Q&A with Heather Howland, Ascendent Systems
Enterprise voice mobility is about making voice communications as seamless and dynamic as mobile email. What does an enterprise voice mobility solution look like? Who is driving the demand?
Find out answers to these and other questions in this Q&A with Heather Howland from Ascendent Systems, a subsidiary of Research In Motion and leading provider of enterprise voice mobility solutions that provide single number reachability, virtual real-time notification and conferencing, and voice continuity.
BlackBerry Connection (BC): Why is enterprise voice mobility such a hot topic?
Heather Howland (HH): It comes on the heels of what mobile email has done for organizations, in terms of taking responsiveness to new heights. In most enterprises, you have a highly efficient email system in place that people are using to boost response times, to get sales done faster, and to increase customer satisfaction.
But you still have an inefficient, fragmented phone function running alongside it, where everyone is wasting at least some time playing phone tag and checking multiple voice mails.
In a Voice Mobility survey we just conducted at VoiceCon 2007, we asked people to estimate how much time they spent on these very activities. 51% said they waste 20 to 60 minutes per week. Another 43% said they waste one to three hours or more!
So companies are looking at their mobile email solution and wanting to replicate the same kind of efficiency in their voice communications. In fact, 83% of our survey respondents indicated they are actively looking for, or are considering looking for, a voice mobility solution.
BC: What does an enterprise voice mobility solution look like?
HH: Enterprise voice mobility extends the identity and functionality of the corporate PBX to any phone, giving each user single number reachability. The multiple phone numbers that we all carry around with us get consolidated down to one number. So your BlackBerry® smartphone, for example, becomes your virtual desk phone. All calls are made and received using the enterprise dial tone offering the enterprise a true fixed mobile convergence solution.
So mobile users can dial 4-digit extensions, transfer calls, or conference someone into a call just like they could if they were sitting at their desk. As well, multiple voice mailboxes can be consolidated down to one, minimizing the number of mailboxes users have to check through the day.
BC: Who is showing the most interest in enterprise voice mobility?
HH: We’re seeing the most interest from Telecom and IT Directors and the mobile end users themselves.
The surge in mobility over the past 10 years or so has meant that IT departments have lost the control they once had over mobile phone deployments. Many enterprises operate in a multi-vendor, multi-device environment. This creates poor usage visibility which makes it increasingly harder to manage telecom needs.
Enterprise voice mobility brings all the phone activity to the enterprise dial tone, where it can be centrally tracked. This makes it much easier to negotiate carrier rates and control telecom costs.
There is also push from mobile users themselves, because the user experience is so much richer compared to what they may currently have in place. They are the ones who have experienced the pain of having to manage multiple phones and voicemail boxes and voice mobility gives this much more flexibility and confidence that they are not missing an important call and helps them be more responsive.
BC: So voice mobility functionality already exists in some enterprises?
HH: Yes, it exists, but many solutions are so cumbersome that they are under-used.
For example, with some solutions, users have to remember and enter access codes of ten or more digits each time they want to launch a simple function, like transfer a call. In the mobile environment, that just doesn’t work.
They also are limited on the devices that can be used and often only work on a specific PBX.
BC: How does Ascendent’s solution improve on this?
HH: Ascendent has simplified this tremendously with short touch tone commands, like *1 conference, or *2 transfer to voicemail, *3 transfer calls, etcetera. Ascendent can also work with any smartphone and any vendor PBX (IP, TDM, or mixed), giving customers more flexibility with their telecom infrastructure.
BC: What can we expect to see next in enterprise voice mobility?
Well, what’s important with this type of implementation, as with any enterprise deployment is the usability factor. So we talk about two-digit touch tone commands being more user friendly than ten-digit access codes, and that’s very true, but what’s really groundbreaking is our latest usability enhancement.
Ascendent is launching a BlackBerry integrated client that lets users launch enterprise phone features using a simple visual interface. So users will see a menu pop-up that clearly shows a selection of available phone functions like 4-5 digit extension dialing, transfer, and park. These functions can be launched with comparative ease, within the familiar BlackBerry interface.
When you incorporate these corporate telephony features with email, data apps and instant messaging on a BlackBerry smartphone, you have a powerful tool for unified communications. Mobile users now have their entire office, including their desk phone, on their BlackBerry smartphone.
Heather Howland is Senior Manager, Marketing at Ascendent Systems, a subsidiary of Research In Motion.
Visit Ascendent Systems at WES 2007
See the new Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite at Booth # 231
Download Ascendent System’s Voice Mobility Survey from VoiceCon 2007