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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Where Is Intervoice Going With It's New Multimodal Self-service Interface Technology?

Copyright Ó 2007 The Unified-View. All Rights Reserved Worldwide

May 21, 2007

Executive Interview:

Intervoice’s UC Breakthrough For Multimodal Self-service Applications

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Intervoice is an experienced name in the IVR and contact center industries, not only as a provider of traditional voice response technologies, but also as a full-service designer and developer of customized voice and speech self-service applications for over five-thousand satisfied customers. So, when they suddenly announced their new, “multimodal” approach to self-service applications for mobile “smartphones,” I applauded the first industry move towards supporting the interface needs of unified communications where the need was greatest, the mobile consumer.

Of course, I had a lot of questions about exactly where Intervoice was going with their technology and welcomed the opportunity to sit down with Ken Goldberg, Intervoice’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Development & Strategy, to discuss them at length. I consider the information important for anyone interested in where telephone-based voice applications will be going in the coming world of UC and mobile devices.

To put things into a technology and application perspective, Intervoice claims to be first to market with a software applications platform, a Multimodal Portal, that exploits a new W3C language standard, State Chart XML (SCXML). This enables voice interfaces to easily integrate concurrently with existing IP-based visual application interfaces to provide the user with a flexible choice of voice, visual, or combined “multimodal” interfaces to self-service applications through any user communication device.

Such flexibility will be particularly useful for mobile users who have screen-enabled smartphones, but who may be dynamically constrained by their environment as to what medium to use for input and/or output (voice or text). Whether in a noisy or “silence required” environment, or where an “eyes-free, hands-free” interface is needed (driving), dynamic application interface flexibility will help consumers give or get information whenever they need to. Multimodal interface technology can also be used for any business process applications used internally by enterprise personnel or by external business partners.

1. AR: What major business problems is Intervoice addressing with its multimodal
interface technology?

KG: Our customers are still interested in the same major issues – how to lower the cost of servicing customers yet increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. For more than 20 years, Intervoice has been developing voice self-service applications for telephone callers wanting information. We saw dramatic cost reductions as companies introduced touch-tone self-service. But it was speech that started to increase caller satisfaction. The use of speech interfaces in telephone self-service transactions was a big improvement in expanding the use of such applications.

However, there are limitations in the use of a speech interface to exchange information. Noisy environments or where language translation is not highly effective, all negatively impact the customer experience for self-service telephone applications. These inherent limitations on voice create a need for adding the efficiencies of a visual user interface and for giving the user greater flexibility and choice of how they want to interact with a business process application.

There are also inefficiencies in using voice alone for informational output, especially for mobile users. With consumers becoming more mobile and multi-channel, we can now add the optional power of screen outputs from any information source to a mobile device. This significantly enhances the customer experience through increased flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness of any self-service business application.

2. AR: What have been the greatest barriers and issues for implementing multimodal application user interfaces and why are they now becoming practical?

KG: There have been three significant barriers: the interface technology of the mobile devices themselves, the bandwidth of the available wireless networks, and the availability of software for voice/data information access and delivery.

· At a minimum, multimodal mobile devices must allow application output to be received via SMS text messaging, so the caller can act on that information and make choices during a self-service phone call. A significant majority of today’s phones have this capability.

However, with the proliferation of new, screen and text entry ”smartphones” like RIM, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, etc., users have the device technology for “real-time” multimodal applications in their hands right now. A real-time multimodal interface enables simultaneous voice and data for users to visually interact with information on a mobile device while they’re also interacting via speech and audio. According to Forrester’s 2006 research, more than 10% of U.S. mobile phone users aged 18 and 50 are already carrying smartphones, and for users aged 18-26, the penetration is 14%.

· Wireless broadband is becoming more available to handle simultaneous voice and data – with 3G networks expanding around the world and Wi-Fi and WiMax technology filling in local coverage, many more customers will soon have access to high-speed simultaneous voice and data service.

