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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

2006 – The Year of the “IP Elephant”

Copyright (c) 2006, Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Two major announcements last week herald 2006 as the year in which multi-modal telecommunications will really move forward in becoming “converged.” I call converged IP telecommunications an “elephant” because it reminds me of the old story of a group of blind people who surround an elephant and try to describe it by touching only one part of its body (trunk, tusks, tail, feet, etc.)

Up till now, though, we didn’t really have an “elephant” to touch; telecommunications technologies were “silos,” separated at every level from network wired and wireless transport and switching, to application server platforms, to end user desktop and mobile devices, software clients, and interfaces. With IP interoperability and convergence taking place at all these levels and now the addition of a new, real-time “brain” (presence/availability/modality management for individual users) at the top, business communications will start becoming a single, complete “elephant” that can function much more flexibly, intelligently, and efficiently for communicating with people. However, both the technology industry and the enterprise markets will have to stop being blinded by the past in order to understand and exploit the future.

The Need For a Converged Communications Presence “Brain”

The Unified-View has been preaching the gospel of unified messaging and unified communications from the user’s perspective for many years now. In an article I wrote for Business Communications Review in 2004, I called attention to the obvious need for accommodating such end user needs to gain useful enterprise productivity, which is a combination of individual time-savings (micro-productivity) and group task time-savings (macro-productivity) through more efficient communications between people. But until the multi-modal communications infrastructures converge, it is difficult, if not impossible, to take care of different end user needs cost efficiently and effectively.

Instant messaging and presence management services for text messaging have been around for several years, but locked up by the public service providers, most notably AOL, which did it’s best to kill any interoperability with competing services. Microsoft announced secure IM and presence for internal enterprise usage with their Live Communications Server and was able to get agreement from service providers AOL and Yahoo to interoperate with their enterprise product. Enterprise telephony providers, most notably Siemens with its OpenScape product, and Nortel with its Multimedia Communication Servers (MCS), focused their use of presence primarily on the telephone and Instant text messaging. Clearly, all forms of communication, including “urgent” message notification and delivery, have to be part of the service to business users wherever they may be and for any communication device they may have.

The two new industry announcements show that the key telecommunication infrastructures for business users, conversational voice telephony and messaging, are ready to converge with the “brain” of IP-based presence management technology to enable users to ride the “IP elephant” into the next generation of personalized business telecommunications. The announcements that appeared within the last two weeks came from the big gorilla in the enterprise software industry, Microsoft, and a new startup company, Tello, founded by a quartet of experienced, well-funded, veterans of computer and communications technology.

Microsoft Reorganizes Email and Instant Messaging Into “Unified Communications”


As part of a major organizational restructuring, Microsoft announced a key change that merges their market-leading enterprise email server products for Exchange, with their newer enterprise Real-Time Collaboration (RTC) products based on presence management technology that includes Live Communications Server to support instant messaging and integration with enterprise IP telephony. This move will facilitate enterprise customer migrations to converged communication technology, not only functionally for internal business users, but will also facilitate the necessary organizational convergence of enterprise IT administration and support for multi-modal person-to-person communications.

The new Microsoft group that will have responsibility for converging these technologies will be called the “Unified Communications Group,” and will be led by Anoop Gupta, former head of the RTC unit. Although Microsoft is not ready to converge their product their server product lines at this point in time, the potential for practical infrastructure consolidations will become more feasible.

As we pointed out in our October 2005 BCR article on enterprise voice mail, unified messaging will shift the role of traditional voice mail systems to an emphasis on enterprise call management (auto attendant, telephone answering, call screening, call routing, etc.), rather than primarily message management. With this Microsoft announcement, that direction will be reinforced, as presence management becomes the glue that binds multi-modal and transmodal business communications, both within the enterprise and outside the enterprise.

The “New Kid” on the Block – Tello for Federated Presence Management Services

We have always seen the “virtual” future of converged business communications as being dependent upon public services that will support inter-enterprise contacts as well as business contacts between consumers and enterprise personnel. At a converged communications conference I organized a year ago, a Microsoft participant described their presence product strategy as relying upon “federation” with public service providers, e.g., wireless and VoIP network carriers, but there were no such providers yet in existence. Now there is!

A group of well-known, experienced telecommunication and computer industry leaders, including VoIP driver, Jeff Pulver, cellular services veteran, Craig McCaw, ex-Apple CEO, John Sculley, started a covert new company in 2004 to provide federated presence management services for person-to-person contacts both within enterprises and across enterprises. They are targeting the need for multi-modal communications services to reach beyond the medium to large enterprises that will be serviced by Microsoft and IBM on the text messaging side, and a host of enterprise PBX CPE providers like Avaya, Nortel, Siemens, Cisco, Alcatel, NEC, Shoretel, 3Com, Ericsson, Inter-Tel, etc. on the IP telephony side.

