(This article originally appeared in the January 2008 issue of Internet Telephony magazine.)
What with VoIP
, IP-PBXs, managed services and fixed-mobile convergence, there is plenty of activity and even more hype in enterprise communications. But what’s really important? When we look back from 2020, what will have been the key change of the late 2000s?
From our vantage today, fax was the clear advance of the 1980s. Prior to 1985, enterprise communications consisted of voice telephony, paper memoranda and snail mail. Suddenly in the late-1980s, fax spread everywhere. In the 1990s, the biggest advance in internal enterprise communications was the adoption of email, completely superseding paper memos, while the biggest external change was the adoption of websites as the primary corporate communications vehicle.
VoIP and managed services, yes but…
Today there is no doubt that VoIP, IP-PBXs and the spread of managed communications services are having a big, big impact on IT departments and on the way small business owners purchase their communications services. Affordable broadband connectivity makes managed services feasible while business owners and IT directors welcome the chance to purchase such critical but non-core functions in a reliable fashion at a known cost.
But the impact of VoIP or managed VoIP on business processes and employee behavior is negligible. The services of an IP PBX
are remarkably similar to the services of a traditional PBX (News - Alert). Video conferences may cost less over IP, but they work the same as video over ISDN. Managed services will have major impact on the way small and medium enterprise communications are implemented, but for what those services are we need to look at what employees are doing.
Employees seek mobility
Typically it’s employees who bring new, useful technology to work or who use departmental budgets to bypass corporate systems. That’s the history of fax machines, PCs, mobile phones, the Blackberry, SMS and instant messaging (IM).
The biggest change in telecom today isn’t VoIP or managed services, it’s mobile phones. Mobility provides profound personal and business advantages and the built-in phonebook alone makes the mobile phone more convenient than any corporate handset.
But fixed-mobile convergence is in its infancy. We don’t have “presence” (i.e. availability information) on our mobile phones. SMS and IM serve similar purposes but remain disjoint. So there’s much work to do.
We’re at the beginning of a decade-plus revolution in enterprise communication. Managed services will play a big role, but the real change in business behavior will come from the integration of mobile communications — voice, text, e-mail and availability. Getting this right is the business opportunity of the decade. IT
Brough Turner (News - Alert) is Senior VP of Technology, CTO and Co-Founder of NMS Communications.