· On the software side, simultaneous voice and data transactions require the ability to run two interface versions of an application process simultaneously – one over the voice channel and one over the data (text) channel. Thanks to a new standard that’s now emerging – State Chart XML or SCXML – we have the framework needed to make simultaneous voice and visual interfaces a reality.

With the progress being made in bringing down all three barriers, we moved aggressively to adapt our technology and offer our enterprise customers new ways to differentiate their self-service applications. Not only can they further reduce costs, but they can also improve their consumer interactions, satisfaction, and brand loyalty. Enterprises can now extend their branding strategies to personal mobile devices with new services and visual advertising campaigns for brand promotion.

3. AR: Where does Intervoice see its role for supporting multimodal business applications?

KG: Intervoice has long been very successful in providing a software applications platform for designing, developing and managing voice self-service applications, as well as the expertise to help customers across all industries to implement and maintain these solutions. We are now expanding the scope of our platform to include the new multimodal capabilities and we are expanding our design and development capabilities to add the efficiencies of a visual interface. The latter includes both screen outputs as well as data (text) input to more efficiently deal with information entry and output needs of a mobile multimodal user.

· We’ve introduced and demonstrated real products for multimodal devices and services that can help our enterprise customers create and launch these new multimodal self-service applications.

· We’ve leveraged three of our recent multimodal technology patents, as well as the new SCXML standard for managing state, to deliver a next-generation Voice Portal platform that has the capability to handle rich multimodal application development. Industry analysts have acknowledged our product development as the first-to-market for voice in a multimodal application environment.

· In addition to software, Intervoice also has the in-depth implementation expertise within our 175+ person Global Consulting Services organization to do application “discovery” within our customer’s business process, identify the areas that will produce the highest ROI, and assist our customers in designing, developing and delivering new multimodal applications. Just as IVR applications required our interface design and implementation expertise, we are now training our services staff on multimodal interfaces to be ready when our enterprise customers are.

4. AR: What feedback have you gotten from enterprise customers so far?

KG: Very positive – customers are very excited and recognize the value right away. At our user conference and in individual meetings, when we show the technology in a real live demo, with a real multimodal application, customers really get it.

They immediately understand how our multimodal solution solves the age-old experiential problems of voice-only IVR applications. As an IVR application provider in many vertical segments, we have the applications knowledge base to easily move the enterprise market from traditional voice self-services to the coming world of mobile devices and multimodal interfaces.

Enterprise organizations also see our multimodal self-service approach minimizing one of the big issues that you have written about in the past. That is, reducing the need for mobile users, who are often in a noisy environment, to talk to a live agent, where there is no recognition that the caller is mobile and shouldn’t be treated like a landline caller. The last thing a busy mobile user needs is to be put into an on-hold queue that will cost them talk-time on their mobile service.

Although the technology is very new, enterprise customers are already engaging us to help them create some truly innovative multimodal applications.

5. AR: Who or what will Intervoice be competing against and what uniquely positions Intervoice to be a leader in this new market?

KG: There have been a couple of announcements by other vendors that are mobile offerings, but they are still single-streamed. Either they focus on using speech input to just add information to a form on the device or they show how an IVR voice output can also be displayed visually on the device using flash or video. No one else has launched and demonstrated a capability to develop true multimodal applications. Applications developed using the Intervoice Voice Portal uniquely allow consumers to use a combination of speech and visual interfaces simultaneously.

With our implementation of SCXML, Intervoice is the first company to have a comprehensive development environment that can manage “state,” so that within a single call, users can selectively interact in real-time with an application using a combination of speech and visual interfaces. Our approach also preserves traditional voice interactions, enabling a graceful transition from legacy voice response applications to added multimodal capabilities.

6. AR: How will your technology work in a hosted service environment?

KG: Our multimodal voice portal and the applications that run on it will work very well as hosted solutions, given that these are really just extensions of the types of voice portal applications that we host today for our customers. With server-side IP communications infrastructure, our multimodal software applications platform and customer applications can be located anywhere and managed by either the customer or our hosted solutions organization.

