The IP PBX market is heating up, and as with any growing market, newcomers tend to cast hungry glances toward the opportunity. Vonexus (www.vonexus.com) is such a company. They are a wholly owned subsidiary of Interactive Intelligence (ININ), a leader in the contact center space. More specifically, ININ’s Enterprise Interaction Center (EIC) product is now being sold by this new entity. This is where the story gets exciting. What ININ has done is pure genius. You see, IP PBXs have been around for seven years but they have generally all been the same; standalone systems. In other words, IP PBXs didn’t really change telephony too much. The way we work has stayed the same.
Vonexus is looking at the IP PBX in a different way and it can be summarized simply by saying “through Microsoft’s eyes.” The Vonexus EIC product will integrate tightly with virtually all Microsoft products. Microsoft quite literally owns small business and IT (information technology) departments in general. Sure, MIS looks to Linux and other alternatives at times but today, we are living in a Microsoft world. Microsoft is always looking to expand into every area of technology that holds the opportunity for growth. Ditto for Intel. These companies look at VoIP as a big opportunity. Imagine a world where all IP PBX servers and devices run on Microsoft software and Intel chips. Now think of Vonexus as the company that will allow Intel and Microsoft to reap billions from VoIP. As VoIP adoption grows, so does the opportunity for Intel and Microsoft to benefit.
This angle is brilliant as it encourages Intel and Microsoft to promote Vonexus solutions. There are no better partners than these companies.
THE IT KILLER APP?
There is more at play here. Microsoft’s rapid growth has reached a plateau recently and so has the IT market. From 1982 until about 1999, Microsoft operating systems and software improved significantly requiring constant upgrading. Furthermore, Microsoft code wasn’t optimized for performance or space. This led to customers replacing computers every three years or so in order to run Redmond’s latest creations. Around the turn of the century, this trend ceased for a few reasons. Microsoft stopped releasing product upgrades that the market had to have. The upgrades were not only less intriguing, the new code wasn’t exponentially more bloated or slow. At the same time, hardware speeds increased dramatically according to Moore’s exponential law. These factors led to an upgrade cycle of PCs being elongated to up to five years.
Intel and Micro-soft see the Vonexus EIC as the way to change the industry slowdown. Voice — as it turns out — could be the IT killer app. VoIP will spur Microsoft up-grades as EIC desk- top Softphone clients currently run only on XP and to take advantage of the full integration, you will need a speedy processor. The whole IT space needed a killer app and Vonexus may have just provided it to us. Sure, Vonexus is new and they can’t single-handedly take down Avaya, Nortel, and Cisco but they can change how we all look at telephony and they can possibly make it more difficult for Linux to penetrate the server and desktop markets.
In a typical PBX environment, companies must bolt on products to upgrade their systems. If you need voicemail, you buy a voicemail server, if you need an ACD you bolt that on as well. With the Vonexus EIC, you are able to inexpensively add features by just turning them on as you need them. To elaborate on the tight Microsoft integration, the unified messaging is based on Exchange, the database uses SQL Server. There is LiveMeeting, Sharepoint and MS CRM integration as well. You can use an Outlook client in the office and a browser-based client on the road and you are able to manage your call lists via either method.
The IP phones devices can be from Polycom or even the new Microsoft WinCE phones. Soft clients mentioned above can be used with a USB or regular headset.
As Microsoft tries to compete with BEA Weblogic, IBM’s Websphere, and PeopleSoft’s portal offering, they are able to go one step further by offering EIC to voice-enable their portal.
CRM on a Budget
Other features that will be helpful for small organizations are presence, chat, and the recording of calls. It is possible to integrate recorded calls into MS CRM records. There is full CTI functionality at a fraction of the cost of larger integrations from major CRM companies.
There is also full integration with MS accounting offerings such as Great Plains, Navision, and Axapta. A screen pop can easily let you know that a client who is calling owes money. You can see the last few invoices and drill down if needed. This is inexpensive at a few hundred dollars per user and makes so much sense to enable in the accounting department. This technology makes CTI affordable.
Since IVR is integrated into the accounting system, you can allow your customers to call in and get account balances via text to speech. HTML generation is built in as well, allowing invoices to be shown on a Web browser or e-mailed.
If you are interested in purchasing these features as a hosted system, you can. In the future, presence management is being ported to Windows CE phones and PDAs. Perhaps most compelling about the system is that the company tells me that the same admin can handle the telephony and IT solutions, which of course reduces cost. Other IP PBX systems do some of the above but Vonexus has packaged telephony functions together in a wonderful way. Users can access telephony as a seamless extension of the software they are familiar with for the first time ever. Hats off to Vonexus and good luck battling the big boys. At least you won’t be fighting alone.
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