Mobile applications lay bare the IT/telephony divide

Open source software will help IT lead the charge toward communications-enabled applications

The growing demand for mobile applications is set to challenge the apprehension that enterprise telephony buyers have toward open source telephony offerings. As IT departments strive to meet new mobile application requirements, they will play a role in driving open source and cloud telephony adoption within enterprises.

The IT-versus-telephony divide

IT and telephony departments are often separate departments, if not fiefdoms, within an enterprise. This historical separation has resulted in markedly different views surrounding open source usage. I learned of this reality when my company (IBM) launched the WebSphere Application Server Feature Pack for Communications Enabled Applications (CEA), and I've since seen this reality play out.

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Open source telephony solutions are not new. However, for enterprise telephony buyers, the risk of any downtime is too great to consider open source alternatives to Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, and other well-established telephony vendors. You can hardly blame enterprise telephony buyers: No one thinks twice about having to refresh a browser if a Web application crashes. But it's a different story if a conference call crashes or a call between a customer and a contact center representative is terminated abruptly.

Still, although you may sympathize with enterprise telephony buyers' risk aversion, their decisions end up restricting how IT departments can respond to user demands for innovative applications aroud communications.

Next-generation mobile applications demand communications enablement
As mobile Web application usage grows, the first step for most businesses will be to deliver today's desktop browser application on a mobile browser. But forward-thinking IT departments and enterprises will look instead to deliver a class of applications beyond those currently available on desktop browsers. In time, the majority of enterprises will follow suit.

These mobile applications will be communications-enabled from the start. Thus, we'll see a couple kinds of applications become the norm:

  • A mobile CRM application that lets a sales executive review a sales lead, and within the application itself, call one of his or her direct reports, based on presence availability and personalization information, and jointly browse through the sales lead data online while speaking over the phone.
  • A mobile retailer application that lets buyers co-shop online using desktop and/or mobile devices, and if required, call the toll-free number and be routed to the appropriate contact center representative, based on browsing history, without having to traverse automated call menus.
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