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On The Way to the 'Virtual Enterprise' - A Tale of Two Telecommunication Conferences
[November 03, 2005]

On The Way to the 'Virtual Enterprise' - A Tale of Two Telecommunication Conferences

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
The web, IP telephony (alias "VoIP"), and wireless mobility will be making enterprise organizations "virtual" (not just "real-time"), where people can communicate, get information, and do business anywhere, anytime, any way. The disruptive convergence of IP telecommunication infrastructures with multi-modal handheld and desktop devices is unsettling the traditional enterprise communications industry  (CPE and services) and their markets. Business organizations are now trying to understand what will change, reorganize their IT support accordingly, and plan for a graceful, cost-justifiable, migration of both their technologies and operations to the future of business telecommunications.

Since the business technology industry is at the height of the conference and trade show season to educate and sell enterprise customers on the virtues of converged telecommunications, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in two different conferences each focused on what I consider to be key "application" areas of converged IP telecommunications for the enterprise, IP voice telephony (wired and wireless) and multi-modal messaging. (Apparently, "virtual" participation has not been fully adopted by the conference business yet, but that migration is in progress.)
Both conferences were outstanding from several perspectives and I would like to highlight what was most significant from a business enterprise perspective.

Enterprise Business Messaging Conference   

Despite the last-minute threat of Hurricane Rita to Houston, the enterprise messaging conferences of the International Association of Messaging Professionals (IAMP) for voice messaging and the Messaging Forum of The Open Group for email took place as scheduled. This was the first year that the now independent IAMP conference was sponsored by many leading voice messaging industry providers besides Avaya, including Nortel, Siemens, AVST, ADOMO, ems, Interactive Intelligence, Lyrix, Mutare, and NetVersant.
As described previously in my column, this was also an industry first in having both non-profit enterprise messaging organizations converge their programs to share some joint sessions on the convergence of text and voice messaging technology management. This emphasized the shift to unified messaging as a major trend for messaging.
To further expand the scope of these joint sessions, three of the sessions were also "virtual," and sponsored by Avaya and Nortel. This allowed remote listeners and speakers to participate with the conference attendees and more than doubled the size of the audience for these sessions. Participating provider panelists in the virtual sessions included Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, Microsoft, Cisco, Adomo, and IP Unity, They viewed all forms of enterprise messaging as increasingly significant elements of converged business telecommunications, requiring more seamless integration with telephony. "
(To hear the actual “virtual” session discussions, go to"
Some highlights of the IAMP business messaging conference included:
  • A memorable panel of voice messaging industry pioneers who commented on the impact of email, IP telephony, and wireless mobile devices on the future of enterprise voice messaging. IAMP also presented awards to Pat Howard, former CEO of VMX, Bob Cohn, founder of Octel and current Chairman of the Board at Adomo, and Marty Parker, long-time industry expert in voice messaging and, most recently, Director of Product Management for Avaya/Lucent/AT&T Messaging. 
  • Enterprise migration trends seen by messaging vendors include:
-        Integration of IP-based voice messaging with both legacy PBXs, IP-PBXs, and email servers.  Voice mail providers now offer integration with multiple PBXs.
-        Shift of ROI emphasis from just IP-based infrastructure cost reductions to user-oriented productivity benefits from IP telecommunication applications
-        Key drivers for IP migration are server end-of-life cycle for TDM technologies and the shift to wireless mobility, along with the benefits of consolidating distributed servers and mailboxes.
-        SIP and presence management are now being adopted by all the players in the telephony industry
-        Enterprise messaging administration is starting to consolidate between email and voice mail, but including IM and other IP telephony applications administration consolidation is still evolving.
-        Every unified messaging provider offered speech recognition interfaces for both caller and user interfaces as alternatives to a TUI. 
-        IP telecommunications have opened enterprise implementation options to using hosted and managed services, in addition to traditional CPE procurements. As a result, many of the larger providers offer all options to their customers who may not have internal resources and expertise with the new technologies.
-        Emulating legacy voice mail telephone user interfaces (TUIs) is still considered by some organizations to be an important requirement to facilitate end user migrations to new IP-based products. However, new experience indicates that users get over their resistance to change within a week or so, and that learning to use new converged capabilities is really more important.     
  • There is still little general end-user demand for new IP-based personal contact functionality and IT management is doing little research to identify different user needs as part of IP telecommunication migration planning. Some market segments such as health care, financial services, education, government, etc. are starting to "verticalize" end user accessibility requirements based upon specific job responsibilities coupled with mobile activities.   
  • While user productivity is beginning to gain recognition in the marketplace, there is still a notable lack of practical management tools to quantify communication usage and productivity metrics. However, the shift to SIP-based, multi-modal telecommunications is expected to support such new, consolidated management capabilities.
  • Migrating to new enterprise voice messaging systems still presents many optional approaches as well as challenges and the sponsoring vendors had a variety of offerings to facilitate individual enterprise needs. Avaya notably addressed the problem of gracefully migrating their legacy Octel and Intuity voice mail user information and messages and mailbox data. Some voice mail vendors also offer options to share email server message storage or retain separate voice mail system storage because of reliability issues.
  • There was little mention of new directions for traditional voice mail system networking that was handled in the past by AMIS (analog) and VPIM (digital) standards. Again, as the leading market share owner of medium to large enterprise legacy voice mail systems, Avaya was able to present practical migration options to their existing customers.
  • While "unified messaging" was a key focus of the IAMP conference, integrating Instant Messaging was not (yet) an element of UM being offered by most voice messaging vendors. That is because the integration of IM with UM/UC is still a work in progress that is evolving by Microsoft and most vendors have based their product plans on Microsoft's IM products.
The bottom line for business messaging is not only unifying text and voice messaging (asynchronous and real-time, desktop and mobile), but also integrating all forms of messaging with IP telephony for exploiting the next generation of multi-modal telecommunication devices to contact people.

