Separation of Church and State: Fixed to Mobile Convergence (FMC) Services and Business/Personal Contact Modalities
Enterprise organizations really have to start looking at the new person-to-person contact alternatives that are coming down the pike, in order to intelligently plan their migration to multi-modal business communications.
By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View
It was always obvious to us that communication convergence was more than sharing wired and wireless network transport. After all, we were talking about the need for unified messaging and unified communications way before IP networking and VoIP came into the picture. It's just that without IP the challenge was too difficult and expensive.
Converged Mobile Communications -- What's In It for Enterprise Business Users?
Now that VoIP networking and infrastructure technologies have matured and becoming accepted for cost-efficient and flexible wired and wireless telephony, what operational benefits will enterprise users realize? Enterprise organizations really have to start looking at the new person-to-person contact alternatives that are coming down the pike, in order to intelligently plan their migration to multi-modal business communications. As Eric Krapf, Editor of Business Communications Review (BCR), wrote recently, after the enterprise gets IP cost reductions for telephony infrastructure, "Now what?"
Even though VoIP and IP telephony offer significant infrastructure cost savings over traditional TDM technologies, making the change must also include payoffs to enterprise business users too. Such payoffs will be found in conveniences and operational productivity benefits generated by the new functionality and flexibility of SIP-based "transmodal communications." This may be defined as the convergence, integration, and interoperability of real-time contacts (phone calls, conferencing, instant messaging, information delivery, etc.) and asynchronous messaging.
Sitting at the desktop (even wirelessly), such communications convergence may indeed be a useful, convenient, and "nice-to-have" capability for some people, but for key mobile personnel, it was always critical for timely and responsive contacts. That factor automatically makes emerging "Fixed to Mobile Convergence" (FMC) a prime candidate for transmodal communication flexibility. However, it also raises the issue of converging efficient business vs. personal modality management using a single, mobile communication device.
IP Centrex and "Seamless Mobility"
One of the obvious benefits of VoIP and IP telephony is that physical server location and distance become immaterial to telephony service costs. The legacy Centrex services of telcos are getting a new lease on life, because IP Centrex can offer the cost-effectiveness of shared application servers, while enabling enterprise organizations to retain the centralized control and administration of operational usage management as provided by premise-based application servers. In addition, because device independence is becoming the hallmark of IP telephony, end users will also have greater flexibility in the type of phone sets they can deploy.
With the migration of wireless telephony to IP, the convergence of wired and wireless enterprise service becomes a new opportunity for carriers. A recent announcement described just this kind of converged "seamless mobility" service offering from a partnership between BellSouth and Cingular that corresponds to the CPE version of what Avaya, Proxim, and Motorola demonstrated last year. Avaya's IP-PBX, coupled with Proxim Wi-Fi Access Points, enabled the seamless handover of wireless voice calls between Wi-Fi and cellular service connections, using a dual-mode Motorola mobile phone when entering or leaving the enterprise environment.
Communications Mobility and the Converged Role for Carrier Services
When this kind of "seamless mobility" was first announced, our immediate reaction was that it was a good cost-savings idea and a convenience to roaming enterprise users. Research had already confirmed that a significant percentage of business cell phone calls take place between devices within the office premises. If calls could be automatically switched to premise-based Wi-Fi connections (and vice versa), depending on the coverage available, cellular connections could be bypassed when not needed, but invoked for on-premise Wi-Fi "dead spots."
With IP Centrex as a service alternative to any enterprise CPE IP-PBX, the converging of VoIP, Wi-Fi, and cellular connectivity services will be a practical enterprise offering for the carriers. Throw in the traditional wireless carrier ability to provide and support a variety of mobile handsets to individual users as part of the package and the enterprise can also minimize that responsibility chore.
Enterprise usage management, administration, and security however, will still be a responsibility that can't be delegated to the communication service providers, but the power of IP-based services will facilitate that kind of control by the enterprise. However, such enterprise responsibilities should not include managing personal end user communications, the consequence of carrying a single, converged communications device for all mobile contacts.
"One-Device, Two-Number" Mobility -- Personal vs. Business Contacts
Avaya's recent announcement with Nokia for its "Extension to Cellular" application was a step in the right direction to facilitate the convergence of personal and business mobile contact needs using a common handheld device. By routing business calls from a user's office extension to a Symbian-based Nokia cell phone, while personal calls could be dialed directly to the subscriber number of the same Nokia phone, twin objectives can be realized. One is for the enterprise to maintain control of all business calls and messages to and from mobile users via the user's "one number" office extension. The second objective is to enable the same mobile device to be also used for personal contacts through the separate, subscriber-controlled, carrier service access number.
