The Evolution of Messaging: Beyond Voice and Email

The total number of worldwide email accounts is expected to rise from 3.9 billion in 2013 to almost five billion by 2017, according to an email statistics report by The Radicati Group. Email will, therefore, continue to remain one of the go-to communication channels for business, as will voicemail, due to its omnipotence universally.

While there is no disputing the significance of voice and email for business communications, both channels inherently have room for improvement. For instance, a great number of voicemails go unheard, and the majority of business email accounts are limited to on-premises deployment. Today’s work culture is increasingly defined by stronger and more cost-effective cloud-based communication tools and technologies. These new technologies are expanding the borders of traditional business approaches and taking enterprise collaboration to an unprecedented new level.

We are currently in the eye of a 21st century collaboration storm. If you haven’t yet begun investing in new communication tools, now is the time to do so to secure your company’s spot at the forefront of innovation.

What Is Available Today?

Today’s workers have access to a variety of messaging sources that can be classified as:

  • Synchronous: multiple processes occurring at the same time
  • Asynchronous: processes occurring separately or independently of one another

Both are able to transform business processes in terms of immersive collaboration. For example, each can turn messaging from an offline process into real-time communication, driving productivity and improving the overall experience, depending on users’ needs.

Email and social posting are asynchronous tools that allow employees to communicate within the confines of real-time constraints. This allows time for thoughtful and descriptive responses (for example, a salesperson can carefully craft a pitch).

Some forms of asynchronous messaging do yield real-time communication. This can oftentimes be seen in instant messaging (IM), group chats and even mobile texting. This is a live interactive dialog happening in the moment with no lag time between responses. These discussions are usually leveraged for quick questions that require less-detailed responses. For example, employees may use an IM application between one another with quick questions about a project.

Which Communications Tools Offer Benefits to My Business?

Text and IM are very disruptive because of their real-time nature. They are gradually replacing live voice communications because they:

  • Override certain language barriers
  • Their ubiquitous nature reduces bandwidth constraints
  • They are easy to use and deploy in virtually any environment

These communication channels are rapidly moving beyond push marketing to enable two-way communication between sales and customers. In fact, worldwide IM accounts–including enterprise IM solutions available with Avaya Aura® Contact Center and public IM networks like Google+ being increasingly integrated with corporate networks–are slated to grow from 3.4 billion in 2012 to over 4.4 billion by 2017, according to a separate report from The Radicati Group.

Real-time text, IM, and social messaging, once used exclusively by teens to express themselves in just a few characters (i.e., LOL and OMG), is growing up fast. In a sign of just how mainstream texting has become, older adults now make up the fastest-growing new population of texters, according to the Pew Internet & Life Project.

Another great option–and one of my favorites–is Multimedia IM, which allows asynchronous communications in a comfortable form for most users, all in one simple tool. You can rely on IM with some users, escalate to voice or Avaya Scopia® Video Conferencing with others or mix video with IM to achieve the best results possible.

Enterprises are increasingly looking to leverage the mobile channel to improve internal operations and enhance both internal and external communication. In fact, mobile IM saw 460 million accounts by the end of 2013 and is slated for strong growth over the next four years, according to The Radicati Group.

Additionally, mobile email users grew to 897 million in 2013. Enterprises are combining IM and mobile as a cost-effective, reliable and proven solution to meet these goals. Now could be a great time for your company to do so as well.

What Can My Company Do to Keep Up?

There are plenty of effective tools available for improving workplace collaboration, but investment isn’t the final step–you must also lay down the groundwork for maintaining success. Here are some ways that your company can ensure a successful collaboration strategy post-deployment:

  • Combat a lack of education and adoption: Employees should know that new communication technologies are not a distraction to what they are doing, but rather collaborative tools they can effectively leverage to maximize work processes.
  • Meet demand: The pace of innovation outruns the pace of implementation. If your IT team is saddled with solving time-consuming email migration and legacy voicemail issues that have little to no impact on the enhancement of core business processes, you’re going to fall behind in the game. Elevate awareness of just how easy it is to implement IM and text messaging, for example, and keep your organization ahead of the pack.
  • Have the right approach: Executives need to take a holistic approach to adopting messaging technology to improve internal operations and enhance both internal and external communications. By integrating real-time messaging capabilities into their existing processes and IT services, enterprises can solve numerous use cases across their organizations, from reaching the largest number of users as efficiently as possible to achieving the highest engagement rates that synchronized messaging delivers.

