Mix and Match CPE and Hosted Services for Migrating to Business UC
As highlighted in my last column, the enterprise telephony world is integrating with the “intelligence” of business process applications because standards-based VoIP and IP telephony software applications are becoming the reality of future voice (and video) telecommunications and a critical part of unified, multi-modal communications. This convergence with business applications is also helping to separate personal contact activities from enterprise-supported business contacts, even though both forms of communication may share a common end-point device, customer premise-based server platforms, or hosted communications services.
Today’s big announcement by Avaya (News - Alert) of its entry into managed/hosted business communications services was therefore not a big surprise. Although Avaya is still primarily focused on enterprise communication applications, consumer/residence IP networking services may open another avenue for new enterprise customer contact activities while watching TV entertainment commercials.
Expanding Business UC to Business Process Applications
Because people’s time and means of contact are always more limited than access to online applications, we have to expand our notions of UC to include telephony interactions between people and business process applications in two ways. One is where the business application facilitates contact between people. The other way is where a business process application itself needs to make direct contact with an individual user or group of users, typically to deliver important, time-perishable information.
Online business process applications that help initiate convenient, on-demand, communication contacts between an application user with a live person who is related to the information content delivered by the application. This is similar to traditional customer call center or internal enterprise “help desk” self-service applications that selectively route calls to specific agents for live assistance. Now any interactive business process application can help an end user initiate a real-time contact (voice call/conference, IM exchange) with a specific individual or anyone available within a group of people who are associated with the information provided by the application, and are qualified and responsible to support such content-related contact needs.
Business process applications that need to directly contact specific people, which, in the past, we have called “application messaging” because applications don’t usually want to have a voice conversation with people, but do want to deliver important information quickly via traditional messaging forms. This is where text messaging can exploit wireless mobility, real-time notifications, and delivery of text messages through unified-messaging and speech interface features.
Because such UC capabilities open the door for business process applications of all kinds to initiate contacts with people, application software will be integrating with IP telephony and messaging functions for both desktop PCs and mobile devices. The market is now being barraged by daily new products and service announcements from the developers of technology piece-parts, ranging from IP network infrastructures, SIP communication protocols, QoS and security to client-server communication applications vs. P2P (Skype), to multi-modal devices that can exploit converged UC user interfaces.
“Open” Enterprise Telephony is Moving to Applications Software
To complicate IP telephony for the enterprise, UC standards-based capabilities for mobile, centralized, and software-based IP communications will enable both the big providers of enterprise text messaging (e.g., Microsoft (News - Alert), IBM (News - Alert)) and new, hosted IP telephony service providers to challenge the traditional telephony providers in the legacy world of enterprise CPE (customer premise equipment).
This marketplace challenge was most recently highlighted by Microsoft’s Exchange 12 (now in beta), which is exploiting the benefits of open SIP integrations with IP-PBXs to initiate phone calls for direct Exchange email delivery by phone using text-to-speech. Exchange 12 will also be able to exploit the benefits of speech recognition interfaces provided by its embedded Microsoft Speech Server technology to provide other traditional voice applications, e.g., auto-attendants, using Active Directory for caller self-service to transfer to business extensions.
Coupled with the fact that telephony-oriented voice mail implementations of unified messaging have already delegated responsibilities for directories, message storage, and desktop client interfaces to email systems, direct SIP integration of Exchange 12 with IP-PBXs will make Microsoft a big competitor in the enterprise telephony space that is committed to Exchange email. This kind of communications convergence will also help merge IT administration and end user support of enterprise “unified” messaging mailboxes and telephone extensions, just as voicemail and PBX administration was consolidated by the big PBX providers years ago. This issue was addressed in an article I wrote in the October, 2005 issue of BCR magazine (“Do You Need To Replace Enterprise Voice Mail?”).
These developments reflect the disruptive changes facing enterprise IT organizations, which used to be in total control of communications technologies, including hardware platforms, proprietary application software, wired endpoint devices, and limited usage reporting tools. Now, those responsibilities are changing dramatically in ways that are still evolving and expanding in terms of new productivity management metrics needed for converged communication usage management. What’s an IT/telecom manager to do? (Read my forthcoming article in BCR magazine!)
Avaya Converging CPE and Hosted and Managed Services
One of the answers to the question above was answered just this morning when Avaya declared itself “in” for the next generation of flexible “on demand” converged communications services. It announced its MultiVantage Express consolidated IP telephony application software as a CPE IP telephony migration product for its S8400 servers, as a direct service offering or through major service providers, or as a practical, interoperable combination of both approaches. Targeted to provide maximum flexibility particularly for the dynamically fluctuating needs of the enterprise mid-market, Avaya can now offer enterprises the interoperable, mix-and-match options of hosted telephony services, where application and/or traffic change is constant (customer contacts), to those applications that are relatively static and where CPE may be more justified (desktop IP telephony).
From our perspective, the hosted services fit best for customer contact activities, but especially for self-service applications. This is an application area that will be changing even more dramatically as the consumer market moves to converged IP communications (including IPTV (News - Alert)) and personalized mobility. Not only are these applications where traffic demands change periodically, but also where the application interfaces will change based upon device independence and application evolution. However, as noted in my forthcoming article, the lack of existing internal expertise with new converged IP technologies, coupled with the ease of remote usage management over an IP network, will offer enterprise organizations an opportunity to both migrate gracefully to premise-based applications, as well as the option to let go of those software technology management responsibilities that can be more cost effectively managed through services than through hard-to-find IT resources.
