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Is Business Ready for Enterprise Communications Everywhere?


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July 07, 2006

Is Business Ready for Enterprise Communications Everywhere?

By David Hattey
TMCnet Columnist

Getting enterprise voice services on a mobile phone is an important achievement toward the full world of enterprise communications everywhere.

While enterprise adoption of IP telephony is gaining momentum, the industry has also made important strides towards a new kind of enterprise mobility.

For many mobile professionals, ‘enterprise communications everywhere’ is only possible for email, which is an important—but not the most important—service for many. Getting enterprise voice services on a mobile phone is an important achievement toward the full world of enterprise communications everywhere.

In previous executive assignments, I maintained simultaneous access to an IP PBX from my home office, regional office and corporate headquarters. The productivity enabled me to have seamless access to customers, colleagues and system features and brought tremendous benefit to my assistant, my organization and me. However, I still couldn’t access enterprise voice features from locations other than these three office locations.

The industry now has the tools to address that opportunity. Handhelds are already smarter than PCs of five years ago; broadband IP connectivity via cellular or WiFi (News - Alert) is increasingly the norm; and the IP-PBX, carrier and VoIM industry consolidation around Session Initiation Protocol (News - Alert) as the mechanism for call control have come together to enable a new breakthrough in mobility. I literally have all the features of my desk phone—call screening, call forward/transfer, call conference, corporate directory, corporate voicemail—all in my pocket, anywhere I go!

To examine how the broader market feels about enterprise communication everywhere, my company, FirstHand Technologies, polled enterprise communication users. The survey asked respondents to consider a world in which enterprise communications features are available everywhere via their smart phones or dual-mode phones.

In our survey, more than one-third (35 percent) of respondents said that half or more of all telephone calls that they receive or make for work purposes take place with their mobile phone. The business users surveyed appear to be relatively sophisticated as some 58 percent of respondents said they already use Instant Messaging services either frequently or very frequently. Another 23 percent said they use this feature occasionally.

The study revealed that Directory Search and Call Screening are perceived as the most useful features of those that are often available on enterprise IP PBXs and that could be placed on mobile phones.

Directory Search is a service in which any employee can be reached using a search window on a cell phone. Users enter the name of the person they are the seeking and the server searches for his or her name. In response, presence statuses such as ‘on-the phone’ or ‘in a meeting’ are displayed on the screen. Once the result is returned, users can click to instant message or call the identified person. Some 84 percent of respondents said the feature would be useful or very useful to them on a mobile phone.

Call screening is a service in which all calls placed to an office extension are made visible to the worker’s mobile phone by presenting an on-screen choice of accepting the call, transferring it, or sending it to the company voicemail. Some 82 percent of respondents said call screening would be useful or very useful on a mobile phone.

Instant messaging (IM) was the third most useful feature in the survey. With this service, a mobile user and all of his/her colleagues are available for instant messaging from a mobile phone. Mobile users are given the option to click-to-call or click-to-IM. They can send real-time text messages securely to colleagues’ cell phones or computers and gain insights into whether colleagues are in meetings, on the phone or offline.

Interestingly, almost half (48 percent) of respondents said that if these features were available but not on their current model of cell phone, they would purchase a different mobile phone to access these features. Of course, the other half would simply wait until the current device breaks or wears out to replace it.

Clearly, the results from this survey show that enterprise users want to be part of the enterprise communications everywhere world; a good number of them would even toss away their current mobile device and buy one that enabled these features.

The good news is that these capabilities are becoming available using today’s IP PBXs and emerging mobility technology. Those of fortunate enough to get an advance view of these capabilities are amazed with the productivity and freedom that comes from being completely un-tethered while maintaining all the features of our desk phones in our pockets.


David Hattey is president and CEO of FirstHand Technologies, an innovator in mobile VoIP software for enterprise use. He can be reached at


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