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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Response Service For Text Message Recipients

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 20, 2009

UM/UC Gets Another Boost From SpinVox’s “VoxLinks

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

Messaging is an increasingly important component of unified communications (UC) for a number of practical reasons, including the fact that text messaging has become “real-time” through Instant Messaging and mobile SMS, but also because text messages are much more manageable, self-documenting, and resource-efficient than voice messages. Such benefits contribute to the goals of UC to minimize human latency in business communications through individual end user productivity (UC-U) and thereby also increase associated business process efficiencies (UC-B).

However, typing text message input has always been slow and error prone and the holy grail of business messaging has been to use the convenience and efficiency of voice for message input, but the efficiencies of text for message retrieval and management. The first step in this direction took place a couple of years ago when SpinVox, among others, offered a telephone answering service that allowed callers to leave traditional voice messages, but enabled the recipients to retrieve those messages in text form.

What Message Recipients Really Need

There are really two kinds of actions that message recipients have to take when they get notification of a new message:

1. Retrieve the message

2. Respond to the message

Both actions need flexibility to meet individual user needs for handling different kinds of messages and that’s where the power of unified messaging (UM) comes into play for UC. Recipients need to retrieve messages in any form that is convenient for them at the moment, especially when they are mobile, and they also need to respond/reply in any modality that is appropriate. If most people are like me, we respond immediately whenever possible, either to satisfy the time needs of other people as soon as possible or simply because we might forget about it.

Until recently, enterprise “unified messaging” technologies (UM) supported the capability for flexible message retrieval by primarily converting text messages to voice for notification and delivery by a voicemail system. Voice messages were also made a bit more manageable by using an email screen interface for retrieval, but the actual voice message retrieval and voice response had to be supported through a telephone and voicemail system.

SpinVox’s “VoxLinks” Cross-media Message Service For Recipients

SpinVox’s new service addresses the practical needs of the mobile user as a recipient to reply/respond to SMS text messages in voice. Expanding upon the success of it’s original voice-to-text-messaging service offered through wireless carriers, and more recently through enterprise providers like Avaya, VoxLinks provides any transcribed voice message that is delivered by SMS, with a “click-to-reply” voice option, as well as a “click-to-listen” option to hear the original voice message that was transcribed to the received text message. Now recipients can “Have their cake and eat it too!”

SpinVox is planning to bring speech recognition to messaging technologies to provide a variety of public services for mobile users. This should fit in nicely with UC service requirements for “click-to-call” and federated telephony presence management, as well as provide speech interfaces for mobile business applications. The latter should enable speech input to mesh efficiently with visual outputs for mobile devices. However, the proposed services will need to support regulatory compliance for business use and that is something that has not (yet) been publicized. So, stay tuned!

What Do You Think?

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

UC and Nortel Bankruptcy

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 19, 2009

Did Nortel’s Bankruptcy Get Your Attention For Enterprise UC?

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

The enterprise telephony pundits are all putting their spin on the news that industry leader, Nortel, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. They all say that this is no surprise and it’s not just because Nortel made mistakes.

I also mentioned the first published rumble from Nortel in early December in a comment I wrote to an article on UC. (See what I wrote below. *) Because enterprise telephony technology is being integrated and absorbed into UC and multimodal mobile services are rapidly become available to consumers, the traditional telephony piece parts (endpoint devices, TDM networks, hardware switches, voice applications) will no longer be locked into those premise-based hardware/software solutions that the telecom industry has traditionally served up to the business market.

Blair Pleasant (at UC took a great stab at trying to clear up the confusion that surrounds the fundamental concepts of “unified communications.” For the record, my own perspective has always focused on benefits for the individual end users of communication technology, which includes:

· Ease of use of endpoint communication devices

· Flexible and efficient modes of contact with people (who can’t always be available or accessible)

· Personalized manageability of all contact activities that are location and device independent

· Reasonable cost effectiveness

Whether for personal (consumer) usage or for business job responsibilities, without those benefits, UC technology will never gain user acceptance and enterprise implementations will never take off or pay off for business process efficiency!

