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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

UC and Voice Message Delivery

May 27, 2008

Will UC Change Traditional Voicemail MWI and Message Delivery?

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Back in the early days of voice mail, there was a challenge to integrate voice messaging capabilities with proprietary telephone systems. Such integrations concerned enabling the voice messaging system to interoperate with the telephone system in the following areas:

1. Forward calls that did not answer after n rings to the voice mail system (Ring, No Answer) or if set to forward immediately

2. Enable the voice mail system to turn on a Message Waiting Indicator (station set light, stutter dial tone) to notify the device user that there were one or more voice messages waiting to be retrieved.

Back in those early days, however, telephone systems were very “closed” and integration was not readily available. In particular, those phone systems controlled proprietary desktop station sets completely. As a result, early voice mail system developers like Octel had to overcome such integration problems by reverse engineering and emulating proprietary station sets in order to integrate their voice mail systems with those telephone switches.

The problem with the MWI function of the telephone switch, which was usually an indicator light on a telephone set, is that it didn’t tell you too much about the waiting messages, i.e., how many messages you had, who the senders were, the urgency of the messages, etc. Only after the message recipient called into the voicemail system, was some of that information given.

With the growth of mobile devices, “push messaging” notifications and delivery have become practical for all forms of messages (voice and text). What started out with voicemail's outbound delivery of voicemail messages, also enabled email messages to be proactively delivered in real-time, using text-to-speech” technologies under the label of unified messaging (UM). Then email became proactive by moved to “Push email,” inaugurated first by RIM for their enterprise mobile Blackberry servers, then followed by Microsoft Exchange. Now that mobile devices are converging all forms of communications, i.e., becoming “multimodal” under UC for both messaging interfaces and message content, it is time to revamp old voicemail methodologies, especially when your voicemail system is reaching it's end of life!

It has always been very inefficient to retrieve important voice messages because the early voice mail systems played back voice messages in sequential order, since they did not have a visual interface for random access retrieval. The first such capability for voicemail took place with the early desktop integrations with email, where extensions to email software clients included the display of voice messages and online access to the voicemail system to deliver the voice messages through the desktop phone. This was part of the early approach to Unified Messaging (UM). The question now is, do we really have to retrieve and reply to voice messages with a voice interface?

“Visual Voicemail” and Voicemail-to-Text Messaging Services Bringing More Change

As I have been reporting in the past, speech recognition technology is upsetting the traditional voicemail apple cart by removing the constraints on retrieving voice messages through inefficient legacy Telephone User Interfaces (TUIs). This new approach allows a caller to use the phone to conveniently and efficiently leave a voice message as with a traditional voice mail system, but the message recipient doesn’t have to retrieve the message in it’s voice form. With more people using personalized mobile devices, the convenience of voice input for messaging “on the go” will always remain high.

However, no longer will the voice message recipient be limited by the lack of selective, random access to voice messages. What was originally provided only at the desktop through unified messaging (UM) integration with email, has now moved to mobile devices like Apple’s iPhone as “Visual Voicemail.” But, even that has been improved upon by enabling the recipient to also more efficiently “see” voice message content as text, rather than be forced to navigate blindly through voice content and transcribe any important information manually.

This capability to see voice mails in text form will be particularly useful for mobile users who find themselves in a noisy environment or where they have to be “quiet” (e.g., in a meeting or public venue). “Voicemail-to-text” messaging will also speed up the screening of voice messages, since traditional voicemail systems don’t even ask for a “subject line” like email, and even then such information might rarely be accurate.

In addition to those reasons for retrieving voice messages in text form, exploiting a visual screen interface facilitates all UC/UM options of responding to a message by the message recipient, including:

· “Click to call” (or “Call Return” in voicemail systems)

· “Click to Chat” (IM)

· “Click to email” (Reply, Forward)

· “Click to Voicemail” (Reply, Forward)

Where speech interfaces are indeed necessary for hands-free/eyes-free environments (e.g., driving a car), the “Click to” actions will simply become available as intelligent "barge-in" interactive voice commands for initiating and managing calls or messages, rather than the legacy error-prone TUI interfaces that required memorizing complex touch-tone commands.

