Commentary
1/17/2007
06:06 PM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
Commentary

Communication Breakdown

Unified communications has a new road map thanks to a partnership between industry giants Nortel and Microsoft. They suggest that by breaking down the barriers separating e-mail, voice, instant messaging and video conferencing, a new era of communications will arrive. Sounds so warm and cuddly. Can they really pull it off?



Unified communications has a new road map thanks to a partnership between industry giants Nortel and Microsoft. They suggest that by breaking down the barriers separating e-mail, voice, instant messaging and video conferencing, a new era of communications will arrive. Sounds so warm and cuddly. Can they really pull it off?The alliance between Microsoft and Nortel, formed six months ago, was devised to improve the role of communications and make it easier for businesses to manage the multitude of methods by which its employees could be reached. Today, they are announcing 11 new implementations and services from Nortel and have opened 20 demonstration centers where business can come on down and take a look at the technology in person.

They are claiming that they've signed agreements with dozens of customers, and have hundreds of potential customers waiting in the wings. "Hundreds" seems rather paltry to me, given the breadth and reach that these two organizations have.

What they have yet to do is provide any solid information on just what the solutions and services do. I guess I'll have to get my butt down to one of those demo centers to find out.

The problem is we've all heard this before. A partnership between Avaya and Nokia was promising us years ago that soon we'd all have one phone number, one voice-mail box and it would be seamless to transfer calls between your office, cell and home office lines. While there are some interesting case studies highlighting a certain degree of success here, it's far from widespread.

Despite their valiant efforts, we all still have three or four blasted phone numbers, god knows how many email addresses and IM accounts on what feels like 16 different systems. For the average information worker, who receives 50 messages every day on up to seven different devices or applications, managing these messages has become a real Herculean feat. At my old magazine job, I received 250+ emails per day alone, not to mention the phone calls and pitches from PR yahoos. I spent a ridiculous amount of every day just wading through the onslaught of information. Sadly, this hasn't gotten any better.

Even so, just the promise, even an unfulfilled one, of easing the communication breakdown we're seeing as information workers are swamped with, well, information, is welcome news.

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