Different Enterprise Constituencies and UC Perspectives

(* Comment on article “W ill the REAL Definition of UC Please Stand Up!”) )

Part of the problem of defining UC rests with the different constituencies involved with the use of UC capabilities. End users don't care about infrastructure requirements, only functionality and ease of use. Business management are primarily concerned with business process performance and operational costs. IT is mainly concerned with implementation and support costs for operational capacity, reliability, and security for network and server infrastructures, satisfying various end user needs and business management's application needs, and managing (control) over what they are responsible for, including software clients on end user endpoint devices.

What UC is changing the most is what Blair highlighted, the role of voice telephony. Not only is traditional telephony importance downshifting to visual interfaces and text content, but the traditional TDM network infrastructure and how it is managed is changing as well (IP telephony, VoIP, wireless mobility).

As Blair mentioned, the latter is having a drastic effect on enterprise telecom, telephone system providers, and the public service providers (carriers). Needless to say, the sales and support channels for all these providers will also be greatly impacted in who they represent and how they will do business with their clients.

Presence - Don’t Confuse Availability With Accessibility!

The one point I would want to clarify is the role of “presence management.” Availability status, from a contact initiation perspective, is primarily needed only for real-time connections, i.e., phone calls, IM, and conferencing. The increasing roles of asynchronous messaging and immediate message delivery (SMS) don't really require such information to be made available to senders. Message originators should be able to send messages whenever they need to, in whatever medium is convenient, and with any type of device, while recipients should have the same flexibility for controlling message delivery, retrieval and responses.

The reliability of location-independent message delivery (plus it's informational attachments) made email equally important with phone calls for business users in a study I reported upon over two years ago. At that time, the study didn't consider IM, so that would add another chunk of communication activity taken out of voice telephony's future role in business communications.

Voice conversations will always remain very important to both personal and business contacts, but the inefficiencies of ad hoc, "blind" call attempts that waste the caller's time can now shift to more efficient, "contextual" ways of initiating a successful call. That is where new federated presence technology will pay off, primarily to contact initiators, both on a person/application-to-person basis, or on a person-to-anyone-who-is- qualified-and-available basis (e.g., live assistance to a customer or any end user).

Changing Enterprise Responsibilities for UC Services/

The migration from current telephony investments that still work presents several challenges to enterprise organizations, primarily about what communication services they should be responsible for, what do they need to change first, who needs those changes, and how should they go about making such changes. I think it is getting very obvious that from an end user perspective, it will start with mobile devices for internal users, business partners, and customers who are involved with high-value business processes.

Mobility has always been the driving force of user demand for the flexibility that UC offers, rather than the desktop. So, to start with what all end users really need most from UC, just look at the role that the enterprise will play in supporting all the new "smart phones' that end users will bring to their work environment and that customers will start using to interact with enterprise portals and customer care staff. Desktop UC is "nice-to-have," but mobile UC will be "got-to-have!"

As Blair pointed out, the traditional telephony system and service providers are quickly trying to shift product gears to support the changing role of location-based, proprietary hardware and software telephony to open, software-based, device-independent UC and mobility.

Today's report that Nortel is considering bankruptcy possibilities is an indication that supporting Microsoft's UC strategies may not have done enough for their future survival. We are still watching how the other leading premise-based, business telephony (PBX) providers are changing (Avaya, Cisco, Siemens, Mitel, Alcatel-Lucent, etc.) vs. the enterprise premise-based email and IM technology providers (Microsoft, IBM), vs. what the hosted communication service providers are now able to offer.

Since UC covers all the pieces of business communication, including integration with business process applications (CEBP), it will be most interesting to see who ends up doing the business process consulting, solution selling, and technology infrastructure installation and support for the different UC components to fit various individual enterprise migration needs. Look for “UC Teams” of technology and service providers to be required to do the job of UC strategic planning and implementations.

What Do You Think?