We believe an increasing percentage of customers will opt for a hosted solution rather than CPE-based. Due to our expertise in voice application hosting, customers already turn to Intervoice to outsource their self-service solutions because it is typically not a core competency and requires continual application changes. They also turn to Intervoice to ensure they always have the latest software technology updates and to leverage our state-of-the-art Network Operating Center (NOC) with regular 24X7 monitoring of their applications and systems. Customers tell us that we usually manage both speech or multimodal applications and the voice application platforms better and more cost efficiently than they could do themselves.

7. AR: How will the use of multimodal technology transform business and consumer-facing applications over the next five years?

KG: Multimodal applications will do to mobile devices what the Internet has done for the consumer PC. With multimodal interface capabilities, we are on the cusp of something that big for mobile devices. Multimodal interface flexibility enables mobile devices to become a personalized, “virtual” kiosk for end users to take care of a wide array of business transactions, quickly and easily, using a combination of speech and visual interfaces to meet varying day-to-day situations.

Already, Internet automation has become a way of life -- paying bills, shopping on-line; getting a boarding pass from a kiosk at the airport; making a doctor’s appointment, etc. Over the next five years, multimodal mobile interfaces will also become ubiquitous. Companies will exploit business process applications that proactively “push” relevant, time-sensitive information to customer devices in real-time.

This, in turn, will lead to self-service business applications offering visual or voice choices to help customers make time-sensitive decisions faster and with greater accuracy, regardless of the environment. And these companies will be successful because their employees, customers, subscribers, business partners, and other end users will all be accustomed to using multimodal interfaces to conduct everyday business activities by themselves. Just like the Internet, there will be a time when we won’t know how we lived without mobile, multimodal capabilities.

Comment: The Challenge For Customer Support Staffs

The availability of dynamic multimodal user interfaces will have a significant impact on automating enterprise business process applications for all its end users. The days when IVR self-services were primarily focused on customer needs because they only had telephone access to enterprise information are over. Now customers, internal staff, and business partners can all be efficiently exploiting Web-based business applications that can support both visual and speech interfaces from both multimodal devices, particularly for mobile access.

However, as we have long ago learned with IVR applications, self-services will always require access to live assistance, especially for sensitive customer contacts. The implications of multimodal application interfaces will have a ripple effect on traditional customer-facing support staff, because they too must be able to deal with customers who are both mobile and using visual rather than voice application interfaces. Preparing customer support staff (call centers) for this paradigm shift can’t really begin until more real-world experience is gained in how multimodal users with handheld mobile devices will require live assistance, with traditional voice conversation or visually with IM.

What Do You Think?

Send your comments to me at

What’s New With UC From UC Strategies

To get an idea of the different perspectives and issues related to UC technologies for the enterprise, go to the UC Strategies web site for better insights on migrating to UC.

UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring

You can also review the presentations given by the UC Strategies experts at TMC’s IT Expo early this year.

Attention CIOs: Watch this great new Webcast from Avaya and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!

Go to:

This discussion with the two dominant enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the industry-wide initiative for identifying individual business user requirements

Stay tuned to the web site for initial availability of the UC Profiling service. We are in discussions with all the major UC technology providers to support this initiative to help both their customers and sales channels plan their UC migrations properly and effectively.

Friday, May 18, 2007

New Research Shows Enterprise IT Wants UC, but Are Not Prepared

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

May 18, 2007

New Research On Enterprise UC Migration Confirms - Not A Question of “IF” or “WHEN,” But “HOW!”

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Although the enterprise market is getting more serious about converging their telephone systems into UC, it is no surprise that enterprise IT organizations still have a lot of homework to do. A new market research study of enterprise unified communications by Nemertes Research shows that while a large percentage of IT executives (79%) may already be using or planning to implement some UC capabilities that integrate and converge IP telephony and IM applications with email and voice messaging, IT management is still very divided organizationally between the text messaging and voice telephony groups in 60% of the organizations interviewed.