Internet Telephony Conference and Expo, Fall 2005, L.A.   

Now that we talked a lot about the messaging applications of converged enterprise telecommunications, let's look at the highlights of the successful Internet Telephony show in L.A. The L.A. show has grown in overall attendance from 5,000 last year to 8,000 this year, reflecting a greater interest in the migration to IP telephony in the marketplace.
My main complaint however, is that IP-based business telecommunications convergence is not just about IP telephony, but the integration of IP telephony and multi-modal messaging.  So, for a big show like this to ignore the increasing role of all forms of messaging communications and their seamless integration with wired and wireless telephony, seems to preserve the legacy "silos" of the past. (I suggested to TMC's management that they change the name of the show to Internet Telecommunications.)   
There were a lot of keynotes and a lot of tracks, making for an overloaded program. The primary topics were mainly about IP telephony applications replacing legacy TDM technologies, all under the label of "VoIP." There was a shift of emphasis from most speakers from just enterprise cost savings to the telephony/voice "applications" that directly benefit end users and business operations. Indeed, there was a greater showing of application-level software that will end up as components of enterprise solutions.
Some Key Observations:
  • IP telephony vendors are emphasizing "application" benefits and ROI, in addition to cost savings. This may reflect the fact that ultimately it is the end user that needs to get direct benefits in order to get their buy-in to the changes that IP telephony will enable. Since all end users don't have identical job responsibilities and communication requirements, the challenge remains to provide flexible and personalized communications management facilities that satisfy individual enterprise user needs. The question now is who in the enterprise will be responsible for managing such needs and how will they get that kind of information in the first place?
Unfortunately, neither the technology vendors nor the IT audience at the show talked about this very much. However, as described below, the big technology providers are starting to offer enterprise organizations consultative services to support IP telephony implementations.
  • There was a notable emphasis on IP telephony implementation options being offered to all sizes of enterprise organizations. Because the technology is new and enterprise technology staff has no previous experience with it, and because "application" servers are all software based, providers are not only offering consultative assistance in implementation planning, but are also offering a flexible range of mix-and-match procurement options including:
-        Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) and "customer premise software" (CPS)
-        Managed services for maintaining and supporting the above
-        Hosted shared services
§         While vendors are all starting to offer flexible, multi-modal contact capabilities for both contact initiators and recipients (based upon SIP and presence technologies), they haven't yet addressed all the needs for enterprise management tools that such usage will require. In particular, management reporting for all forms of converged communications activity from a usage management perspective, as well as facilities for archiving multi-modal contacts to conform with new regulatory compliance requirements. 
§         Contact center "skills-based" call routing software is starting to be coupled with presence and availability management and applied to internal enterprise work groups, so that it is not a matter of "who you know," but "what they know" and their availability for work flow processing. With federated presence management across the "public" IP network, this capability will be also extendable between enterprises as well.
§         Most enterprise telecommunication providers have moved away from the traditional TDM proprietary hardware system business model and are switching to "open," software based applications. However, to satisfy customers wanting "one-stop shop," providers are offering "suites" of application software packages with the flexibility of "best of breed" choices through partnering arrangements with application developers. This was reflected at the Internet Telephony show by the many exhibitors and conference attendees looking for channels and partners, rather than enterprise customers.   
§         Although mentioned occasionally in some presentations, the role of carrier services in supporting "federated" presence management across the public IP network was not discussed very much.