You can contact me at: or .

Monday, January 05, 2009

UC and Tradeshows

Copyright © 2009 Unified-View, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

January 5, 2009

UC and The Future of Tradeshows

Art Rosenberg, The Unified-View

It is interesting to see how the big industry players are having an impact on UC evolution, directly or indirectly, and how UC will, in turn, impact how we do business. Apple made a big move when it introduced the iPhone to support consumer UC (although they didn’t say “UC”). They quickly followed up with additional capabilities for business users as well.

Now, Apple seems to be taking the lead in changing the future role of traditional, location-based, shared trade shows and conferences to reach customers. I think UC will play an important role in this trend and, most particularly for the UC market itself. (We do have to “Practice what we preach!”) If you think about it, UC is all about supporting communication needs of individual users "anywhere, any time, anyhow." That includes person-to-person" contacts as well as information delivery to people from business process applications (CEBP). The following are some of my comments to the discussion about the “Death of Tradeshows.”

The “Anywhere” Is Key To “Virtual” Audiences

The "anywhere" is perhaps the biggest change Mobile UC brings to both personal and business communications, because it means that people don't have to be in an "office," at "home," or at a particular location to do their jobs, get information, or make contact with people in any modality they wish.

The "any time" factor, however, must still be managed, because people don't have unlimited time and have different individual priorities and deadlines to meet. That makes presence-based "availability" and "accessibility" key factors for real-time contacts in the UC game.

So, what are trade shows or conferences all about? A place to make contacts and get information! Well, guess what? They just don't always have to be location-based activities any more. The old ploy of time-consuming travel to conferences at enticing, but expensive, plush resorts is going to diminish, along with overloading conferences with so many concurrent presentations and events to maximize audience size, that it is impossible to do anything efficiently.

You might say conferences are a useful way to participate in a presentation, discussion, or round table. Well, there too, it doesn't mean you have to be physically present to do so. In fact, real-time discussions may be less useful than threaded exchanges to allow more thoughtful interactions at the convenience of interested participants.

Perhaps the only justification for location-based presence is where there has to be physical hands-on to a product, say, for an automobile. Otherwise, person-to-person contacts, information access, and demonstrations of business process applications can all be done on an individually personalized basis, remotely, and at any time that is convenient for the customer.

“Virtual” Sessions – Real-time or On demand

I personally started to add "virtual" sessions to existing conferences back in 1995. This allowed remote speakers and audience members to participate selectively in real-time. In one event, I had only 20 people in the room, including a panel of speakers, while over 300 were conferenced in. (Today, that's no big deal!)

Recording these virtual activities enable access to such events after the fact. The bottom line is that "virtual" online sessions expand the scope of participation significantly and at much less cost.

UC technology includes real time voice and video conferencing applications, in addition to person-to-person contacts in any mode required by the individual communicants. By scheduling such events, you can maximize real-time participation and interactions from any location. However, when does it really have to be real time when people are now accessible all the time with asynchronous communications (messaging) and "click-to-contact" for any real time needs?

With the web, our increasingly global environment and mobile/portable devices, many location-based business activities are diminishing, e.g., shopping, education and training, customer service, information access, office work, socializing, business collaboration, etc., so it should be obvious why the time and costs of location-based conferences and trade shows will also succumb to the flexibility of "virtual" online events.

As pointed out about Apple, "virtual" shows don't really have to be shared with all other sponsors; this will help eliminate the "overloaded" schedules that shared-show producers create to maximize physical attendance. (I found that to still be a problem with some new online shared trade shows.) So, although there will still be location-based events, they can also maximize their potential audience by also making them "virtual." As well proven by Google, advertising on the web is more powerful and responsive than just location-based signage.

So, the power of the web, wireless mobility, and UC will be driving the next generation of conferences and trade shows in my book. It will help move all aspects of market access to both people and information to “virtual” audiences in real-time or on-demand. That will help the “greening” of the marketplace and change the way companies do business.

What Do You Think?

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