According to Nemertes analyst, Irwin Lazar, the migration to comprehensive enterprise UC is not only being slowed down by the lack of IT consolidation of user administration and support management across all forms of communication, but also because “federated” presence capability and device-independent mobile services are not yet very available. This is reflected in the finding that, “Most enterprises are not yet planning to integrate their mobile users with their presence and telephony services.”

What Should Enterprise Management Do About the UC Migration Problem?

It should be obvious by now that migrating to UC is not just about changing the technology infrastructure nor just about reducing TCO, both of which are in the domain of IT responsibility. It is also not about changing business communications technology all at once, but selectively choosing high-value business processes, as well as key end users associated with those business processes, as migration starting points with real ROI to the enterprise.

Step One: Which Business Processes Need UC?

So, how do you identify initial high-value business requirements for UC migration planning purposes? There really are two answers. One source of answers is from Line 0f Business (LOB) managers, who should know which business processes are most critical to the enterprise bottom line and also suffer the most from inefficient people communications, better known as “human latency.” They can probably also identify specific job responsibilities of key personnel who are particularly affected by current communication contact inefficiencies.

In larger organizations, the CIO is probably the right person to coordinate the identification of business process priorities with current technology upgrade or replacement planning to interoperate with UC technologies. In smaller organizations, consulting expertise will be the way this task can be accomplished most efficiently.

Step Two: Which End Users Need UC?

Because the convergence of communication interfaces through multimodal devices, along with changes in communication procedures and etiquette, will impact end users, they must be properly prepared to use new UC capabilities effectively. End users will only do so when they understand how they will personally benefit from the change, i.e., it will be easier, and faster to communicate with others in performing their individual jobs responsibilities. “One size does not necessarily fit all!”

As enterprise business communications are becoming more diverse and “virtual,” where people are increasingly mobile, away from an office location, or away from a desktop, communication requirements are becoming more personalized, i.e., dependent on a combination of individual job responsibilities, changing communication relationships and needs, different user work environments, and personal contact preferences. That means that the requirements for new, converged capabilities of UC have to be more tailored to individual user needs as both contact initiators and contact recipients, not as a set of standard, siloed desktop devices.

For this reason, we see that practical UC migration requirements planning will need to include individual end user information about how they communicate today, including what major communication problems they experience with different types of business contacts (internal, customers, supply-side partners, etc.). This will not only enable UC planners to identify and plan for different forms of UC activity for the future, but also will highlight specific UC benefits and changes in user communication procedures that will require retraining.

UC Migration Planning

Because UC migration will usually be a slow and evolutionary process, it will be appropriate for enterprise management to start with specific groups of users that have the greatest need for UC capabilities. Typically these will be people who are heavy mobile communication users and whose job profiles include:

§ Key decision makers

§ Key action takers

§ Customer-facing experts who must be available to support real-time customer issues

UC capabilities, coupled with mobile capabilities, will have a major influence on how people communicate and will impact traditional telephone and messaging traffic that must be supported with network resources. For this reason, it will be helpful to both enterprise business management and IT technology management to survey their end users about their current business contact activities in order to identify where UC and mobility will make a difference in both business processes and individual end user needs.

It is the Unified-View’s opinion that UC productivity ROI to the enterprise will be maximized when all the people involved in a common workflow task can exploit the flexibility of real-time UC capabilities. This will apply to people within the organization and to people outside of the organization (customers, supply-side partners, etc.) This is because if there is a delay in making contact with any particular individual end user participating in a group task, this will cause the task to suffer what has been referred to as “human latency.” (The Unified-View calls it “human contact latency” because it is not because people are slow, but because they are often inaccessible for communication.)