How Do You Regulate "Virtual" Services?

Some of the more interesting keynotes were focused on the impact that IP telephony will have on traditional regulatory oversight at both Federal and State levels. Traditional regulatory oversight for telecommunications was designed around the PSTN and location-based monopolies for consumer services. With IP networking, application services can be anywhere, and, with wireless handheld devices, the users can be anywhere. So we have the "virtual" serving the "virtual."
Three excellent keynote presentations addressed the subject of regulatory control of IP telephony services, both wired and wireless. Because IP-based business telecommunications will be able to shift towards hosted services, they will be affected by regulatory considerations in the same manner as consumers. The keynoter concerns all stressed the need for rethinking traditional regulatory approaches to telecommunication services.
§         Susan Kennedy, California Public Utilities Commissioner, pointed out that IP telephony blurs the old distinction between person-to-person communications and information services and regulators are afraid of losing control. The big drivers for regulation in the past were to "protect the consumer" and to generate tax revenues and support for the Universal Service Fund (USF). Taxes are now up to 30% of a telephone bill. Kennedy suggests that Congress overhaul the 1996 Telecom Act and give consumers more control in their choice of service providers, rather than based upon their location, and no forced bundling of services.
§         Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, started out with the megatrend statement that "every physical process and analog content will become, digital, mobile, virtual, and personal," (Couldn't have said it better myself!) The second megatrend that she sees is the shift from vertical chains of communications to horizontal collaboration across organizational lines. Fiorina then echoed concerns that regulatory issues will slow technology and regulation should shift from consumer protection to "consumer enablement," and should provide a minimal, converged  "floor," rather than a limiting "ceiling" for telecommunications services.
§         Michael Powell, former Chairman of the FCC, speaking at his first telecommunication event since leaving office, gave his perspective of technology from a consumer's standpoint that is rapidly changing. He, too, advocated giving consumers more choice and more control. However, rather than going through the pain of rewriting the 1996 Telecom Act, he suggests writing a 12-page supplement to specifically separate the regulation of (converged) IP telecommunication application services.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the enterprise markets are really ready to buy new converged telecommunication applications, or are they simply replacing TDM technology where they have to? How will regulatory issues impact enterprise CPE and CSE markets? Do you think that converged telecommunications application products are ready to support all enterprise management needs?
Let us know your opinions by sending them to [email protected]

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