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Arthur M. Rosenberg

[September 5, 2003]

The Unified-View

By Art Rosenberg

The Payoff of IP Communications to Enterprise Users: Exploiting Multi-modal Communications Availability

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Enterprise organizations always have to look at their communications technologies from two perspectives: Minimizing or reducing costs to the company and providing added operational benefits to users, where users are both company personnel and customers and business partners.

The first target of converged IP communications has logically focused on the cost reduction factors, such as:

  • Shared use of LANs and WANs for voice, messaging, and data;
  • PSTN “toll bypass” via VoIP networking;
  • Centralization of communication servers and administration in a distributed enterprise; and
  • Flexible, self-provisioning of traditional wired phone moves, adds and changes (MAC).

While these benefits are important to enterprise management in today’s economic climate, they only set the stage for the functional needs of users. And user needs, as both contact initiators as well as recipients, are why the enterprise requires more flexible and effective communication technologies in the first place!

So, in addition to the potentials of cost-reduction ROI through converged voice and data IP networking, there has always been a reference by both technology providers and industry pundits to vague “new applications” that no one could really describe. Well, the real new communication benefit of VoIP networking and IP telephony for users is not a new business “application,” but rather a new set of contact capabilities that will supplement and change traditional messaging and phone communications. This new communication piece will be used by both person-to-person communication applications such as enterprise voice and messaging systems, as well as by business applications that need to contact individual users for personalized, real-time services.

While “presence” management began life as a means of Internet connectivity for participants to access text chat groups, it has evolved into a more general person-to-person form of connectivity and access control for immediate message exchange that we now know as Instant Messaging. With technology advances in VoIP and IP telephony standards, particularly Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), presence management is no longer restricted to desktop text messaging, but is rapidly becoming a key feature for wireless multi-modal phones that can cost effectively connect mobile groups and teams in “near real time” by either text or voice exchanges. The latter is popularly known as “Push-to-Talk” (PTT) and is a new version of the old half-duplex radio “walkie-talkies,” that I have characterized as Voice Instant Messaging.

With SIP and SIMPLE, IP connectivity enables “intelligent” end-to-end communications control, not just for recipients, but, maybe more importantly, for contact initiators. Telephone calling has traditionally always been a relatively wasteful “blind” contact attempt hoping that the call recipient is accessible at a wired location and available (not busy). That is why enterprise call centers have dedicated staffs or self-service applications to insure that someone is available to answer a voice call. E-mail and voice messaging have also been “blind” in that the message originator could not know if or when their message would be picked up, let alone when it would be responded to.

With new multi-modal devices, both handheld and at the desktop, there are now new choices for initiating a communications contact, and, if there is a real-time need for a response, that choice will be governed by the circumstances of both the initiator and the recipient. After all, it is the contact initiator that is triggering the communication and knows the need for immediacy, not the recipient, but callers need better dynamic “intelligence” about the recipient’s situation before blindly selecting the modality of communication. And, I am not talking about simply looking at someone else’s calendars or schedules, which realistically will never be very accurate!

The modality of any real-time communication contact between two (or more) people is dependent on the very dynamic situational status of all parties. Whereas in the past, the contact initiator had to know (or guess) about where the person was physically, what device address (telephone number) was needed, whether they were busy talking on the phone, in a meeting, in a “do not disturb” mode, etc., any real-time contact attempt usually wasted a lot of the initiator’s time. And, if it blindly interrupted the recipient, time priorities could be disrupted as well.

Just the other day, I tried to return a phone call to the president of a company that developed a new speech-based “one-number” auto-attendant product. After identifying myself by name, I was told that my party was not at his desk and asked if I wanted to leave a message or to find him. Since I wanted to talk to him now that I had taken the time to return his call, I said “Find him!” After the automated secretary tried a couple of alternate contact numbers, my party picked up his phone and said “Hello Art! I am in a meeting. Can I call you back?”

Part 2

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