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Think Differently About Email Technology
IP communications and its role in successful customer relations.
Posted Mar 1, 2007
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Over the past 10 years email and internal email servers have become the mainstay for both enterprise communications and the establishment of "presence" (user@domain) on the Internet. Clearly, identity, brand, mobility, and control over the often sensitive data or trade secrets contained in communications are crucial for enterprise systems. Central to these communications is the value that they bring to the client/customer relationship. Successful interaction starts with successful communication. Enterprise reliance on email for business communications and processes is staggering. Despite the overwhelming affinity for email communications, email server technology in use today consistently ranks as the number one problem for enterprise IT departments. Email technology woes are no stranger to the worker, nor the IT manager. Poor technology or administration can lead to enormous losses in productivity. As organizations now depend upon email as the vital link to the customer, it has become the mission-critical application to maintain and provide absolute uptime. However, many of the solutions on the market have failed to live up to this demand, and both users and IT departments have become skeptical of security and uptime promises. Given the widespread dissatisfaction with email, it is amazing that most people I speak with on the subject quickly reveal that they have almost come to expect patches, fixes, and unexpected downtime from their messaging solution, with no relief in sight. I'm also shocked that these same people are dreading the next email server upgrade, as if they didn't expect any value or new productivity to come of it. Few of the people I spoke with were even aware of alternative solutions, especially those that deliver carrier grade performance and reliability. Even more confusion ensues surrounding the topic of new communications mediums, such as IM, presence, VoIP, and video; rather than being excited about the potential value of such functionality, most executives and IT managers see nothing more than a headache. Ultimately, their experience with legacy Internet communications platforms has soured them. C-level executives now understand the end-user productivity and customer responsiveness created from such technology advances as IM, presence, and real-time communications; this directly translates into a higher degree of customer satisfaction and greater sales. But the lack of confidence in the technologies available to them in the past, coupled with the exposure to security and regulations, is overwhelmingly evident. The rapid growth and abuse of email (i.e., spam, security hacks, and viruses) has made email systems a nightmare to most IT administrators and end users.
Enterprises today are at a unique juncture, with both their IT and telephony departments quickly becoming one. To increase employee productivity and consequently customer response time, the solutions that this new IT department must deploy are IP communications for all forms of media, including voice, IM, presence, video, email, and calendaring, with hooks into data sources and Web applications. Consolidation, touch points with open APIs, and tight integration will allow IT departments to run this new set of services without many of the issues and pain points we saw with email. The core of a good IP communications solution is a flexible and scalable platform that can deliver these applications while maintaining adaptability as business operations change. Isn't it time to look at the core communications platform, and decide if it's an appropriate foundation on which to build such crucial infrastructure? C-level executives need to address the incorporation of new IP communications functionality into existing business operations. Where can competitive advantages be attained? By introducing users to rich applications that use calendaring to schedule and make automated calls, or smart voicemail systems, productivity will increase. Brand and identity will be important, and establishment of technology that will ensure a single address space (user@domain.com) will be central for consolidation of these new communications mediums. Be aware of solutions that do not offer rich APIs, open development, open standards or interoperability, proven scalability, and an open track record of security and innovation. Too often, IT decisions are made based on expense considerations or implementation costs and not on what the benefits of improved internal and external communications will be. Expenses are easier to measure when real increases in productivity are realized. As the working population matures and younger generations take its place, we will see much more adoption of technologies like IM, presence, and mobility. These technologies, while today more widespread in consumer-based and often younger populations, are now finding their way into the enterprise. Many of the old battles surrounding corporate email can be leveraged and learned from with vendors that truly understand unified Internet communications. Enterprises should take a hard look at their platform and decide if they can continue building upon legacy infrastructure, or if it's time to adapt to new technology and incorporate a truly unified communications platform. Ultimately, companies should be ready to adapt and design IP communications around the business, not the other way around. In the end, it's what's good for the customer. About the Author Jon Doyle is vice president of business development at CommuniGate Systems. Jon can be reached at 415-383-7164 or communigate@lewispr.com. Please visit www.communigate.com.
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