The initial Tello service offerings are of two types, a basic service for individuals, and an Enterprise version that will cost $30 per subscriber per year.

Their January 23rd launch announcement identified federation partnerships with enterprise CPE providers like Avaya, Nortel, Cisco, and Digium, according to Tello President and CEO, Doug Renert. They have also started integrating with multi-modal device-based services, initially with RIM’s Blackberry. According to Renert, Tello will not try to be all things to all people, but will actively partner with other business application developers and service providers to provide a centralized presence management service on a federated basis.

I will be commenting further on Tello in future columns, particularly as their approach will facilitate other “federated” presence-based service offerings to end users.

What Do You Think?

Will presence services become the heart of all person-to-person communications once everything is federated? What impact will Microsoft’s product line convergence and Tello services have upon enterprise users and telecom staff? Will services such as Tello become the bridge for converging personal and business contacts, especially for sharing a single, handheld mobile device? Will federation services become competitive and interoperable, i.e., a federation of federated services?

Let us know your opinions by sending an email to

Copyright (c) 2006, Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The IP Convergence Spotlight Is Shifting From Infrastructure to People: It’s Time for Communications Productivity Management!

Copyright (c) 2006, Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Last week, Time magazine published a provocative article, Help! I’ve Lost My Focus,” on how business users were losing time efficiency because they were trying to do many things at one time, in particular, communicating by email and cell phones in interruptive ways. Except for scheduled business telephone or web conferencing and traditional enterprise call center agents who are dedicated to doing nothing but handling real-time phone calls and, lately, instant text messaging (chat), all person-to-person business communications have to be considered as multitasking activities that must be accommodated with other job activities.

Sometimes, such communications are easy to keep up with, especially when the user has nothing else they can do, better known as “dead time.” Commuters and travelers away from their desktop computers and telephones know this well, because it gives them a chance to catch up with the backlog of emails and voice mails using mobile devices. This kind of individual productivity is fine for business situations that are not critical, and enables individual users to make good use of their “dead time” by multitasking business communications with personal activities like travel, waiting, eating, etc.

The Cost of Real-time Communication Interruptions

In the early days of voice mail, I used to quote some early research in the productivity of business managers and professionals published in Business Communications Review in 1979 by Jim Bair at SRI International. Bair reported that managerial staff (in those days of office-based work) spent up to 95 percent of their time communicating with people. Non-manager professionals spent only 63 percent of their time in communicating with others. With labor costs so dependent on person-to-person communications, Bair was looking at the inefficiencies of such communications that could be reduced by technology for greater productivity.

Telephone communications were identified as having the greatest amount of “shadow functions” that are defined as time-consuming activity associated with communicating with people but waste productivity time. This lost time includes “telephone tag” and lost “wait and recycle time” from incoming calls interrupting ongoing activities. Media transformation for messaging communications was another major source of productivity loss, but at that time was associated mainly with clerical personnel rather than the managerial or professional staff. (That has changed, since we have long minimized clerical assistance for most informal person-to-person contacts.)

The Time magazine article also quoted a recent study of 1,000 office workers by research firm Basex that claims interruptions consume an average of 2.1 hours a day of a workers time, in addition to the “wait and recycle” shadow time to resume a task. However, all “interruptions” are not a complete waste of time and it is a matter of managing relative task priorities at the individual user level to decide how to multitask their time most effectively.

With increasing business communication mobility that doesn’t involve “dead time,” however, the traffic from wireless messaging and phone calls can start to cause recipient overload and personal task management inefficiencies. The Time article describes different approaches to multitasking overload, ranging from users turning off all incoming interruptive contacts to Microsoft’s plans for “intelligently” screening and using minimally disruptive desktop notifications.

Individual time productivity (“micro-productivity”) considerations should not be confused with how efficiently a group functions in completing a task or resolves communication contact problems that benefit the organization as a whole (“macro-productivity”). However, micro-productivity time delays in making contact with an individual and for the contact recipient to respond promptly to others can also degrade macro-productivity for the group, but those values are not identical to the organization. Micro-productivity gains that enable an individual to do things a bit faster won’t necessarily produce any direct benefits to the organization. One estimate is that perhaps only 60 percent of such individual time-savings may somehow revert back to the organization in increased macro-productivity.

Remote Enterprise Staff Drives Convergence for AT&T

AT&T has long been a provider of voice network services, but its acquisition by SBC and its new focus on IP telecommunications, is positioning it to become a major provider of converged application services for both business and consumer applications. “Practicing what it preaches,” AT&T has been researching the needs of its own organization in terms of virtual and flexible business telecommunications.

