Remember when messages sent via the Internet started with the phrase, "Let me know if you get this?" Now, if messages arent delivered immediately, users are all over their help desk.
Like it or not, messaging is probably the tool most often used in an IT environment. And I dont mean just desktop e-mail; I also mean instant messaging, messaging from handheld devices, telephony and voice mail.
For the past few months at my company, weve been giving employees more messaging capabilities by using VOIP technologies, the vendor of which I prefer to leave anonymous.
Cordless phones are one example. These are great for workers who are never at their desks. The cordless handset has the same extension as the desktop phone, so callers dont see anything different, except that calls are answered more frequently. Similarly, for those who are on the phone enough to warrant a headset, a wireless version gives them room to roam.
Then there are so-called soft phones, workstation software (along with a headset) that allows remote laptop or desktop users to make and take calls as if they were at their desks, via an IP VPN connection. Theres also a PC interface for voice mail.
This is a nice little program for those who lose their way trying to navigate the voice mail menu with the telephone keypad. This same program has a feature that lets users send and receive faxes.
Were also exploring a PBX feature set that allows incoming calls to ring at a users desk and at any other phone in the world at the same time. Users can also use these phones to make calls as if they were at their desks.
We posted some quick-reference guides for voice mail, BlackBerry devices, e-mail Web access and other features on our intranet, since users generally lose the hard copies after the first day. We also alerted users to a feature on the PBX that allows them to host conference calls.
There are many more "gee-whiz" things we could do, but were trying to focus on items we think will have the most value for employees and arent so complex that they wont be used. Many of the above items were relatively inexpensive—or were already there and not being used.
Further down the road, well look at unified messaging so that voice mail and e-mail are integrated.
Most of these features are of greatest benefit to mobile users, extending the tether of corporate connectivity as never before. With all these ways to be reached, Im reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld bit in which he comments that the only place you are truly cut off from the outside world anymore is in the shower.
Then again, I would not wager against a vendor coming out with a line of waterproof equipment.
Brian D. Jaffe is an IT director in New York and co-author of "IT Managers Handbook: Getting Your New Job Done." Jaffe can be reached at email@example.com. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community and welcomes contributions. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.