So What Comes Next?

Predictions are always fun, but they are inherently dangerous. For instance, who is actually driving the Jetson’s hovercraft “car of the future” that was promised all those years ago? We may not definitively know what is lined up next in the communications and collaboration realm, but we do know the average workplace no longer looks the way it did 10 or even five years ago. And, chances are, your employees are not communicating or collaborating the way they used to. In fact, some may not even be in the workplace at all but working at home or on the road.

Change is inevitable and necessary for companies that wish to succeed. That’s exactly why executives need to invest in communication tools and technologies that are agile and able to grow alongside their company. We may not know what comes next, but we need to be prepared for it. One thing is for sure: We no longer live in a world of only voicemail and email communications.

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9-1-1 Apps: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Fletch: We’re sitting down with Todd Piett, who is the Chief Product Officer at Rave Mobile Safety, and he also sits on the Board of Directors of the Next-Gen 9-1-1 Institute. Welcome to the podcast, Todd.

Todd Piett

Todd: Thanks, Fletch. It’s great to be here.

Fletch: The emergence of the app, Next Generation 9-1-1, there’s a lot happening in public safety for 2014.

Todd: Yeah. The emergence of the app is a really interesting topic. You see it everywhere in our day-to-day life and consumers; we’re seeing tons and tons of apps coming out there. The app stores, whether they be Android or iTunes, are filled with things that do everything from help you count to three to buy groceries. Now we’re seeing that same kind of promulgation of apps come out around public safety.

Fletch: Yeah. We’ve got the whole new initiative with text to 9-1-1, even though that’s not as widespread as some of the media reports want to make it. There’s a really small percentage, but it’s coming; Next Generation 9-1-1 is coming. It’s all about the additional data and delivering that additional data to PSAPs.

Todd: Yeah. As you well know, Next Gen is a network that enables a lot of really cool things, and part of it’s the communications around texting or in the future of video, instant messaging, email. The standard defines just about any type of communication you could imagine.

Then there’s the data that I like to think of as the fuel that drives these rules engines that are in this network that allow us to do really cool things, whether that be identifying the right resources to dispatch, whether that be finding more information about the individual that’s texting in.

It’s really difficult to pull that data out of somebody over 160 characters. It takes awhile, but if it pops up and gives their medical history and things like that, it can really enable a faster response. The data is kind of a key contributor to allowing all of these amazing use cases that we’re envisioning with Next Gen to really happen.

911 Apps

Fletch: It’s the additional data, getting that additional data from the originator of the event to the call-taker at the 9-1-1 center. That’s the challenge, just getting that data. The existing network won’t allow the intelligent transfer of data.

You’ve got a limited analog-based voice-only circuit there. Delivering it over the top is something that we’ve been talking about, correlating that with data aggregation. Do you see that going away with Next Gen 9-1-1 or do you see it actually expanding?

Todd: I really don’t see it going away. What you’re talking about, at least in our approach for going over the top or using the existing Internet to take what we see coming into a PSAP and then reaching out to the Internet and going, okay, what can you provide me, through a very secure means, but what can you provide me about this caller or this location based on what I’ve seen in the ANI ALI. That’s really how we define over the top. It’s using other available networks to append information onto that call. That’s kind of the baseline.

Obviously, from a technology standpoint in Next Gen, the networks allow a lot more of that. They’re more designed to allow rich data to come into the PSAP, but there’s still that problem of where is this data coming from. We feel the need for an aggregator and somebody to manage what’s a legitimate source, what’s the format that this needs to come in.