A New Service For Enterprise UC Planning

The Unified-View, together with the industry experts at, is developing a standard end-user online survey service that will be made freely available to enterprise organizations to help gather UC/mobility profiling information about current end user business communications activities. This information will help enterprise management to:

  1. Gather information about which individual end users or work groups need UC capabilities the most
  2. Identify the related business process that will determine UC migration priorities
  3. Help align the value of improved UC capabilities with the ROIs of business processes.
  4. Help identify and quantify the mobile and UC activities associated with specific individual users and their business contacts that should also be provided with UC capabilities
  5. Enable the organization to plan specific migration training needs for individual end users or end user groups, in accordance with a practical migration implementation schedule.
  6. Enable the enterprise to compare before and after changes in business communication efficiencies and business process benefits by basically using the same survey for “migrated” users as a “before and after” comparison.
  7. The service will also allow enterprise organizations to “benchmark” individual users or different groups within the organization for evaluation purposes. In addition, it is planned to allow such information to be benchmarked in Unified-View market research reports across enterprise organizations, to identify differences in end user needs between different vertical market segments, and identify “best practices” for UC management.

Stay tuned to the web site for initial availability of the UC Profiling service. We are in discussions with all the major UC technology providers to support this initiative to help both their customers and sales channels plan their UC migrations properly and effectively.

Attention CIOs: Watch this great new Webcast from Avaya and Microsoft on the practical “Why’s” and “How’s” of migrating to UC!

Go to:

This discussion with the two dominant enterprise communications technology providers in the text messaging and telephony worlds highlights the practicalities of migrating to UC and also underscores the industry-wide initiative for identifying individual business user requirements.

What Do You Think?

Send your comments to me at

News From UC Strategies

To better understand the different perspectives and issues involved with implementing UC technologies, go to the web site for the latest, most practical insights on migrating the enterprise to UC.

UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring

You can also review the presentations given by the experts at TMC’s IT Expo.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

PMO, CobiT, ITIL – Alphabet Soup for Strategic Information Technology Services

David A. Zimmer

When I was younger, I ate alphabet soup. I stirred the broth and watched the letters as they swirled around. Many times, simple words rose to the top. As I learned to read, I would exclaim the new found word. Little did I know that as I matured, letters would continue to swirl and new found words and acronyms would continue to form. The IT broth has been stirred. While not necessarily new, PMO, CobiT and ITIL seem to be rising to the top of the bowl in the IT industry.

Fig. 1: Three Avenues To Better IT Infrastructure Services

We have three, and more, efforts trying to solve the IT dilemma – providing quality services in an ever changing environment while aligning with business requirements and drivers. We need to understand these three – PMO, ITIL and CobiT, and how they integrate to provide the best IT Infrastructure services. The questions we need to answer are
• how will each effort support our need of aligning business requirements and IT infrastructure;
• why do we need three efforts instead of consolidating them into one;
• how do they integrate, compliment and overlap; and
• how do we use them to our benefit?
This article introduces a series of articles describing the various components and how they integrate forming a comprehensive governance of IT within your organization. Each component is not mutually exclusive of the others; in fact, they are greatly complementary. The overlap provides us the opportunities to better understand IT relationship to and support of the business requirements for your organization. IT is no longer a cost center draining the organization of precious resources, but becomes a strategic weapon supporting the business in its efforts to out maneuver the competition and branch into new markets. Although we have often heard that statement, the use of CobiT and ITIL provides the mean to make it true.

By necessity, we will only introduce the various topics at a very high level, saving the details for the later articles in the series. We have purposely simplified these complex areas in order to introduce them, but we will add the details later. So, if you are an expert in these areas already, bare with us as we bring the rest of the readership up-to-speed. We discuss three elephants of understanding, so we need to only chew what we are able. If you are a neophyte, welcome and fasten your seatbelts – turbulence ahead.

Let's start our journey by understanding briefly the five components within the system as shown in Figure 2: Business requirements and drivers, IT/IS Systems, Services and Infrastructure, Project Management Office (PMO), Information Technologies Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies (CobiT).

