Advances in technology are enabling organizations to communicate faster to address their business needs
Enterprises today are confronted with an array of responsibilities with a pressing need to communicate regularly with employees, customers, partners, suppliers and shareholders. Ubiquity is a bedrock value in communication technologies. The advances in technology have changed the fabric of the business community—getting woven into every thread.
Changes in business perspective have necessitated organisations to manage time and business relationships globally. An array of technologies such as e-mail, SMS, fax, pager, voicemail, conferencing solutions, streaming media and instant messaging help in communication. Guaranteed service acknowledgement as offered by FedEx has enhanced traditional features and capabilities of snail mail.
Organisations today have moved from traditional private branch exchange (PBX) systems to IP-PBX system in search of greater value. Organisations wanting to address their compelling business issues have switched to Internet telephony. It offers transporting communication services such as voice, facsimile and voice messaging applications via the Internet, rather than over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
E-mail has been the dominant group working application. It is dominated by open standards such as simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), Internet message access protocols (IMAP), post office protocol (POP3). SMTP controls delivery to the server. IMAP allows a client to access a server that stores all e-mail folders centrally; POP3 requires users to download and manage their messages locally. The Business community has realised the problems with this form of communication with the rapid increase in the number of e-mail users. E-mail is inherently inefficient as much content is duplicated. There is a migration towards highly distributed common discussion group platform such as Usenet News to resolve these problems. This presents a threaded view display with direct reference to all the messages.
To reap business benefits in terms of cost and productivity is to communicate ideas among people through Groupware. Groupware works by delivering messages in a structured manner with varying degrees of privacy and priority. Corporations have shifted to solutions such as Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Notes, Lotus Notes, Novell’s GroupWise and Microsoft Exchange that provide better security and structured content delivery to appropriate groups in contrast to e-mail lists.
Facilitating dynamic group creations, peer-to-peer (P2P) communication and others, require that the communication solutions support mobile workgroup, location sensitivity and telephony support. To add flavor to the groupware is the standard session initiation protocol (SIP) and SIP for instant messaging and presence leveraging extensions (SIMPLE). These messaging protocols work along with instant messaging and presence protocol (IMPP) to present a globally accepted standard for instant messaging solutions such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! IM. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the Internet engineering task force (IETF) signaling protocol for global, interoperable real-time communications. With SIP, IP telephony becomes as simple to use as a Web application integrates easily into other Internet services.
To accommodate spontaneous and scheduled business transactions, corporations go in for audio conferencing that has the capability to handle communication needs ranging from brainstorming sessions to online meetings. But for situations where presentations are a necessity, a visual collaboration technology called Web conferencing is essential. This brings an in-person experience by enabling a collaborative visual environment with tools such as shared whiteboard.
Chat tools give the ability to manage collaboration. It aids in sharing of PC applications such as presentations, documents among the participants. These audio and Web conferencing solutions employ the existing devices such as telephone and personal computers connected to the Internet.
To eliminate scheduling and managing dual conferences, the business community uses integrated conferencing solutions that incorporate both audio and Web capabilities giving a seamless conferencing experience. Video conferencing solutions give the user a virtual environment for face-to-face contact in addition to the capabilities offered by audio and Web conferencing software.
Streaming media facilitates one-to-many business communications. Multipoint conferencing solutions add the ability to extend the reach of communication across multiple locations. It supports continuous presence, camera switching to enable people to see everyone on a multipoint call. The technology is becoming the best solution for meetings, online education, training, conferences, etc.
Some common misconceptions about enterprise communication technologies, are now being addressed due to the technical advancements:
Hitch In Moving From TDM To Pure-IP
Contact centers, which have already invested in TDM infrastructure, used to consider investing in pure-IP strategy as an unfruitful investment and a waste of resources. However, pure-IP does not mean scrapping legacy circuit switched products. It rather ensures the smooth migration, leveraging existing infrastructure with gradual change to a pure-IP network. This misconception supports the hybrid-IP approach. However, many contact centers will find that introducing a hybrid-IP approach will in fact lead to a longer migration to IP and at a greater expense for the contact center.
Lack Of Reliability
A common misconception about pure-IP contact centers is their lack of reliability. However, in the last couple of years, service providers of packet switched data communications services have been successfully able to come out with robust and redundant infrastructure, providing highly reliable service. Wicom’s contact center solution is worth mentioning here.
Poor Voice Quality
Another broad misconception has been of poor voice quality in a pure-IP environment. But that is not true, as many contact centers utilising pure-IP technology have reported excellent voice quality, which can be compared to TDM service. For enterprises, pure-IP comes in the form of a managed corporate network, not the public Internet, which still remains questionable for voice traffic.
In the past, due to the immaturity of voice over IP (VoIP), scalability was an issue for IP contact centers. Now with pure-IP technology, contact centers are able to quickly and efficiently scale up or down as needed on a site-by-site basis.
Technology Application Areas
Each industry vertical taps the potential of an enterprise communication technology differently. The following are a few examples:
The clinical departments can collaborate together without the constraints of conflicting schedules. Online meetings help them manage project communication and collaborations among the physicians, employees, vendors and contractors. Organisational communication and collaboration solutions offer the healthcare workers full mobility. By sharing medical resources available in a central repository, skilled physicians provide their diagnostic assistance to remote areas. It is now possible to systematically track projects.
Healthcare departments manage scarce resources, making cost reduction for labour and for voice and data communications an essential aspect. IP telephony offers a proven path for cost reduction in communication.
Person-to-person communication through IP enables enterprises of all sizes to increase revenues and reduce costs. Customer service agents who are physically distributed provide a centralised service offering better resource utilisation and business flexibility. It helps balance demand across time and locations. Location independence functionality helps match the needs of every person, function and service.
Collaboration between distributed scientists and researchers throughout the world is possible. Today, students and professionals participate in online discussions and classrooms.
Banking And Finance
The unified mode to receive voice, video and data enhances productivity of sedentary and on-the-fly staff. It reduces maintenance costs by managing a single, integrated voice, video and data network in a central location, rather than maintaining separate voice and data networks in many locations. It enhances customer experience by decreasing their idle time, provides customised value-added services after customer identification, bridges a communication channel between the customer and the expert advisors, and makes services available in the most remote locations.
IP Conferencing helps easy connectivity to pioneers across the bank channels. It also improves employee satisfaction—provides ease of connectivity to people after detecting their availability, reduces time spent in unsuccessful attempts, employee education enables them
to understand the service and thereby resolve issues effectively. IBM enhanced enterprise communication solution for the banking sector is a noteworthy technology here.
Software companies, real estate, government, industrial and retail resort to communication technologies to empower on-the-fly and distributed decision makers and to make collaborative communications in real-time. Information Technology departments, media firms, brokerage houses, financial institutions use instant messaging tools to notify employees, customers and others, and implement group communications and messaging.
Technology Adoption Benefits
The following are the two most important benefits that can be extracted from the advanced software packages available in this domain.
Business Continuity And Desktop Productivity
Deployment of emergency notification and escalation services help locate any person, any group, anywhere, at any time, and at the same time deliver alerts and strategic intelligent information simultaneously across virtually every available communications device. It is possible to deliver high-speed acknowledged communications via landline, cell phone, e-mail, pagers, SMS, fax and satellite phone to individuals, employee desktops.
In case of unavailability, it is now possible for emergency departments to contact the emergency worker through phone, e-mail, and pager and organise an interactive mode of channel so as to ensure service by him. Emergency operation centers are able to provide better service since messages are tailored to the first responders with specific expertise. It effectively speeds up and enhances quality and reliability of communication.