for voice mail was a practical opening for convergence move, i.e., unified-messaging.
- Management concerns were added costs, reliability of IP Telephony, and value in terms of messaging effectiveness and responsiveness.
- Voice mail usage dropped significantly by introduction of real-time text messaging (Instant Messaging).
- Mobile users realized productivity benefits almost immediately, including correlation to increased revenues, although sometimes hard to quantify.
- Where self-provisioning interfaces were easy, end users exploited personalization; where it was not easy, it was rejected.
- Advanced, personal communication management capabilities, including exploitation of SIP and presence management, are still a “future” expectation, especially for the small to medium enterprise.
Lessons learned include:
- Better coordination and planning between data and telephony groups
- Do better job on ROI analyses
- Insure minimum change impact on end users
- Implementation of first step of converged communication capability ranged from six weeks to six months
- Recommendations to providers:
- Make all new functionality easier for end users
- Provide self-service administration directly to users
- Provide training packages that end users can utilize whenever they need to use a new capability
- Provide tools for large enterprise usage management, including control of legal restrictions on business communications and archiving, usage cost accounting and controls.
To access the formal presentations given at this conference, as well as a recording of the “virtual” teleconference session on convergence migration, visit the Unified-View website and register for the downloads.
VoiceCon 2005 – Moving Past the IP Telephony Tipping Point
The huge success of last year’s VoiceCon 2004 conference was repeated this year with a 25% increase in attendance. As one attendee mentioned to me, it reminded her of the exuberant days of the old TCA conferences in San Diego. This success has led to the announcement of a second such show, VoiceCon Fall 2005, in San Diego, CA, 8/29-9/1, 2005.
There was a lot excitement in the air as more enterprise user presentations were able to relate their real-world successes in moving forward with IP Telephony implementations. The leading legacy enterprise telephony CPE providers including, Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, Alcatel, NEC, and Mitel, have all moved their product lines to support IP Telephony and VoIP networking and are providing strong competition to the pure VoIP providers like Cisco, Shoretel, 3Com, Inter-Tel, all-in-one Interactive Intelligence, etc., who can also integrate with legacy PBXs.
However, the installed base of enterprise organizations are just not that ready to replace all their TDM phone systems and were really looking for practical guidance in starting to plan a cost-effective and “graceful migration to converged communications. It was this kind of need that many user and vendor presentations addressed and they provided many practical words of advice that went way beyond installing a VoIP network and IP Telephony products.
Here are some of the highlights and impressions that I picked up from the solid program BCR put together.
VoIP networking implementation is still an expensive proposition and requires careful analysis and planning to accommodate IP Telephony applications. As well-known consultant Allan Sulkin pointed out, the cost of replacing the huge investments in Y2K TDM-based telephone systems that still work will slow down any migration to VoIP. Planning for and configuring an IP-PBX is not any less challenging than the traditional TDM switch; in fact, if anything, it will be even more difficult because of the complexities of convergence and the issues of VoIP security and Quality of Service.
The first step for any enterprise migration of telephony technology is to reorganize technology management to put the data groups responsible for the IP network and messaging under the same operational management as the telephony (telecom) group. Then put the right kind of manager (not just a techie) in charge that can incent both groups to work effectively together as a team on converged communication applications. One descriptive name given to such a converged support group was “Communication Technology Services.” As one enterprise speaker who did not address this issue up front commented, “Do it first! Don’t even think of doing anything until you get reorganized!”
For “ greenfield” installations, there is no question of immediate cost savings because of the reduction in cabling required with VoIP. In addition, the centralization of administrative management also provides lower staffing and equipment costs.
For existing legacy telephony environments, however, the market is still moving slowly. Selective VoIP network implementation is being based on the IP Telephony applications that will also be implemented, unless the current TDM infrastructure is very large, costly, and messy, requiring a basic network consolidation.
VoIP implementation requires serious network analysis of future, traffic needs for insuring voice Quality of Service. A recent warning issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for government agencies cautioned against combining VoIP and other data applications data on the same network channels, because of both QoS and security considerations.
Although new IP station shipments have increased to the 50% mark in 2005, migration to IP Telephony doesn’t necessarily require IP phone replacement. Since most “open” IP-PBXs will accommodate IP, digital, or analog station sets, the need to replace existing phone equipment should be carefully reviewed in terms of the benefits to the end user, not just to save on Moves, Adds, and Changes expense. In many organizations where MAC is not done frequently, the saving will be minimal. IP phones can also be implemented through PC “softphone” software, which may be much cheaper and cost effective. In many other cases, mobile users don’t even need a wired station set, relying primarily on handheld devices.
