Legacy IP Telephony?

I was having a conversation the other day with one of my colleagues, and we were discussing IP Telephony and its ubiquity around us today and its acceptance into mainstream culture. I remember when this certainly wasn’t the case, with many sceptics arguing against the ability of the network to host this business critical function. Another conversation with one of our senior management team alluded to the fact that we just don’t seem to be doing as much IP Telephony work as we used to. Personally I think this is because IPT in the main just works, its a commodity that many companies offer. I have even set up a linux based IPT solution at home for my wife’s business, running across broadband with two other sites connected via VPN, It works just fine.  IP Telephony is now a very well established technology and barring incremental updates, companies expect that their IP Telephony system will function much as their previous legacy TDM PBX systems did.

These conversations prompted me to think about the question “why are we not selling as much IPT as we used to“. My take on this is as follows, IP Telephony as it has been deployed for a number of years now is really a legacy system too. I’m not saying its anywhere near a dying medium, but telephony and indeed communication both in and out of the workplace is changing dramatically. In much the same way that mobile telephony experienced the smartphone revolution, a combining of abilities and functionality to a handheld device; modern telephony and communication systems are expected to do much more in the modern world of communication and collaboration. Lets face it, IPT is no more likely to be discarded wholesale than the population of mobile phone users discard all mobile phones that are not smartphones; both have valid business applications but the benefits derived from each is very different.

If you take communication on a human level, lets consider the following, if you are talking to someone face to face, you have the visual and vocal stimuli. Its harder to misinterpret something someone says in this type of communication. You can then draw, point, share, and enhance the conversation using any tools that may be at your disposal. This engenders trust, familiarity and good communication between the parties involved. How many times have you either misunderstood or been misunderstood as a result of a phone call or email? This is because certain aspects of the communicative process is missing from these communication mediums.

In addition I’m sure many of you have experienced the pain of telephone tag, where you seem to be constantly leaving voice messages for the person you are trying to get on the phone and vice versa. Then you might follow that up with an email and still not get the response in the timeframe you need. Modern communication and working practices have been blended with the always on, anytime, anyplace mentality, meaning people want to contact and communicate in the same manner.

Its certainly much better to know whether the person you want to speak to is currently on the phone or away their desk before you make that call (presence), its good to have the ability to use IM to communicate instantly and seeing your recipients availability status rather than waiting for email exchanges, to be able to escalate the IM to voice or video and then to share your screen to collaborate on information in a timely manner, in some cases disregarding time and location boundaries. These types of communication bring us closer to the types of interaction we can have on a personal basis, leaving less room for miscommunication and misunderstanding, but also saving time and money in the process.

In addition to the aforementioned changes to working practices, there is another aspect that requires consideration. Regardless of the technology types we use to allow the business to communicate, the technology should not stand in the way of effective communication and should for the most part be transparent. There is also the need to take into account that most times, multiple communication and collaboration technologies exist in different technology streams in the same organisation, and there needs to be an integration of these enabling technologies within the workplace. However, I’ve seen too many times the lines of communication in business break down, leaving issues and bad feelings rather than a coming together of minds to enable solutions. The challenge then is twofold, firstly does your chosen communication platform allow your employees and partners to communicate to really get the best from each other; and how you migrate from a legacy IPT platform to one that can support your business and communication needs?

From a personal perspective, we do well to ask ourselves, do I understand the change in communication requirements that exist right now, have I reached out to my existing customer base to assist them in this journey and how do you transform a legacy IPT environment into the next generation communication platform needed for todays world……..give me a call, tweet or reach me on IM – ashleyr@computacenter.onmicrosoft.com

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