TMCnet - The World's Largest Communications and Technology Community
ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

High Priority!
December 2000

Rich Tehrani


Open Communications 101


Go Right To: The State Of IP Telephony Interoperability

As I write this column, the Republicans and Democrats are deadlocked and Dell computer has just announced that its profits going forward will be 33 percent less than expected next year. These two events have resulted in the stock market plummeting once again. If there is one thing to which the stock market does not react well, it is uncertainty -- especially, it seems, political uncertainty and lower-than-expected corporate earnings.

It is in times like these when many people are afraid to watch TV, read the newspaper or listen to the radio. There just doesn't seem to be any good news in sight.

The current political and economic environment reminds me of a conversation I had with Joe Jackson from Alliance Systems during a recent trip to Texas. Alliance Systems, a rapidly growing company that specializes in manufacturing industrial computers, has made a great business out of supplying open communications systems to resellers and OEMs that in turn supply to other industries, including the contact center and customer interaction markets.

My conversation with Joe was extremely enlightening. I found it especially important in light of the renewed focus on profitability we are currently facing. I'd like to share the results of this talk.

Joe began with a hypothetical situation. It is 5:30 on a Friday afternoon and a friend calls you and invites you out to shoot a game of pool. You accept. You had a rough week and think it's a great idea. A few minutes after you leave your office, your most important customer calls -- a customer who is responsible for 30 percent of your income. Of course, this customer is in a different time zone and expects you to be available to take the call. After all, this person is responsible for millions of dollars of business for your company each year.

As you would expect, the phone rang three times and was picked up by your voice mail. The message the customer leaves is happy and positive, and informs you that they had just won the largest deal in their company's history, and thanks you for all your support. The customer stated he was thrilled to be working together with you and your company on the RFP. That's the good news. The bad news is that all the products must be delivered by Monday. The customer is calling you to make sure that your company will keep its team there over the weekend, as agreed to previously. The customer asks that you please call and reassure him that you will be on schedule.

Thirty minutes later, another call comes in and goes directly into your voice mail. This message is in a slightly different tone...a cross between worried and stressed out. The message begins, "I am really worried. I haven't heard from you. This is a major deal and I need your help. Please call."

Another thirty minutes goes by and once again, the call goes into voice mail. This time, the customer is exasperated. The message says, "It's been an hour and a half and you haven't called me." The customer now punches zero, but due to the time zone difference, everyone in your organization is gone for the weekend. The customer redirects his call into your voice mail. The message says, "I am running out of time. Please call or I will have to find someone else to help us."

The final call comes is and says, "I am sorry, but we will not be using your products anymore. We found someone here in our home state who can provide us with the technology we need. We're going to give them this business and all future business as well."

Imagine now that you arrive at your office Monday morning and listen to the chronology of events that took place. Your mouth drops as you listen to voice mail after voice mail. You feel like the sky is falling and you can imagine finding it necessary to initiate some layoffs from your staff.

This, Jackson insists, is how closed communications operates. So with this in mind, what is open communications? How does it work?

Jackson does not disappoint. He proceeds to tell a different story. Once again, you are playing pool on a Friday afternoon. The same call comes in and is automatically compared with the caller I.D. information in your CRM database. The system recognizes the call as your most important customer. Once the customer's call is recognized, it is subjected to a set of routing rules based on time of day and day of week for that customer.

In this case, the phone on your desk does not ring; the call is directly routed to your cell phone. It rings your cell phone four times and then pulls the call back and plays a recording in your voice that might say, "Hello. I'm sorry I can't answer my cell phone right now. Please hold on and this call will be transferred to someone who can assist you and will find me in a short period of time."

At this point, the system checks to see who is still logged into the phone system in the office. It might find, perhaps, that 12 people are still connected to the office phone system. The phone system then automatically rings all 12 phones simultaneously. The first individual to answer the phone hears a message in your voice saying, "You are about to receive a call from our most important customer. You are fully authorized to do whatever it takes to make this customer happy. Please speak to this person and then find me." The person taking the call can then say, "Hello, I am sorry that your regular contact is temporarily unavailable. Please tell me how we can help you and I'll track him down in the next few minutes."