Fig. 2: PMO, CobiT, ITIL Integration

Business Requirements and Drivers

The business requirements and drivers determine the direction of the organization. The IT infrastructure is expected to support that direction. In many cases, the business requirements are not adequately documented or communicated to the IT personnel to gain such support. Additionally, the requirements speak a different language than the IT department.

The CIO and IT Management translate between the business needs and the IT infrastructure reality. Without a standard approach to such translation, it may not be as accurate as needed. The results: a mismatch between the infrastructure and the needs, festering frustrations and creating divisions. Unfortunately, this incomplete or inconsistent translation is not seen until well into the process of implementation or even during actual use. The cost of fixing such a dilemma becomes exorbitant. Industry studies show that over 66% of IT-based projects fail!

By using a standard approach with appropriate metrics and life-cycle planning, we begin to mate the business requirements and IT infrastructure realities. Within the standard approach, we add auditing ability to give us the checks-n-balances needed to assure we obtain the proper return on investments.

IT/IS Systems, Infrastructures – Realities

The IT infrastructure and systems support the ongoing business. It meets the needs for the users' day-to-day operations and any new development work. The infrastructure includes desktop and server machines, networks, storage, and software used to meet business demands. Software includes the general purpose programs such as word processors, spreadsheet and presentation software, email, etc. It also includes specialty software such as CAD/CAM, publishing, accounting, CRM, ERP, etc.

The infrastructure becomes a reality based upon the business requirements understanding and established through some type of project procedure. The goal is to evolve the infrastructure as the business requirements change and mold to market conditions. One problem that exists is the rapidity of requirements changing versus the speed of evolution of the IT infrastructure. Add to that disparity the non-standard method of translating business requirements into infrastructure reality and the lack of auditable metrics, we begin to see the quandary we possess.

PMO – Project Management Office

The Project Management Office is a virtual organization within your organization that is populated with people who manage projects. Projects translate business requirements into IT infrastructure realities to be used for the business evolution. The PMO dispatches a project manager to manage a project which implements the desired solution. In a perfect world, the end result would match the business requirements. Using best practices and standard procedures, the project manager guides the project to the desired results with full acceptance from the users and receives standing ovations and a hero's welcome. Right?!

The Project Management industry has done an admirable job in defining the process from requirements to reality, but by their very definition, their responsibility ends at project completion. A project is a temporary endeavor to produce a unique product or service (PMBOK). The definition defines a beginning and end to a project. Once the project is complete, there is no ongoing feedback loop to evaluate the results of the project. The project manager's responsibility is complete.

Ongoing monitoring of the project's results must occur in light of the business requirements that drove the project in the first place. Are the results still in line with the business requirements? Did the requirements change? Did the market factors that defined the requirements change? If so, should we change the infrastructure? What is the process? How do we determine the financial impact? These and many more questions start flooding one's mind.

ITIL – Information Technologies Infrastructure Library

Enter ITIL – Information Technologies Infrastructure Library. ITIL is a collection of best practices that help move business requirements through the project stage, into the reality or implementation stage and provides the life-cycle feedback necessary to keep the infrastructure aligned with those requirements. Driven from the technical community to better understand requirements from its primary customers – the business user and management, ITIL standardizes the language so business requirements translate into technical terms properly, or at least, consistently.

ITIL is not a “how's to” guide to better IT Service Management. It is a framework of practices to measure, validate, and report against the business needs and requirements. It shows how the IT infrastructure works together to meet the business needs. In other words, it lets the business dictate the implementation of IT services and infrastructure rather than letting the latest IT advance push the business to its adoption. More importantly, it uses a common vocabulary to promote synergy between the business drivers and IT implementations. It becomes a collection of documents outlining the process from requirements to implementation and back to requirements.

Two versions dominate the ITIL landscape today: version 2 and version 3. Version 3 has been ratified and is being introduced to organizations now. Version 3 is an evolution of version 2.

