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January 2009 | Volume 12/ Number 1
The VoIP Authority

Enterprise 2.0 – A Lifeline for the IP Communications Market?

No one is immune from the effects of the macroeconomic conditions currently at play across the world. Every enterprise needs to carefully consider their situation, and take the appropriate steps to ensure continued operation, to avoid being swept up in this ill tide of bankruptcies and restructurings. Some businesses might even fare well in these trying times, but for most it’s an exercise in cautious optimism, seeking savings at every turn, carefully controlling spending and for some fortunate firms, taking the necessary steps that would position them ahead of the pack when this recession ends.

A recent news item quoted officials at Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert), at the time undergoing a strategy review under their new CEO, as saying that market conditions are forcing the firm to lower their 2008 sales expectations by 2–5 percent. Not much news there.

However, the article also reported that Alcatel-Lucent’s investor relations chief, Remi Thomas, said he believed “carriers would continue to invest in strategic areas designed to generate new business, in capital equipment that could reduce operating expenses, and to meet regulatory requirements.”

It is precisely this need for customers to generate new business that can help firms that develop communications solutions to weather the financial storms roiling the global markets.

A recent article by Xavier Martin, who handles Strategic Marketing for the Enterprise Solutions Division at Alcatel-Lucent speaks to the evolution currently underway at enterprises across the globe. In the article, The Dynamic Enterprise – Leveraging 2.0 Applications, the author states that:

Over the next few months and years, a growing number of mid-market, large and multinational companies will learn that significant gains can be made by integrating tangible and intangible organizational assets — network, people, processes and collective knowledge — to boost productivity and efficiency and achieve a competitive advantage.

Martin also writes of the need for CIOs to evolve in lockstep with the needs of their evolving enterprise to ensure that innovative new technology is implemented in a seamless way to achieve the goals of the organization:

Their new responsibilities make it necessary for them to look beyond technology toward enabling business objectives such as attracting customers and supporting key processes. Thus, in Dynamic Enterprises, CIOs must carefully tailor their portfolio of projects with an eye to realizing a comprehensive business transformation over a period of time.

Martin also discusses the marriage of consumer Web 2.0 applications with corporate usage, and the resulting outgrowth of a trend widely referred to as Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 solutions enable companies to gain better access to knowledge within their organizations. And, as Martin writes, “…if a company integrates this collective knowledge with real-time communications, it can have a significant business advantage by linking the right people at the right moment on the right device.”

Avaya (News - Alert)’s Lawrence Byrd touched on many of the same issues in his keynote speech at the Communications Developer conference, albeit from an angle that targeted the development community.

In his presentation, entitled Unified Communications (News - Alert) in a Web 2.0 World, Byrd spoke of the critical role developers must play in the future of communications.

One key to Byrd’s speech was this definition of Enterprise 2.0 from Harvard Business School’s Andrew McAfee (News - Alert):

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies and between companies and their partners and customers.

In the end, Byrd pushed the developer community to recognize the emerging development of Enterprise 2.0 as an opportunity; an expanded playground to create ways of connecting disparate elements to deliver added value for their end customers.

Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) too believes that creative, yet sensible use of Web 2.0 technologies can benefit enterprises looking for a leg up on the competition. The company recently announced the addition of SMS message handling to their core product CIC, or Customer Interaction Center. The company also believes that companies need to start leveraging these enterprise 2.0 tools to actually derive some business benefit, not simply use cool new tools for the sake of using cool new tools.

In a recent TMCnet podcast, Joe Staples, senior vice president of worldwide marketing for Interactive Intelligence, addressed a new approach to business process automation. The conversation was spurred in part by a white paper written by Interactive Intelligence CEO Dr. Don Brown entitled — you guessed it — A New Approach To Business Process Automation.

During the podcast, Staples gives several examples of business processes and how enterprises can really benefit by leveraging some sort of process automation strategy. In his opinion, the current trends of UC and CEBP (unified communications and communications enabled business processes, respectively) are fine as far as they go, but a new approach, one he dubs CBPA or communications- based process automation takes things to another level, offering enterprises a more efficient solution to their business needs.

I urge you to give the podcast a listen. It may change the way you view unified communications. If nothing else, it will prompt you to ask more questions of the vendors you plan to do business with. IT

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