All of the things that need to be done to data to make it trustworthy and usable are still necessary in the Next Gen world. As we really look at all of the different sources that are envisioned, there aren’t a lot of really good standards out there.

Frankly, 9-1-1 is not going to drive the healthcare industry to do a standard that it hasn’t done in 40 years. There is a need to aggregate this data, synthesize it down into a way that’s consumable and makes sense for public safety. That’s a key role we see in the Next Gen of the future.

Fletch: With the penetration of smart devices, there’s a smartphone on everybody’s hip out there right now. The thing is, the app is really common. There’s an app for everything. We’re seeing a big development effort in a lot of apps around 9-1-1. There’s, I think, some question on the usefulness or the value of those apps. Some of them may actually be creating more of a problem, right?

Todd: It’s going back to the analogy that I said before where you’ve got apps that will help you count to three. Just because the technology enables something to be possible doesn’t mean it really makes sense or helps out.

There are some really cool things being done out there with apps. I was looking at a company the other day that does some really cool sharing of video and things like that between the PSAP and responders. There’s a lot of very, very helpful tools out there, but there’s also some that, frankly, not only aren’t helpful but are really detrimental to the process.

We see apps out there all the time that are- Somebody calls 911, they press a button to call 911, it is broadcasting to all their friends in the area that they’re in trouble. If you start to walk through the steps around what makes sense in that response, that’s pretty scary that now you’ve got a bunch of people that are either self-dispatching and trying to respond on their own or calling their local 9-1-1 center that could be miles or states away, driving traffic there to the PSAP that really can’t do anything about the incident.

Then worst case, if the PSAP really takes some steps to try and route the call back to the local area, you’ve got from a single incident a whole bunch of calls coming in that actually can’t contribute to the response.

There’s a number of apps, not just like that one, but other ones out there that are doing things around self-dispatching, off-duty responders, things like that that are- I think we really need to think through the use case and the long-term impacts. It’s not just about a technology that can do something cool; it’s about whether that thing that it’s doing actually helps or hurts the process. We’ve got to think hard about that.

Fletch: NENA, the National Emergency Number Association [], APCO, the Association for Public-Safety Communications Officials [], they have a joint document that’s out there, the dos and don’ts for smartphone app developers, and there are some specific guidelines in there that a lot of the bad apps just basically don’t follow.


Todd: It’s kind of disheartening. I think NENA and APCO did a really good job at walking the fine line between dictating and saying something’s not possible and then in that manner stifling innovation, and on the flip side pretty strongly stating this doesn’t make sense and we recommend you stay away from it.

The example that stands out most to me is as a nation, we’ve decided and we’ve built a lot of time, infrastructure, and process around 9-1-1 being the way you contact emergency response services, and the thing, 9-1-1 is not just calling, it’s texting, it’s all of the things that are enabled in the future by Next Gen 9-1-1. Our response process is designed around that communication. We’ve got call-takers; we’ve got redundancy; we’ve got operational procedures that make sure that that’s as efficient as possible.

Now, all of a sudden, some apps that- That’s the clear thing in the NENA and APCO standard is, hey, that is the way we contact people for emergencies, but you get apps out there that are going around that. I’m not sure whether a lot of the app community really just doesn’t know about these standards. Not everybody is involved in public safety when they build an app. Then some of them just disregard it. It’s a little disheartening that NENA and APCO did such a good job to put this together, and in a lot of ways, it’s disregarded.

Fletch: You also see people with some seemingly impressive industry credentials that are saying things are a good idea when, in fact, a lot of public safety would disagree with that. I think the uninformed person becomes confused; whom do I listen to?

Todd: We’ve been doing a lot of work lately around schools and panic button applications and things, and that’s a great example of- A superintendent or principal at a elementary school has a lot of things on their plate, and safety is one aspect, a very important one, but one tiny aspect. They’re not safety experts. If somebody comes to them and says, hey, here’s a solution, they’re probably going to take that vendor at their word and look at that solution.