Version 2 focused on process development. It defines the necessary best practices to create IT realities from business requirements. Using common vocabulary, business users could articulate their needs at the beginning of the implementation process and then measure the outcomes once the IT infrastructure was deployed. Version 2 looked at specific discrete areas and disciplines, so it was seen as “silo focused.” Version 3 takes those best practices, now that they are defined in Version 2, and applies them in a holistic view of the organization. It provides a feedback loop using the common vocabulary and best practices into the requirements process giving us a tangible, business life-cycle from requirements identification and definition to implementation to acceptance and back into the requirements phase again. It provides the step-wise refinement necessary in IT evolution for constant business support.

In Figure 2 above, we can see that ITIL underlies the first three components discussed: Business Requirements, PMO and IT Infrastructure and Services (the blue ellipse). As you can see from the life-cycle arrows, it starts before a project initiates, continues during the PMO's involvement and lasts long after the project manager has gone home.

The PMO uses ITIL's framework to ensure proper monitoring and adjustments necessary to align the project results with the business requirements. The life-cycle arrows show the feedback loop going back into the PMO resulting in infrastructure changes and so on. The PMO does not obviate the need for ITIL, nor does ITIL displace the PMO. The PMO provides the methodology for a systematic step formation for managing projects. ITIL provides the components projects must supply for future monitoring of the projects' outcomes.

CobiT – Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies

Control OBjectives for Information and related Technologies (CobiT) comes from the audit industry. From the fallout of Enron and other notable large organizations' scandals, we see the rise of legislation and regulations requiring accountability in all facets of companies. Because of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), every aspect of business comes under the microscope of the auditors. IT is no exception. CobiT is a framework of good practices that places audit points into IT services so that we can determine financial accountability. It goes beyond the financial aspect and compliments the tenets espoused in ITIL. So while ITIL documents the life-cycle of IT infrastructure and services, CobiT keeps our attention to the audit criteria and gives us the checkpoints needed to assure compliance. CobiT defines 34 audit points that span ITIL's domain – before project initiation and lasts long after the project is over. It provides a life-cycle as ITIL does, but it focuses more on a direct correlation between business requirements and IT infrastructure realities financially. It underpins the PMO with audit points.


PMO, ITIL, CobiT – three acronyms formed by the swirling IT broth. Each focuses on different aspects of the IT business. Each hope to convert business requirements into IT infrastructure that support the business needs. Each provides a different perspective on the road from business requirements to IT infrastructure realities. But they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, we see each underpinning the others for a mutual benefit. The PMO uses ITIL and CobiT so the project results enter a life-cycle that is accountable and tractable. ITIL uses the PMO to establish the life-cycle necessary for feedback and monitoring of the infrastructure to the benefit of the organization. CobiT puts into place the audit points keeping our business on course and out of hot water. It uses ITIL to document the audit process and the PMO to implement the audit points. Each leverages the strength of the other.

This article is just a cursory introduction to the deeper aspects of each component. In subsequent articles, we will explore the roles of the PMO, ITIL and CobiT in the business requirements-to-IT infrastructure within an organization and specific integration of these important frameworks.

What Do You Think?

We are interested in your feedback. Do you feel that we have correctly characterized the interaction between PMO, ITIL and CobiT? Have you experienced the need for such frameworks within your organizations? Let us know by sending us an email to

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Making Voice Mail More Manageable

Copyright © 2007 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

April 27, 2007

UM and Speech Recognition:

Making Voice Mail More Manageable

By Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

“Unified messaging” (UM) was always viewed as simply enabling message recipients to manage and retrieve both text and voice messages across device interfaces. Email text messages could be proactively delivered to or retrieved from any phone through text-to-speech technology, giving such email messages some of the real-time flexibility and convenience of voice mail.

Similarly, recipients of voice mail messages benefited from UM through integration with email desktop clients, where the screen interface was extended to show all the voice (and fax) messages in the user’s voice mailbox. This visual interface for voice mail enabled more efficient random access message retrieval, rather than the time consuming, sequential playback of messages that the Telephone User Interface (TUI) offered. Voice message content, however, still had to be listened to through traditional playback controls and important information content still had to be transcribed manually for practical use.