The question then becomes, “Who will you trust as your service provider for all the hosted application software that business UC will need?”
Will 2-Way IP Communications Bring Innovation to TV Commercials?
While enterprise business communications are changing so dramatically from an internal infrastructure and modality perspective, so too are consumer communication services and devices, e.g., “VoIP” telephony services, mobile services, etc. The latter will impact how consumers can communicate with a business enterprise and, vice versa, how enterprises will market to current or future IP customers. So, let’s look ahead at the latter and explore the direction of new possibilities that IP communications can bring to traditional advertising that sponsors TV broadcast entertainment.
If you had to highlight what will drive value differently for the consumer vs. the business user of converged communications, it will have to be entertainment! Entertainment includes gaming, socializing, sports events, and theatrical presentations like shows and movies. While costs are more important to consumers who pay their own bills, content-wise, enterprises will usually not pay for entertainment for their staff.
Of course, with device-independent UC, convergence between both business and consumer needs will show up in “multi-access” addressing that will enable business users to use a single device for to support their converged, but separated, personal and business identities and usage. This will apply to voice calls, all forms of messaging, and web information access. So, the business users who want to use entertainment services on their dual-identity handheld devices (e.g., Nokia and Avaya’s “Extension to Cellular” service), portable laptops, or home office desktop PCs, should be able to so on their own nickel.
European industry analyst and author, Bob Emmerson, just penned an interesting article on how convergence could play out in the competitive but converging services of telco, cable, ISP, and satellite providers for “triple” and “quad” play offerings for the consumer/residence market. These services includes traditional advertising-based, entertainment/shopping one-way TV broadcast content over cable and satellite that are expanding to IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) in addition to PC-oriented internet access for subscribers, and hosted, IP-based customer contact application services for businesses. The “quad” play for the residence market will attempt to converge all these services to fixed-wireless mobility (FMC), to complete the shift from the location-based “residence” to the personalized, “virtual” consumer market (anything, anywhere, anytime, anyhow).
Emmerson’s article on video entertainment delivery through webcasting triggers thoughts for new opportunities for enterprise organizations to sponsor IPTV-based entertainment delivery to consumers, which can exploit “two-way” IP connections for immediate responses from prospects to traditional broadcast TV entertainment “commercials.” The discontinuity of current broadcast TV commercials, of course, is two-fold. One is that watching a “real-time” one-way, TV broadcast event doesn’t give an interested viewer the time to respond immediately and completely to something of interest (unless the broadcast is recorded). Two, there is no simple, non-interruptive interaction to defer such a detailed response until a later, more convenient time. The traditional strategy for a TV commercial is display an easy-to- remember phone number (like for a radio ad) and web URL, requiring the viewer to write it down quickly for later follow up.
Is the Consumer TV Remote Controller going to be Another UC Interface Device?
The traditional broadcast TV set connection is not “two-way,” like an Internet connection or a phone connection, and the common TV set is not a PC (yet). However, PCs are already being used for viewing Internet TV and, since phone lines and cable connections are carrying multimedia IP content, it will only be a matter of time before all devices capable of broadband connections will also have multimedia interfaces.
IP TV sets and their wireless “remotes” may be the next consumer device getting ready to join multi-modal devices for converged communications in the home. With a wireless “smart phone” that could include TV remote controls, or a “smart remote” that could include IP communication application controls, we could expect some potential new benefits for consumers and advertisers to connect:
The viewer that is interested in what an advertising commercial has to offer could signal, with single button click, the depth of that interest and the type of follow up desired, without interrupting the content being watched.
The sponsor’s commercials could be dynamically changed based upon the viewer’s level of interest.
The follow up from the sponsor could utilize CRM information for further customizing the response.
Enabling immediate but simple responses to TV commercials should result in greater responses to the advertiser and more personalized treatment of the prospective customer.
For businesses that proactively solicit new customer activity via TV advertising, this is another area that can be covered differently under IP telephony customer contact applications. Just a thought!
The migration of enterprise organizations to unified communications will not only include interoperability with legacy TDM telephony, but also shifting IT responsibilities for location-independent, “virtual” communication activities. Enterprise IP telephony applications, in particular, will be changing drastically from the past, not only in terms of costs and functional capabilities, but also in terms of new provisioning options and supporting requirements. It is our view that all enterprises and their business applications are not created equal and therefore the implementation decisions will vary accordingly between traditional CPE management, hosted services, or combinations of both. The IP communication industry (technology and services) is now just starting to offer such flexible options and it will behoove both enterprise IT and business management to carefully think about changes for their future operational needs accordingly.
What Do You Think?
Will security, reliability, and customized application needs prevent enterprise organizations from exploiting the benefits of hosted communication applications within the enterprise? Should hosted application service providers offer a variety of competing software solutions? Will application software developers provide customer support for hosted services? What role will enterprise IT have in supporting hosted IP telephony application services? How will device independence be supported hosted IP communication applications? What IP communication applications need to be owned by the enterprise and why?
Stop Guessing! The Five Real Reasons For Migrating Your Call Center to IP
I recently wrote an exclusive article that “takes it from the top” and identifies the five main management reasons for an enterprise to move their call center operations to a multi-channel IP telecommunications infrastructure. Once you have aligned such business priorities properly, you can move on to the new implementation choices you now have in the “how to” phase for moving forward intelligently and cost efficiently. As IP technology opens new flexibility in implementation options, as discussed in this article.
(Note: There is now a second article on the AT&T (News - Alert) web site that discusses the role of IVR self services for IP network routing, so look for it!)
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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Connecting Systems Together - Part 2