One of the things that we’ve seen is that need to bring holistically all of the people involved in the response process. It’s 911, it’s the schools, it’s school resource officers, it’s all of the law enforcement, fire, and EMS folks, bringing them together, work through how is this going to help you or hurt you, and let’s really think through the solution. That part is missing. Lots of people, they’ll buy something because it sounds great without thinking through all of the ramifications.

Fletch: We see that even in the enterprise space, too. One of the things that some people present out there is the bridging of the 911 call with local onsite people so they can “hear what’s going on,” not thinking about that they have the potential of injecting additional audio and messing with the pristine audio that the call-taker is listening for.

They’re listening for background noises. Now you’ve got somebody else on the line contributing to that. The call-taker doesn’t understand that; they don’t know that. They could hear something from the person that’s listening that is assuming that it’s coming from the person who is calling. Just things that sound like they’re a good idea, but really when you look at the use case, it really is not a good idea. Let public safety do their job. That’s what they’re trained to do.

Todd: I agree. Funny you mention that. I just saw an app the other day that does that same thing as well. From the technology standpoint it was very cool, but as soon as you dug into the fact you can’t tell who is trying to tell you something on the other end of the line and, oh, by the way, the second person that got bridged in really doesn’t know anything about what’s going on other than being nervous that their family member is in trouble. It gets really to the point of impeding an effective response.

Fletch: Years ago, somebody actually played me a recording. I wish I had this and saved it. It was a hotel where someone in a room had started a fire accidentally and dialed 911. The front desk was bridged in with that 911 call and got on the phone. All you could hear was the fire alarm located at the front desk, waa-waa-waa, blaring away and nobody could hear anything. I’m thinking, my god, what a great example of why you don’t want to bridge other stations in on an emergency call.

Todd: There’s stories you hear now, and you chuckle at them, but when you think back about the ramifications and risks that happen and life and limb are involved, it’s not always humorous.

Fletch: No, absolutely. What do you think is the way forward? How do we fix all of this?

Todd: One of the things that I think we have to do a better job is just educating the public-safety community. Partly it’s about apps, but partly it’s more broadly about how do you get out to the people that are interacting with you and really get them to understand the implications.

Again, I’ll go back to my most recent experience, and it’s a little bit disheartening to me how many times I’ve gone and had meetings with school superintendents, school resource, police chief and the 9-1-1 center, and it’s the first time they’ve all been sitting together discussing that topic.

Often, 9-1-1 is not involved or it might be one-on-one meetings, but that kind of simple meeting and education for something that we all recognize is a risk, whether it be an active shooter situation, gas leaks, fires at schools, whatever it might be, that important goal of protecting our children. Those are things that we can just start having an honest dialogue about, hey, before we all spend money, let’s think through what we want to do to help this process.

The second part is I think NENA and APCO have- A lot of times they don’t work all that well together, but they’ve done a great job on putting together this listing of app recommendations. I know that there’s been some efforts to really get the app-development community more aware of those, which is great, but at the same time, we continue to see, whether it be hackathons or things that don’t even bring those developmental guidelines up front at the beginning of the process and say, if you think about what you’re building, here’s the kind of public-safety context. A lot of it is educational. That’s something that we all have to take some responsibility for.

Fletch: Yeah. It was amazing. I interviewed Bill Schrier when I was out in California for the APCO event. Bill has done tremendous amounts of work in the state of Washington, in the city of Seattle, opening up that dataset for a hackathon. It was just amazing what the community came up with. Unfortunately, not every major city has a Bill Schrier out there. I think we need more of those types of people in the CIO-type role.

Related article: Government Thought Leadership with Bill Schrier

Todd: I can’t say enough good about Bill. He’s an amazing guy. I agree that that kind of approach and really bringing a knowledge base to bear. It’s not just about opening up data. What Bill’s done in terms of giving some guidance and helping to set a framework for making sure that the apps and the things that are developed actually make sense is really helpful.