Speech recognition technology, however, has now matured enough to enable voice mail messages to benefit from convergence with email visual interfaces, similar to how email benefited from text-to-speech (TTS) retrieval of email over the phone. Now, voice message retrieval can be managed with the productivity efficiencies of text and visual interfaces, rather than a voice-oriented TUI. Using speech recognition to convert voice messages to text is starting to show up as new subscriber offerings by service providers such as CallWave and Vonage, so it won’t be long before this capability will make its way into enterprise UM by traditional communication technology providers and new players like SpinVox and TalkText,

Voice Message vs. Text Message Benefits to the Users

Voice mail systems provide important benefits to telephone callers by enabling them to leave a message if there is no answer or the line is busy. By recording a voice message, costs are minimized and message integrity is retained because it is not being transcribed or delivered through a third-party person.

While voice messages have been highly touted as being more “personal,” providing more emotional content (tone of voice) and accuracy (name pronunciation) to the recipient, informational content is really not greater than person-to-person text messages. So, just because a caller uses the convenience of voice to create a message, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they want the message to be delivered in voice.

As a message originator, a caller should have the option of having a voice message they create in voice delivered as text, especially if it will contain data that has to be converted to text to be useful. As business users become more mobile and start using multimodal “smartphones” with visual interfaces, the practicality of creating a message with voice that gets delivered as text and vice versa will become viral.

By the same token, the option to transcribe voice messages into text can also be controlled by the recipient depending upon a number of factors pertinent to the recipient’s needs. So, although the caller still leaves a voice message, it gets delivered as text.

Pros and Cons of Converting a Voice Message to Text

The recipient of a voice message that has been converted to text will realize a number of productivity benefits including:

· Quickly scanning the message and selectively reading details of importance, rather than having to listen to the whole message

· Retrieving voice messages in noisy environments

· Embedding such converted messages in other forms of text messaging such as email, IM, and SMS

· Extending the ability to forward, reply, and add attachments to a voice message

· Facilitates searchable archiving of such messages

· Will also preserve original voice message as back up when needed for better understanding

To offset these benefits, there are some disadvantages to converting a voice message to text, including:

  • A frequent caller may not include a name or phone number
  • Some voice messages from cell phones may be unintelligible
  • Speech recognition translation may not be uniformly accurate
  • Foreign languages may not be accommodated
  • When the recipient is mobile (e.g., driving a car), listening to a voice message will be preferable to looking at text. (In such cases, however, the text message can also be retrieved with text-to-speech capabilities.)

Reducing Enterprise Overhead for Voice Messages

Voice messaging has always paid a penalty in terms of system resources it consumes. These penalties include:

· Voice network bandwidth and priorities for real-time connectivity

· Voice message storage limitations

- Limit on caller message lengths

- Limit on duration of storage for retrieval

· Long retrieval time traffic required because of sequential playback, ambient noise, need to transcribe information, etc.

· More difficult to manage and search voice message content

Since the overhead for recording, transmitting, storing, and retrieving a voice message is much higher than a text version of the message, we do see benefits to both end user communication productivity and to the enterprise TCO from exploiting speech recognition for voice to text messaging. Such capabilities will also integrate nicely with new UC capabilities for integrating with real-time IM or initiating telephone call back responses to such messages.

Voice to text message conversion won’t solve all the problems of efficient business communications and is highly dependent on speech recognition performance. The more critical the need for accurate and personalized contacts, the less likely that shortcuts will be acceptable.

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News From UC Strategies

To get an idea of the different perspectives and issues involved with implementing UC technologies, go to the UC Strategies web site for better insights on migrating enterprise business communications to UC.

UC Industry Update including Highlights from VoiceCon Spring

You can also review the presentations given by the UC Strategies experts at TMC’s IT Expo.