One of the most popular productivity payoffs from IP-Telephony and VoIP networks reported for traveling end users is the ability to take “office” calls directly through a PC-based softphone and a VoIP connection or through forwarding to a cell phone. (Wi-Fi handsets are starting to come into play now as well!) In addition, “dead time” for key traveling personnel while driving a car or waiting in an airport can be productively recovered by retrieving and responding to either email or voice mail messages through unified messaging and speech-controlled user interfaces for handheld devices.
A key benefit of VoIP connectivity and IP Telephony applications will be the exploitation of SIP-based presence, availability, and modality management. Two of the VoiceCon 2005 sessions were focused on the latest SIP developments that leading providers are working on to support converged, “unified presence management,” not just for text chat. Although standardization of evolving SIP functionality is still slow, the directions of the industry look promising.
Eliminating the high costs of voice conferencing services are another cost reduction benefit of VoIP reported by providers and enterprise users alike. In addition to lower costs, the ability for any end user to easily initiate and control “instant” multi-party conferencing is also a productivity-enhancing benefit to distributed organizations, including remote teleworking staff. IP-based Videoconferencing is also becoming of interest for the same reasons.
The migration of traditional telephone call centers to more flexible, multi-modal customer contact management has become a major objective for VoIP networking. This would include centralized routing control for not only phone calls, but text and voice messages, and chat (instant message) connections to distributed branch locations, “home agents,” and outsourced staffing resources. However, most enterprise organizations speaking at VoiceCon have put this application in second place on their migration list after IP-PBX capabilities, because of the added complexity and the need to first enable their internal customer-facing staff with converged, multi-modal communication capabilities before opening it up to customers.
A sign of the times at VoiceCon was the participation of Microsoft, a Platinum sponsor, whose booth also included its telephony partners, promoting multi-modal, real-time communication convergence with its announced Istanbul PC client for Instant Messaging and Telephone interfaces at the PC desktop.
The bottom line for most enterprise organizations is that the potential cost savings ROI alone are not always enough to overcome the high costs and organizational perturbations of implementing just VoIP networking properly. For this reason, the other, “softer” ROIs of end user functionality, productivity, and improved Business Process Management (BPM) are becoming important issues in migration decisions.
What Do You Think?
Do you think that IP Telephony implementations will pick up even more steam during the coming year as enterprise PBX life cycles come to an end and IP-PBX products can be used to leverage other application software servers? Who do you think will become the key decision makers for enterprise IP-Telephony migrations in the enterprise? Do you think the leading telephony providers will retain their market dominance of voice-oriented servers such as IP voice mail/unified-messaging, call center ACDs, IVR applications, and telephone station sets? Will “IP-Centrex” become more attractive to the SMB enterprise market than in the past?
Let us know your opinions by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Upcoming Conference Including “Transmodal Communication”
IIR Conference on New VoIP-based Services for Enterprises and Consumers, April 25-27, 2005, Scottsdale, AZ
A conference in April, primarily for carriers and service providers, is being produced by IIR USA. Under the catchall label of “The VoIP Summit,” this conference will be discussing both the consumer and enterprise market requirements and opportunities for IP network-based service providers. I will be organizing a session that will discuss practical issues with new communication services for enterprise end users, such as “one-number” services. Such services may now interwork in complementary ways with wired and wireless unified communication technology within the enterprise to selectively support a variety of end user needs.
For program details, visit IIR USA’s web site at:
White Paper Report: Progress and Direction of Enterprise Migration to Converged Communications
The Unified-View white paper report on the state of the industry and the enterprise market for communications convergence is still available. Entitled “Beyond VoIP: Enterprise Perspectives on Migrating to Multi-modal Communications and Wireless Mobility,” the report was sponsored by the non-profit Unified Communications Consortium and leading providers of enterprise voice telecommunications technologies, including Alcatel, Avaya, Mitel, Nortel, and Siemens.
This objective report summarizes the current availability of key converged IP Telephony application technology from the provider industry, as well as a realistic assessment of the progress that enterprise organizations are making in migrating to communications convergence. The latter information is based on recent market studies of enterprise organizations from a converged usage perspective. The study provides practical feedback on the readiness of the market for the new IP-Telephony and multi-modal messaging technologies.
For a free copy of the report, go to www.unified-view.com
Art Rosenberg is a veteran of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. He focuses on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as a consumer and as a member of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.
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