Over the last year I’ve seen more changes in the phone system market than at other time during my 21 years in telecommunications. The changes themselves are not simply related to new hardware, but more so to a drastic evolution in customer expectations over what their phone systems can, should, and will deliver. While dealing with these sorts of new trends is certainly proving to be a challenge, they also make the otherwise mundane world of telecom much more interesting.
While some customers are just looking for the traditional telecom solution, most people these days are seeking advanced applications. In fact, the market buzzwords, the features we find ourselves talking the most about, in order of priority are: Mobility and SIP. In this article’s discussion I will delve into Mobility, and explore SIP in the next one.
The New Mobility
It wasn’t that long ago that the concept of the remote worker was nothing but a pipedream. If you tried to call someone at their office extension and they weren’t there you would have to leave a message. Simply put, no answer at your desk extension meant you weren’t reachable.
But then the market took its first steps towards true mobility, offering the now ubiquitous feature of mobile twinning. Available now for several years, twinning refers to ringing both your desk and cellphone simultaneously and the ability to toggle between both. But truthfully, mobility, at least in this conversation, extends well beyond that, now including the full gamut of remotely connected tools; including everything–your smartphone, laptop, browser, remote IP softphone, and desk phone–into one connected mobile package.
In fact, there are innumerable options available for the remote worker, at least in the context of voice, that now allow anyone to extend their office extension to a remote work destination, meaning, of course, that if you so choose, the days of being unreachable are gone… forever.
This new age of mobility is defined by enhanced integration and constant remote connection, and Avaya’s recent One X Mobile app for my iPhone is a great example of both. While I’m still currently playing with the various features of this multifaceted app, with it I can view and change my online status between available, not available, busy, and do not disturb (DND), all from my iPhone client. Changing my status will then, in turn, change my visibility to all who have presence awareness, through either their PC or office extension. For example, if I change my status to “DND” from my iPhone and a co-worker tries to call me from their office extension they will see the DND message on their phone when they call.
Further, I can listen to voicemail messages from within my iPhone client and chat with co-workers using the built-in IM tool. Better yet, this app is fully connected to my Gmail presence and chat functionality, meaning that if I set my availability to “busy” in Gmail it will change my status on my phone as well. Again, enhanced integration and constant remote connection…and this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, with these sorts of integrated mobility tools I can make calls from my cellphone and have those calls traverse the office phone system and provide my outbound office DID, name, and number, just as if I was calling from my desk extension.
For the travelling remote worker this feature is invaluable, as what normally would be a long distance call made from my cell (or laptop) is now a local call made over Wi-Fi as if it was my office extension. In fact, any long distance calls made from my cell actually originates from my office LD.
For those interested in video communication, if I am communicating with someone who has a video client, for simplicities sake lets say someone using Skype from their iPad, I can video session with them using my Mac Avaya softphone client, which is actually my office extension. I’ve now got desk-to-desk video calling if and when I need it, both remotely and in the office.
In this new age of mobility the reality is that I can effectively work for an entire day, whether from my Windows PC, Mac laptop, cellphone, or even home phone, as if I’m in the office. I can get my voicemail, messages, and dial from within my email client (this is actually old stuff), create a multi-party conference call from my iPhone or desk phone, and for those that run a call centre, extend all of these features to agents (from inside and outside the office) and still get full statistical reporting.
As I said before, the world of telecom is often mundane, but I never get tired of seeing the expression on the faces of current or prospective clients when I explain these features, particularly the faces of those working in the old style office extension manner. It’s a look of absolute bewilderment and awe as they realize just how far the world of telecom has come in the last few years (particularly this past year). Unfortunately many of these features are well beyond the technical skill of the general populace, but there will definitely be a day when they will be commonplace.
In the end, the one downside to all of this connectivity is that it makes it harder to disconnect!