Fletch: Todd thanks very much for sitting down with us. You’re a good colleague. I’ve enjoyed talking with you about a lot of stuff over the years, and you guys at Rave are really doing some innovative stuff with the whole Smart911 concept. I see you guys as the consummate data aggregator that’s out there and really bringing a lot of value to all this.

The app side, definitely another alternative to bring more data in, but it’s got to be done with caution; it’s got to be done with standards; it’s got to be done with the use cases that are vetted by public-safety people and the app people, not just developed in a vacuum by someone with some credentials.

Todd: I appreciate your endorsement, and we look forward to doing some work together soon.

Fletch: Absolutely. We’ll see you down at NENA in Nashville, I assume?

Todd: We’ll be there. It’s a Smart911-supported community as well, so we hope you guys can make the tours to the PSAP and see our stuff in action.

Want more technology, news and information from Avaya? Be sure to check out the Avaya Podcast Network landing page at There, you will find additional podcasts from industry events, such as Avaya Evolutions and INTEROP, as well as other informative series by the APN staff.

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Thanks for stopping by and reading the Avaya Connected blog on E911. I value your opinions, so please feel free to comment below or, if you prefer, you can email me privately.

Public comments, suggestions, corrections and loose change is all graciously accepted 😉 Until next week. . . dial carefully.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @Fletch911


Free(ish) Ain’t Free(ish): The True Cost of Microsoft Lync

One of the lessons I’ve been trying to teach my kids is that nothing in this life comes free. Parental rewards must be earned (via good grades, behavior, etc.), yes. But everything in life comes with a price. Which is why ‘free’ games on the iPad also come with constant annoying ads for paid upgrades. Or why the true cost of that Samsung Galaxy smartphone they see on TV isn’t its $199 price, but the resulting $1,000 annual phone and data plan. Etc.

At its Lync Conference 2013 this week, Microsoft made some big announcements about where it plans to go in Unified Communications. The most important was that Lync and Skype, while kept separate for now, would be increasingly connected, products will slowly be merged together, starting with the ability by this June for corporate workers running Lync to directly call someone running the free Skype client. Microsoft also announced new voice, video and mobile capabilities for Lync.

Unlike some UC players that have gone on a major offensive against Microsoft, we aren’t troubled by this boost to Lync. Not everyone knows this, but Avaya offers a Lync plug-in called Avaya Client Applications for Microsoft Lync. This enables Lync users to connect to an Avaya Aura collaboration server for voice, video (up to 7,500 simultaneous voice/video/web users and 150,000 total provisioned users) and other real-time communications (watch a Youtube video demo here).  Companies that want to make sure their telephone calls and video conferences are echo- and jitter-free are choosing Avaya Aura.

“Avaya’s ACA 6.2 plug-in is an ideal solution for customers who want to use Microsoft Lync for presence and instant messaging, but prefer the field-proven Avaya back-end infrastructure for telephony and collaboration,” explains Ira M. Weinstein, senior analyst and partner, Wainhouse Research. “Using the ACA plug-in, users place voice and video calls via the Lync user interface. Once initiated, the calls are automatically handled by the Avaya Aura solution. This solution lets customers choose the experience they want, without increasing complexity.”

As a leader in real-time collaboration, we’re not unduly wowed by Microsoft’s claim to have sold 5 million Lync voice licenses. With our UC product for SMEs, IP Office, alone Avaya has sold more than 10 million licenses. While Lync sales ‘grew’ 35% year over year, IP Office sales have grown 50% over the past two years. This doesn’t include the millions of other enterprise workers using Avaya for VoIP and telephony.

And remember what I was talking about at the top? Based on the halo effect of the free Skype and Lync’s coming integration with low-cost cloud services such as Office 365, you might think that Microsoft is the low-cost choice for UC.

And…you would be wrong. A soon-to-be-released report from Nemertes Research analyst Robin Gareiss entitled “Operational Cost Drives Stark Differences in First-Year Telephony, UC Costs” examined the important question: what vendors’ VoIP and UC solutions offer the best bang for the buck?