An AT&T report, “Making the Case for Enterprise Mobility: Remote Access Solutions,” surveying their own employees, particularly their management personnel, provided useful migration insight to changing operational communication needs within their organization. The 2004 survey showed 30 percent of the managers surveyed worked full-time remotely (“virtually”) away from a company office, almost double the number reported from 2002-03, and more than tripled from 2001. In addition, an additional 41 percent of managers worked from home an average of 1-2 days a week, and another 19 percent worked remotely when weather or other circumstances prevented travel to the office. That adds up to a part-time and full-time managerial population of “virtual” usage of 90 percent!

This makes a good case for an enterprise migrating to an IP telephony environment and sets the stage for handheld wireless mobility to further increase availability and responsiveness when key personnel are “on the go,” away from any desktop. In addition, the survey provided practical information to AT&T in helping to selectively migrate end users to different new capabilities of the IP telephony environment.

Redefining and Managing Multi-modal Communications Productivity in the Enterprise

Aside from the traditional call center environment, business communications management (telecom) never paid much attention to how end users used their telephones except, perhaps, where outbound long distance charges were incurred. Effective and efficient voice communications for business users couldn’t be easily tracked in terms of purpose, content, and results, so productivity metrics couldn’t be quantified and were considered “soft.” Privacy issues have also been an obstacle for even attempting to monitor telephone activities of enterprise employees, especially since business phones have always been used for personal contacts.

With IP telephony, wireless mobility, and converged communications (telephony, multi-modal messaging), that game is changing.

  1. First of all, voice communication is transitioning to becoming an “open” data network activity that can be more easily and “intelligently” controlled by communication application servers, just as text messaging and business process applications have been.
  2. Secondly, wireless mobility and handheld communication devices are making people more accessible and available for both real-time contacts and business application information delivery. The user desire for multi-modal convergence of both business and personal contacts at the single device level will be even greater for handheld mobile devices.
  3. Thirdly, contacts with individuals are converging across modalities at the desktop and handheld endpoint device level, enabling people to dynamically communicate in any modality of choice appropriate at the moment. This means that operational tasks can involve multiple forms of communication, including dynamically switching between modalities in real time (“transmodal communication”). Communication activities associated with business process transactions, therefore, now have to be viewed on a converged basis across all modalities actually used, in order to quantify and evaluate time utilization for both the individual and group productivity in the enterprise.
  4. Finally, converged business communication requirements and benefits will not only vary between different vertical market applications and individual organizations, but also between individual users within an enterprise. The latter will depend upon specific job responsibilities and the need to be accessible and responsive to others (internal users, customers), as well as to have immediate access to business information. This will impact both the types of communication devices that these end users require, as well as the network services they will use. Commercially available mobile devices for business users will now have to include software clients that are customized and controlled by enterprise organizations to interoperate securely with business process applications, in addition to general person-to-person contacts.

The operational objective of converged business telecommunications is to enable end users to perform their jobs more easily and responsively, regardless of where they are physically located (‘virtually”), both as individuals (micro-productivity) as well as with others in a collaborative group (macro-productivity). The need for timely contacts with business people will vary with job responsibilities and the particular operational circumstances.

Enterprise management has to rethink its responsibilities to both its internal users, as well as its customers, in order to learn and plan for how to implement the benefits of multi-modal, mobile, telecommunications convergence. A practical consideration for gracefully transitioning to the next generation of IP-based “virtual” telecommunications is using hosted and managed services as a practical starting point to learn, rather than replacing all traditional premise-based technology infrastructures without pertinent experience.

Migrating to the “Virtual” Enterprise - Converged Telecommunications

The “virtual enterprise” describes the ability for both people and business information to be located anywhere. The Internet has already paved the way for information access and business processes to be “virtual,” and now it is time for people too to become more easily contact accessible and responsive. Such contact efficiency emphasizes flexibility of access from a variety of remote and mobile (“on the go”), wired and wireless, desktop and handheld devices. Both network infrastructures and application servers have to be interoperable, and they, in turn, have to become end-user device-independent and multi-modal. Evolving open standards based upon Internet Protocols (SIP) are helping to make this possible for both enterprise and service provider telecommunication technologies.

What Do You Think?

Should individual end users have complete control of their availability for business contacts or should enterprise business process applications be able to monitor and control such accessibility? How useful will IP-based presence management technology be for dealing with multitasking overload? Should desktop telecommunications and mobile handheld devices have identical and interoperable contact rules?

How should group communications productivity be managed and controlled by the enterprise? Given that convergence and wireless mobility is creating demand for a single handheld device, how can the enterprise effectively support and control business usage vs. personal usage (consumer) services? Finally, how should the enterprise go about getting the answers to these questions?

Let us know your opinions by sending an email to

Copyright (c) 2006, Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide