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Moving Corporate Solutions Into the Cloud

Posted: 09/1999

Moving Corporate Solutions Into the Cloud
By Pamela Thompson

Enhanced services typically have been structured as independent service offerings by
separate business units within a single service provider. In a PTT, for instance, it is
common for the wireless, Internet and wireline providers to each have implemented their
own enhanced services solutions. These legacy-enhanced services are offered independently
by auto-nomous business units and are not integrated as a single enhanced service.

Initially, this approach made sense because legacy-enhanced services platforms lacked
the flexibility to run multiple applications, were unable to run on multiple networks and
determined customers based on network types. Individual business units within the service
provider organization chose the platform provider that best suited the needs of their
users. Consequently, service providers replicated investments and expenses with redundant
platforms and personnel. Additionally, end users of more than one of their service
offerings, which recently has become a fast-growing number, were not
well-served–receiving messages into separate mailboxes, with access limited to unique
devices. As a result, many of these enhanced services offerings have resulted in increased
end-user churn, rather than increased end-user loyalty, through the creation of new value.

Add to this market diffusion the fact that enterprises have invested heavily in their
own enhanced services infrastructure and personnel. Enterprises saw themselves as running
a captive telecommunications operation, buying only basic bandwidth from the public
network. The public network could not serve the enterprise well due to its closed,
proprietary solutions aimed at mass-market deployment. The lack of unification,
interoperability and extensibility resulting from these incompatible enhanced services
solutions limits the effectiveness and reach of today’s messaging services.

When both service providers and enterprises can get the solutions they need from a
single enhanced services platform, they will realize significant reduction in redundant
costs. Furthermore, if these new platforms also provide mechanisms that facilitate gradual
migration from legacy platforms, it is only a matter of time before they are unified and
brought into the cloud.

Assessing the Opportunity

The spate of recent investments in next-generation networks based on Internet protocol
(IP) has created ample opportunity for significant changes in the telecommunications
infrastructure. One example is the eventual displacement of the traditional enterprise
private branch exchange (PBX). These next-gen network investments in the
telecommunications infrastructure ultimately will result in their change from being
largely closed and proprietary to open and standards-based, much like the PC industry.
With this openness will come the rich features, flexibility and control demanded by
enterprises. In addition, openness will enable the extensibility required for gradual
migration to the full benefits of unified messaging. Finally, the resulting cost
reductions will make outsourcing a compelling and cost-efficient consideration.

Once these technical and financial hurdles are addressed, change is inevitable–slowed
only by organizational inertia. However, as evidenced by the corporate adoption of
Internet or intranet messaging, motivated mainly by attempts to overcome the challenges
created by multinational branch offices, the inertia can be overcome. The needs of
mid-level end users have driven the move to Internet and intranet solutions. These users
could envision the added benefits of broader communications reach. Many today, however,
enjoy a broad communications reach from a feature-rich enterprise solution in the
workplace and a different and often limited solution at home.

The goal of next-gen messaging applications is to "unify" complicated
messaging applications, thereby reducing redundant cost. Users can access, respond to and
be notified of voice mail, e-mail and/or fax mail messages through common interfaces,
using myriad devices, across a wide variety of networks.

In practice, this type of flexible messaging is what really matters to end users. The
most effective way to deliver this next-gen messaging is to provide end users with the
messaging applications that best meet their individual needs, based on the kind of
devices/messaging applications/usage patterns they desire. Following are just a few of the
benefits that end users can expect from next-gen messaging, as well as some of the factors
carriers should consider in providing these solutions.

Understanding the User

First, it is crucial to understand the various user groups–their characteristics,
telecom usage habits and purchasing patterns.

* Home Office/Consumers (1-4 people)–There is a greater awareness of public
messaging services and, accordingly, a growing demand for improved messaging, due to the
explosive growth in wireless voice and Internet services. Consumers in single-line homes
recognize traditional telephone answering machines do not activate while accessing the
web. They also are cognizant that public messaging is a promising alternative to a second
line. While emphasizing simplicity and low-bundled or "pay-as-you-use" pricing
models, consumers require a messaging service that is both wireline- or wireless-phone
accessible, and, if they are heavy Internet users, web-accessible, also. Finally, these
users value "hands-free wireless" and multidevice "message-waiting
indicator" features. They have a lower urgency and complexity to their communications
needs relative to business users. They tend to be more voice-centric and either directed
to family and/or business associates, or externally directed and highly varied. Therefore,
white/yellow pages along with a unified address book spanning an array of messaging and
real-time communications devices are essential.

* Small Business (5-50 people)–Small-business users have similar needs to the
home office/consumer user, however, their communications are more internally directed, so
a basic company directory with distribution list features is key. In addition,
small-business users require e-mail solutions, with basic calendar collaboration. Since
business e-mail users retain messages as a history or information base to track their
business interactions, it is essential to have disaster recovery backup services for all
business segments.

* Mid-Sized Business (51-500 people)–The needs of mid-sized business users are
similar to that of the small-business group. However, they have a greater need for
internal communications, therefore they require advanced company directories and
distribution lists and enhanced calendar and public folder collaboration. Their pricing
model typically is a capital decision, so they generally are less price-sensitive. They
have a higher proportion of e-mail messages, with a greater complexity to their messages.
They are entrenched users of enterprise e-mail solutions, and invest in their own
information technology (IT) and telecommunications infrastructure. To that end,
outsourcing IT services requires a new pricing model and a seamless migration path that
allows for gradual replacement of current assets.

* Enterprise (501+ people)–With similar needs compared to those of the
mid-sized business, the enterprise also must deal with the additional challenges created
by serving multilingual, distributed multinational, branch and home offices. They are
users of enterprise e-mail solutions who own their IT and telecommunications
infrastructure, which often are integrated directly with their business processes.
Therefore, line organizations typically are reluctant to consider alternatives to their
corporate messaging applications. They are the least price-sensitive of the categories,
and their pricing model to date has been a capital decision.

Selecting a Unified Messaging Provider

The desire to simplify messaging for users of voice mail, e-mail and fax makes it
prudent to look for next-gen messaging solutions. It also is imperative to simplify
messaging for all users of telephony, computing, cellular phone and next-gen devices
(wireless devices with sophisticated graphical user interfaces [GUIs]), by providing a
single mailbox with common interfaces for all types of messages, accomplishing:

  • Minimal change in end-user behavior, which is necessary when dovetailing with familiar
    e-mail/Internet messaging services. For consumers, this may mean voice mail integrated
    with web portal-based e-mail. For the business user, it might mean the integration with
    Microsoft’s Exchange Server or IBM Lotus Notes;
  • Intuitive telephone interface design–real-time adaptation, knowing when users need help
    or streamlining as they require less;
  • End-user provisioning–a primary benefit of unified messaging to service providers;
  • Unified personal address book–facilitates broader communications reach; and
  • Interoperable/message networking using industry standards–for gradual migration.

Evaluating Solution Types

When deploying public unified messaging solutions, service providers need to understand
the implications of client-integrated vs. server-integrated vs. server-unified messaging
solutions. There are a number of solution options available, which need to be considered
from the context of providing tiered offerings and moving enterprise solutions to the
cloud.

* Client-integrated solutions provide a unified view of messages for the client.
This allows the end user to use his or her current e-mail client, while accessing voice
and fax messages, too. However, it does not permit the end user to access e-mail via the
telephone user interface. It can make message notification more complicated, since it
needs to be activated on two servers. This solution allows the end user to pay for the
level of sophistication he or she desires by unbundling the e-mail from voice and fax
messaging solutions. This can be a low-cost solution, which is an excellent approach for
targeting the more price-sensitive consumers (home office and small business users) who
may not need telephony access to e-mail.

* The server-integrated solution offers similar benefits to the
client-integrated process, but it also provides a unified view of all message types via
both the telephone user interface and GUI of their existing e-mail client. This solution
permits use of current e-mail solutions, yet also results in some compromise to
collaboration and messaging notification.

The server-integrated solution also can be accomplished as a web-integrated server,
using custom web pages and supporting popular thick and thin browsers. This may be a
viable alternative for customers who want the benefits of a server-integrated solution
such as mobile users, next-gen device users or price-sensitive customers.

* The server-unified solution results in a single message store, which means all
messages can be accessed by both graphical and telephone user interfaces. Careful
consideration of evolving capabilities is required to ensure the solution scales with
availability. Enterprise solutions bring rich collaboration and message notification. This
is a feature-rich, bundled, high-end solution, proficiently targeted for mid-sized
business and enterprise users.

The server-unified solution also can be accomplished as a web-unified server, using
custom web pages and supporting popular thick and thin browsers. This may be a viable
alternative for serving highly mobile users, next-gen device users or price-sensitive
customers who want the benefits of a unified message store.

These three solution models can be distributed using industry Internet standards to
provide a smooth path for the enterprise to migrate gradually.

Pushing Interoperability

The lack of a universally open, unified or interoperable enhanced services platform has
resulted in a great deal of unnecessary redundant cost. Solving these problems will allow
public service providers to provide the feature richness, flexibility and control required
by enterprise users. A compelling business justification for moving enterprise solutions
to the cloud can be made by the significant increase in communication breadth and reach,
coupled with the significant reductions in cost.

There is a tiered segmentation that exists primarily by business size. Each of these
business segments prefers not to lose its existing e-mail. They can adjust to a different
telephone user interface, provided the interface helps them to navigate through change.
The different methods by which e-mail can be incorporated into the unified messaging
solution provide a tiered offering that allows the use of familiar e-mail solutions at
varied price points with tradeoffs in functionality. The use of Internet standards enables
interoperability required to gradually migrate from current legacy solutions to new
solutions in the cloud.

Pamela Thompson Pamela Thompson is vice president of marketing for PulsePoint Communications,
Carpinteria, Calif., a Unisys company. She can be reached by phone at +1 805 566 2091 or
e-mail at pam.thompson@plpt.com

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