Voice over IP has hit the mainstream, and now the industry is looking to make it an integral and seamless part of enterprise business processes.
At the VoiceCon show March 5-8 in Orlando, Fla., big players such as Cisco Systems and Avaya will launch new unified communications capabilities in their VOIP offerings that will enable users to move more seamlessly between different modes of communications and embed voice within business processes to make them more efficient.
Cisco will lead off with a major new release of its Cisco Call Manager, renamed the Cisco Unified Communications System 6.0 to better reflect its ability to integrate wired, wireless and mobile devices. The new release integrates secure conferencing, call recording and mobility.
“We see it more as a communications system now, and not just a soft switch,” said beta user Chris Beck, enterprise voice architect at Career Education, in Hoffman Estates, Ill. “We will really use the mobility features. The integration with the Cisco Presence Server will allow people to know whether someone is available and what is the best mode of communication to reach them.”
Career Education intends to integrate the new Unified Communications Manager with its admissions representative application to streamline interaction between prospective students, the call center and admissions reps to “make that first contact the best experience the prospective student could have,” said CIO Mark Griesbaum.
In extending its mobility offerings, Cisco will also launch the Unified Mobile Communicator, client/server-based technology it acquired last year with the purchase of Orative. The Unified Mobile Communicator client, which will initially run on the Symbian operating system but will later add support for Windows Mobile OS, allows users from their mobile phones or smart phones to view office voice mail messages and select the messages they want to hear as well as use presence status, access enterprise directories, send secure text messages and query call logs. It provides interfaces to a variety of collaboration, messaging, voice mail and Microsoft Active Directory applications.
Its integration with Microsoft Exchange and Outlook allows meeting place reminders to be pushed through to a mobile phone to produce an audible tone to remind a user a meeting is about to take place, and the user can hit the send key to dial the conference bridge, said John Drewry, director of marketing for unified communications at Cisco, in San Jose, Calif.
Cisco also enhanced its Unified Personal Communicator, a PC-based soft client that adds video and integration with IBMs Sametime instant messaging. Ciscos new Unified Mobility offering provides for single-number access to individuals whether they are using a Cisco Unified IP Phone or any type of mobile phone. Users can also switch a live call from one phone type to another without dropping it and share a single voice mail.
Avaya is seeking to take the human latency out of business processes through its new Communications Enabled Business Process offering, which combines the Avaya Communications Process Manager with Avaya professional integration services.
The offering leverages SOA (services-oriented architecture) technology to integrate Avaya voice applications such as conferencing with business processes executed with applications such as SAPs ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.
The Avaya CPM now includes an event processor that scans data streams to detect changes that could indicate a problem with a business process. Once detected, the CPM will kick off its own process flow to “go out and handle the situation,” said Gwynne Wade, vice president of Avayas emerging technologies division, in Basking Ridge, N.J. Handling the situation can include notifying specific users, escalating their response, or contacting users and automatically adding them to a conference call.
“An e-mail that sits in an in-box can get lost. Avaya can escalate it—say, let your VP know you didnt respond to it, or they can create a conference call and get it to call all the right people. This is a direct connection with people,” said Brian Murphy, director of e-services in the global development organization of Whirlpool, in Benton Harbor, Mich. Whirlpool, which is piloting several implementations, expects to see benefits from the technology across its supply chain, manufacturing and call center operations, Murphy said.
While Whirlpool is an early adopter of such advanced technologies, the rest of the market may not be ready. Most enterprises today are struggling to integrate multiple vendors IP PBXes and legacy TDM systems, said VoiceCon General Manager Fred Knight.
“Something like 60 percent of the new shipments going into U.S. enterprises is IP. That means 40 percent of it isnt. The installed base of [legacy] phone systems is enormous. People will look to see what you can do to leverage your existing TDM network,” he said.
“A company could have PBXes from three or four different vendors,” said Brent Kelly, senior analyst at Wainhouse Research. “Some of the [unified communications] solutions dont work across all these different companies products. If you buy a solution from Cisco, it may not work with full functionality with another PBX you might have.”
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