The highly-touted "one-number" services can really be a shared, "one-device," dual-access service that separates "church" from "state" in terms of business vs. personal usage for access priority controls (availability), billing purposes, and, last, but not least, enterprise management responsibilities. The last factor leads us into the domain of enterprise responsibilities for recording and archiving all forms of communication contacts because of regulatory requirements (Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA, etc.).
Much as we appreciate the new functional benefits of converging modalities of communications, i.e., phone calls, conferencing, instant messaging, and asynchronous messaging, we still have to draw a line between business usage and personal usage. This is not only for purposes of productivity and cost management, but also because of privacy issues vs. regulatory requirements. Converging personal and business communications accessibility on a common mobile device requires a suitable separation of "church and state" between personal management and enterprise management.
Business users will have to define their communication profiles and availability "priorities" at both personal and business levels, so that even if they are always accessible via wireless devices, their "business" and "personal" contacts can be selectively and dynamically managed at all times. Personal emergencies are just as important to the end user as a business deadline, and often more so. Interruptibility has long been recognized as a necessary evil of any time-critical contacts, but with wireless accessibility, it can easily get out of hand without a practical management mechanism that works for both the contact initiator and the recipient and in both business and personal modalities. The role of SIP and federated presence management between enterprise and carrier services is promising for that need.
Mobile accessibility is more of a personal choice than it is a business decision, and for this reason Avaya's Fixed to Mobile (FMC) voice solution enables end users to initiate business calls from software provisioned mobile phones through the enterprise call server (IP-PBX) to protect the origination identity of the mobile device. For example, doctors may want to return a call to a patient or a business user may want to respond to a co-worker, customer or business partner, using the business "one number" office extension, rather than divulge the personal contact number of the wireless service. In addition, initiating an outbound business call from the service provider's wireless device through the enterprise call server provides cost-saving toll bypass, especially for international calls.
"Un-unified Messaging" for Business and Personal Contacts
Asynchronous messaging is joined at the hip with real-time call activities, both for traditional call answering applications, important message notification and delivery, as well as for real-time responsiveness to email or voice mail through IM or callbacks. Sharing a common mailbox for both business and personal contacts just doesn't make sense from an operational perspective as well from a privacy and regulatory point of view. Just as we need to have a different telephone contact for business and personal mobile accessibility, as mentioned earlier, we need to have the same for messaging mailboxes.
We can have a separate "unified messaging" mailbox for all forms of business messaging, including email, voice mail, fax, IM messages, etc., while having a similar capability for all personal contacts, each integrated with their respective contact phone numbers. The former can be supported with enterprise servers or through a service provider, while the latter will likely be a consumer-oriented wireless carrier service. With federated networking interoperability through new IMS standards, when a user is in "messaging" mode, message notification and easy access to either the business or personal mailbox could be supported by the converged mobile device. Once in either mailbox, the user can utilize any appropriate modality for retrieval or response.
With new regulatory requirements for capturing and archiving all forms of business contacts, no one will want to mix personal contact activities into the same pot from a privacy perspective.
Enterprise organizations that are planning their migrations to IP telephony must rethink their approach to mobile communications from an end-user and converged device perspective. Wide-area mobile accessibility, by definition, will still mean the use of carrier services, but may also bundle in premise-based telephony services as well, particularly for the smaller enterprise.
Clearly, communication security needs for certain market segments, e.g., financial services, health care, government, will require enterprise governance and control of network and server technologies, rather than outsourcing to service providers. For the enterprise market in general, IP telephony and VoIP is enabling new approaches to both multi-modal communications and wireless mobility.
What Do You Think?
Do you think direct enterprise management of service-based mobile communications is both feasible and acceptable? Will mobile operators merge with fixed line operators to become "FMC" service providers? Will such service providers be able to support enterprise business user and security needs for handheld devices? Will handheld devices be an end user choice coupled with appropriate client software provided by and controlled directly by enterprise technology management?
Let us know your opinions by sending them to [email protected]
Art Rosenberg is a veteran of the computer and communications industry and formed The Unified-View to provide strategic consulting to technology and service providers, as well as to enterprise organizations, in migrating towards converged wired and wireless unified communications. He focuses on practical user requirements, implementation issues, and new benefits of multi-modal communication technologies for individual end users, both as a consumer and as a member of enterprise working groups. The latter includes identifying new responsibilities for enterprise communications management to support changing operational usage needs most cost-effectively.
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