In the world of business UC we would expect that such new choices of messaging will also be governed by the practical use of presence/availability management. That is, if people are not “available” for a real-time contact, second prize will be a choice of messaging with immediate notification/delivery/response when there is time urgency involved.

What’s The Bottom Line For Business Communications?

What all this really means is that contact recipients will have greater flexibility in being able to respond to other people’s messages when they are just not “available” or “accessible” for a real-time connection. This will translate into faster messaging responses and faster “cycle times” for business process performance, While mobility and the flexibility of UC will increase a recipient’s communication “accessibility,” it will not necessarily increase their “availability” for real-time conversations. (But voice conversations may not be really so necessary any more in light of "real-time messaging!")

SIP–based, "federated" telephony presence management will also shift business calls from traditional “person-to-person” contact attempts to a “person-to-process-to-person” approach. This is where a real-time connection with anyone who is qualified and available can be automatically “orchestrated” by a business process application using presence management technology. This is what internal customer call centers have done for years with self-service IVR applications and telephones, but will now become part of all forms of business communication through both open online Web and IP telephony real-time services.

However, rather than waste time in a queue always waiting for a live person, callers can also take advantage of leaving a message (to identify why they are calling) and the ability for a business process application to screen such input and orchestrate a real-time response (callback or IM) “as soon as possible” when all parties are both “available” and “accessible” for a voice or video conversation This will make such real-time contacts more time efficient for both contact initiators and recipients, especially when they are mobile. Most importantly, please note that all parties won't have to be in the same location or the same organization to exploit such communication services.

What Do You Think?

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Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at just published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically migrate current business communications to UC. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or at (310) 395-2360.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

UC is More Than IP Telephony

May 7, 2008

Confusion About IP Telephony vs. UC vs. Mobility vs. CEBP

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Because the transition of telephony to IP-based connections is causing the most disruption in the technology industry, it is causing many people to think that IP Telephony is the only important piece of unified communications (UM), and ignores the role of messaging and information exchange as key elements of UC. This biased perception was reflected in a pundit’s review of highlights from the recent Interop show this month, which catered primarily to enterprise IT infrastructure folks. However, there were a couple of good sessions that I attended that focused on UC, mobility, and CEBP.

I commented on the criticisms that Nathan Swartz offered about UC, and reprinting it here as well, because UC is not simply about enabling traditional business telephone usage to continue as it did in the TDM environment, but to move forward as a more efficient component of a UC environment. That means that people will be initiating telephone calls differently and will be exploiting multimodal UC interfaces differently than with legacy telephone devices and TUIs.

Response to “Lippis Report Issue 105: What I Learned At Interop”

  1. Art Rosenberg Says:
    May 7th, 2008 at 7:29 am


How off-base can you get about what unified communications is all about?

I can’t really blame you for confusing “unified communications” with IP Telephony (IPT), because the biggest change in technology and business communications is taking place with the role of business phone calls. Not only is the network infrastructure for voice telephony changing (VoIP), and the user interfaces moving away from the limitations of the TUI to richer, screen-based flexibility, but the use of more intelligent presence and availability and the seamless interoperability between all forms of messaging and information exchange with conversational voice contacts, will make for more flexible and efficient business operations.

Voice telephony is no longer the only form of real-time, long distance communications, and it has always been a location-based connection, rather than a person or role-based form of contact. In business, the latter is becoming recognized as the real objective for real-time person-to-person contacts, as opposed to socializing. With presence-based IM, text messaging and information exchange have also become real-time, but also allow escalation to the efficiencies of voice conversation once a successful contact has been efficiently established.

