Coping in a world of IP-based telecom

Plus, will Microsoft’s ploy against Google for online ad revenue pay off?

With all the talk about on-demand software, I'm amazed there isn't as much buzz about other on-demand services, such as telecom. That may be starting to change.

Last week Forrester came out with a report titled “The Four Stages of Enterprise Managed IP Communications.” When I saw this, I immediately started wondering what the stages are. Denial’s gotta be one, for sure. Maybe despair and then resignation? Actually, in this case the stages aren’t as important as Forrester’s fundamental premise, which is that enterprises must be proactive to successfully navigate the coming wave of utility-priced IP-based communications services.

Forrester based its report on a survey of European service providers that are trying to help large enterprises integrate communications applications -- basic and advanced telephony (contact centers), audioconferencing, video, voicemail, and unified messaging -- into a common infrastructure and operational framework. This convergence, notes Forrester, will be enabled by innovations such as service-oriented communication apps and higher-capacity IP networks.

This new “IPC” world, according to Forrester, will offer lower costs and a new unified control layer for better management. But enterprises are struggling to implement IPC because of long ROI payback periods and confusion about how service providers’ offerings fit together. “Business cases for IPC projects don’t stand a chance of approval by the IT budget committees,” says Forrester, given the current state of affairs.

Enter the four stages according to Forrester: 1) visibility, 2) transformation, 3) end-to-end service management, and 4) self-service. First enterprises must take a thorough inventory of all the communications islands in their existing environment (good luck). Then they must switch to utility pricing models and add workflow improvements, focus on security, and do plenty of organizational handholding (good luck). When they’ve transformed, they should make sure they can do automated end-to-end service management, and use portals to let their users self-provision service (ditto).

But wait, there’s more. Don’t forget long-term road-map planning with your IPC vendors, including subcontractors, Forrester counsels.

My guess is that with this many moving parts, a lot of enterprises will stick with the good old-fashioned non-IP dial tone until the landscape becomes clearer. Except those who can really gain competitive advantage by using IPC to better leverage call centers, branch offices, knowledge workers -- whoever is doing the key customer-facing work. Forget SIP -- just get me to a rep in under a minute!

Is Microsoft Losing It? Microsoft got a spanking from Wall Street last week after announcing it would spend an extra couple billion of its gushing profits to bulk up against Google in the online advertising space. Although there’s a legitimate debate about whether online advertising has anything to do with the future of software, the beating Microsoft took was so bad that it implies: 1) Investors don’t believe Microsoft should be betting so heavily on future, speculative products, but should instead save its money for a rainy day; or 2) investors believe Microsoft will blow the extra money on sodas and cigarettes, because it has lost its ability to truly innovate. What do you think?

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