The beauty of this type of open communications scenario is that the customer was never required to press a single button or reply to a speech recognition command. All he or she did was place a call and was immediately connected with the best re-source available. The net effect is that there is a huge barrier between this relationship with the customer and any other competitor that can steal them away.

The moral of the story is that you can use open communications technology as a competitive weapon; you are no longer limited by your phone system. To those of you who are long-time readers, it is obvious that many of these technologies do exist in the ACD products that many contact centers are equipped with today. What about the rest of the enterprise? The informal call center, if you will? My guess is that over 99 percent of offices don't have the functionality required to handle the above scenario properly. That's a major problem.

As I have noted before, the communications market closely follows the datacom market. Fifteen years ago, mainframes and minis were extremely inflexible closed systems consisting of proprietary hardware and applications. Three things happened that changed the entire computer industry: standards-based hardware such as desktops and file servers, standards-based networking such as LANs and standards-based operating systems with open APIs for application developers.

If we put aside the cost argument, the key reason that client/server technology was superior to mainframes was that the mainframe could not accommodate the business. The business had to accommodate the technology. You could not easily design custom applications on your mini or mainframe. The pool of available programmers was extremely limited and the cost for customization was prohibitively high.

As a result, mainframes didn't let you strategically differentiate your business. Mainframes and minis were not competitive weapons; they were tactical tools that, at best, made your company more efficient.

Contrast this to client/server, where you can easily find an MS Access programmer to write any application you need. The resulting information can be merged with word processors or spreadsheets and products including, but not limited to, Microsoft. For the first time, technology can accommodate the business and not the other way around.

Jackson believes, and I agree, that we now have the ability to raise the telephone to the level of a tool that can accommodate our business. The communications infrastructure of any organization is critical to its success and the ability to take advantage of open communications is crucial to companies' growth, yet the majority of organizations doing business today are unaware that these technologies exist. But they do exist and they will help separate you from your competition. If you would like more details on the technologies you can implement in your organization to keep you ahead of your competition, please contact Joe Jackson at [email protected].


Rich Tehrani
Group Publisher

[ Return To The December  2000 Table Of Contents ]

The State Of IP Telephony Interoperability

I recently returned from INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo in San Diego in October, and I have some great news to report. The IP telephony market is enjoying great success and the interest in this technology from contact centers is still growing at an unbelievably rapid pace. Many call center outsourcers, as well as those individuals tasked with setting up voice-enabled e-commerce in their organizations, were present to compare the latest products and network with their peers.

We at TMC are big believers in IP telephony technology. We feel that packet-based solutions will allow end users unprecedented increases in flexibility while simultaneously allowing service providers at various levels the opportunity to provide a variety of services that are not easily feasible using circuit-switched technology.

TMC is certainly not alone in our convictions. At the recent INTERNET TELEPHONY event in San Diego, there were overwhelming requests for a second INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo to be held on the East Coast. The reason is simple; the pace of the IP telephony market has quickened and product cycles have shortened dramatically. Attendees expressed that they can't keep track of all the latest and greatest products attending the show just once a year; they require more opportunities to help them select the solutions needed to keep their businesses competitive.

With the above in mind, I am very excited to introduce INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & Expo Miami, February 7-9, 2001, at the Hotel Intercontinental Miami. If you imagine the fact that my home state of Connecticut will likely be covered in two feet of snow in early February had something to do with the selection of Miami as a venue for this show, you're right. You can expect a huge number of exhibitors, and we predict this event will sell out quite early. As always, the conference program will adhere to the same high-quality standards as all other TMC conferences.

The conference session titles are as follows:

  • International And Latin America
  • Corporate/Enterprise
  • Service Provider
  • Developer/Reseller
  • General And Special Interest
  • Spotlight On Development

Another important highlight of the show will once again be ConvergeNET, the world's first, largest and longest-running showcase of IP telephony interoperability among disparate manufacturers. The industry needs your help in ensuring all IP telephony products work together. Today's manufacturers owe it to all of us. Please register for the show immediately at www.itexpo.com and for your hotel at www.miami.interconti.com and you'll be able to take advantage of numerous opportunities to save money. I hope to see you at the show!

[ Return To The December  2000 Table Of Contents ]

Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas

Subscribe FREE to all of TMC's monthly magazines. Click here now.