Changing TDM telephony to SIP-based IP Telephony is a migration step towards unified communications, but it is not going to replace the increasing dominance and rich efficiencies of both real-time and asynchronous forms of messaging in business communications and information exchange.


Art Rosenberg
The Unified-View

  1. Art Rosenberg Says:
    May 7th, 2008 at 7:54 am

I should also point out that moving to applications-based contact initiation via “CEBP” is another step in the right direction of UC. This is where a business process needs to contact a person, and, believe me, its not with a voice conversation, but with messaging (with voice or text interfaces) and online interactions. The business process application may also intelligently coordinate a voice conference with other people when necessary, based on presence, availability, calendars, etc. This where the Internet and mobile devices will enable notifications (messages) to be delivered to people wherever they happen to be, along with real-time, contextual response links.

So CEBP is simply an extension of UC in allowing applications to also efficiently contact people and deliver information in real-time through messaging. The problem that UC is really trying to solve is making contact with people as flexibly and time-efficiently as possible. Telephony alone could never do that!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at just published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically migrate current business communications to UC. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Real Business ROI For Mobile UC Not From Knowledge Workers

April 28, 2008

Who Generates Real ROI From Mobile UC? “Action-takers!”

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Now that the telecommunications industry has finally started focusing on business process efficiencies and people productivity, rather than just cost reductions, it’s also time to look at which kinds of people will generate the most “productivity ROI” from UC for the typical business organization.

I think the market has also moved past individual productivity as the most important UC metric for business organizations for a number of reasons:

· It will vary from user to user, depending on job responsibilities and work environments

· It is not really that significant to enterprise business processes

· No guarantee that personal time savings will ever be passed on to the enterprise

However, personal timesaving benefits are indeed important for end user adoption of new UC capabilities.

So, now the UC migration focus is on business process benefits, which, by definition, means “group productivity,” where everyone involved in a business process task has to communicate efficiently, either as a contact initiator or a contact recipient/respondent. Who ever is not communicating efficiently, becomes the weak link in the business process chain!

Everyone is a “Knowledge/Information’ worker, but not everyone is an “Action-taker”

There was a concerted effort by industry pundits to focus on end users who were involved in business process performance who could supply important information in a timely manner, i.e., they could be contacted and respond very quickly to information requests. While it is true that such capability is important, I believe everyone involved in a business process can contribute information to the business process flow, not just subject matter experts. Everyone is really an information worker/user.

If you think about it, particularly in the context of revenue-sensitive customer-initiated contacts, customer input is the prerequisite for all further actions. Taking it a step further, if there is indeed any significant actions to be taken, including both decision-making and service deliveries, we will find those kinds of “action-takers” to be more mobile and less available at a desktop. So, in order to successfully complete that type of customer-facing business process, desktop UC will not be adequate and Mobile UC flexibility comes into play.

That is one of the reasons that mobile communications have been increasing so rapidly for business users. It has also become a source of concern for IT management, since they cannot easily control what end users will carry with them nor the seamless interoperability between fixed (wired enterprise-controlled desktops and mobile devices and services. Those challenges are slowly being resolved through both technology interoperability and evolving more strategic business relationships between the enterprise and wireless carriers. (See Michael Finneran’s comments on FMC.)

In the meantime, it will become important to focus on the mobility needs of customer-facing “action-takers,” not just “knowledge workers,” who will be key to successful completion of revenue-generating or loss prevention business processes. For practical UC migration planning, find out who your “action-takers” are and what they are doing today for efficient communication access while mobile. That will help define your real UC implementation priorities.

P.S. Your "action-takers" will very often NOT be within your organization - think delivery services, local technology support channels, etc. So, make sure that they are "federated" with your organization's UC capabilities and presence management facilities!

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or (310) 395-2360.

Confused About Implementing “UC?”

The experts at just published a comprehensive UC eBook that focuses very heavily on defining the various components of UC and how to systematically migrate current business communications to UC. Take a look and see if it answers your questions!