IT Brief New Zealand - Technology news for CIOs & IT decision-makers
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Presence is the new dial tone
Wed, 10th Oct 2012
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Communications has traditionally been about a device with numeric identity; for many people there were multiple devices and numbers to consider.

How did you know which number to get them on?

This number and device approach often leads to significant delays in getting the right information with seemingly endless to-ing and fro-ing via email and games of phone tag.

Unified communications is leading a shift away from number-centred communication to people-centric communication via a combination of voice, video, instant messaging and traditional email.

This gives people within an organisation more context about the availability of others prior to contacting them, and presenting people as a single identity rather than a disparate list of random numbers.

Instead of just dialling, a person's profile can be viewed to find out about their role, areas of expertise, availability, and how they would prefer to be contacted. This transition from device to presence is significantly improving productivity and response times in organisations, as well as allowing staff to work from anywhere.

No longer are people chained to a single desk in order to be closely located to a traditional phone line. Presence, which is enabled by unified communications technology, is quickly becoming the new dial tone.

Context comes of age

People have different preferences for how they like to engage with others while working. In the past this has been hard to determine.

Presence adds context and gives people the ability to see when others are available, and the degree of their availability. It’s about more than just available versus unavailable.

It's critical to give the end user the capability to customise their presence based on their work styles and availability at that moment in time. The more places you can get presence information from and the more people you give it to, the greater the value of the unified communications platform.

How well these solutions integrate with key business applications determines whether it will be used to best effect. Before investing it is important to find out how the solution will interact with existing and future office productivity applications.

As unified communications is extended outside the organisation in B2B scenarios, it is essential that employees are familiar with the presence concept and actively engage with available tools.

Some organisations are already benefiting from presence federation, which allows employees to have visibility of the presence information of customers and suppliers, even if they are using different unified communications solutions.

The consumer wave

Presence is also working its way into consumer communications with Skype and social networks; it won't be long before these channels become vital B2C and C2B communications tools.

0800 numbers used to be the norm for interacting with an organisation, but now Skype and social network IM functions are creating new ways to engage with companies, which may lead to quicker responses.

The new communication tools available and the inclusion of presence via a unified communication is transforming the way we do business.

Companies throughout New Zealand are fast adopting this technology, reporting significant savings in travel, time and conferencing.

These tools provide greater flexibility within an organisation, giving employees the ability to be productive and effectively communicate with colleagues, no matter where they are – making working from anywhere a reality.

By Paul Dolley, Microsoft Solutions Specialist, Enterprise Voice, Microsoft New Zealand