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VoIP Magazine on MS Unified Communications

Bryan Richards, editor-in-chief of VoIP Magazine.com, has a go at Microsoft’s Unified Communications Strategy.  In main, he wonders about the value, writing:

“It’s all very interesting technology but seems a bit much to make a phone call even if it is just to leave a voice mail.”

and…

“making a phone ring when someone is at their desk is helpful, but its far from a revolution in productivity.”

It’s hard to disagree, and that’s the reason I called the announcement a damp squib. It’s the intersection of the fundamentals of presence and business processes that will provide the value that customers are looking for.  That intersection will happen in three phases:

  1. implementation of presence infrastructure – the servers, etc that are capable of managing presence information.
  2. automation of presence setting – relieving human beings of the necessity to set and review presence status.  If this step doesn’t happen, nobody will use presence.
  3. new applications dependent on presence.

An example I know well, obviously, is the iotum relevance engine.  It performs many of the functions of a human assistant, in respect of managing telephone calls.  It is dependent on presence, and both uses and performs automated presence setting. With the presence feature (and many other sources of input) it is able to predict the relevance of a communications request, and your likelihood to want to take that call.  The fact that it can ring the correct phone is merely the icing on the cake.

Presence, by itself, is a hard sell. It doesn’t indicate anything about the users receptivity to a communications request.  It simply reflects physicality.  And that’s why presence, as implemented today, is broken.  The tragedy is that many people are turning the feature off, because their only experience of it is IM which can be as large a productivity drain as email.  Its potential is still waiting in the wings.

Microsoft’s announcements, while interesting, are about infrastructure and automation.  They’re not yet about changing the world, and, won’t be able to even begin until late 2007.  If you’re interested in experiencing what that world can be like today, check out offerings from Communigate, or from their hosted partner, Versature, here in Ottawa.  Versature will also be making the iotum Relevance Engine available to their customers shortly.

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