Nemertes’ study is admirably detailed. To obtain real-world cost data on IP telephony and UC, Nemertes conducted detailed interviews with IT pros from 31 companies. In addition, it surveyed several hundred additional IT professionals online, which, after running strict data validation and integrity checks, resulted in 180 valid responses.

The results? The total median first-year cost for IP telephony was $1,305 per endpoint. Avaya and Cisco were both about $1,100. Microsoft Lync, on the other hand, was the most expensive of the seven vendors by far, costing an average $2,482, or nearly DOUBLE the median calculated by Nemertes.

While the capital and implementation cost of Microsoft-based enterprise telephony were fairly competitive, Lync’s median operational cost ($1,912) was nearly 3x higher than the median ($704).

Customers of Microsoft attributed the higher cost “to challenges related to integration and sound quality,” according to Nemertes. “Often, Microsoft users start with Lync (and in some cases, OCS), using instant messaging and presence. But when they add voice and/or video, that adds complexity they often did not anticipate.”

By contrast, Cisco’s first-year operational cost was $505. Avaya and Shoretel, meanwhile, were virtually tied for the lowest operational cost for telephony, at $322 and $305 in the first year, respectively.

Operational cost is key, of course. As Nemertes puts it: “IT professionals rightly argue that they can get almost any vendor to come down on initial capital costs and often include assistance with the implementation. The big unknown, though, is how much the system will cost to operate on an ongoing basis.” That’s because when factors such as internal staff salaries and training, equipment maintenance and 3rd-party tools are thrown in, you get the clear TCO picture. And that picture ain’t pretty for some solutions.

Another reason why the relatively-youthful Lync telephony may be costlier to support, as our vice-president of marketing Enzo Signore pointed out to the Wall Street Journal: the probable “troubleshooting” that IT will need to do to ensure the Quality-of-Service workers expect.

For full Unified Communications including voice, video, etc., Nemertes found Avaya to have the lowest first-year TCO, at $406.45, a full 20% cheaper than Microsoft ($509.07)and 40% less than Cisco ($665.29).

It’s not just Nemertes. Constellation Research also recently conducted a study comparing the TCO of five vendors’ desktop video solutions: Avaya Flare Experience, Cisco Jabber and WebEx, Polycom RealPresence, Microsoft Lync 2010/2013 and Vidyo Desktop/Mobile. Due to video’s heavy bandwidth requirements (and the resulting high cost), analyst Dr. E. Brent Kelly focused on which vendor supported the most users with equivalent video and audio quality in different bandwidth/cost scenarios.

The result, again, was that the Avaya’s TCO was among the lowest for almost every scenario (and was second lowest overall). Microsoft was consistently higher than us, while Cisco was the most expensive by far in almost all scenarios – even factoring in a 60% street discount for Cisco.

Avaya was especially cost-competitive when businesses deployed our Multipoint Control Units (MCUs, aka video routers) in remote locations to slash bandwidth costs, as you see below:

My point is: what Microsoft is doing with Lync is interesting. But it’s still playing catch-up on the technical side, adding features that players like us and others have had for years.

And what might at first glance seem less expensive, especially to a Microsoft-centric IT shop, isn’t always true, when you take a good look at the numbers. Check out the analyst reports above. And then come over and try out our Avaya solutions – Avaya Aura on the conferencing side, IP Office for SMEs, Flare Experience and Avaya One-X for mobile and desktop, Radvision Scopia for video and more. If you don’t have money or time to waste, and want the proven reliability of the long-time leader in real-time collaboration, you owe it to your organization to take us out for a spin.

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Problem With Presence

In my role with Avaya, I’m frequently asked about my views on unified communication. Often what people really want to know is how important is presence and IM and how is this evolving in the market. This is a difficult question and I find different leaders may give different answers depending on the focus area or use cases.

I recently spent a week with a number of customers and had some time to share my personal views on this topic – which is now the subject of this blog. To my surprise nearly all the executives I spoke with hadn’t given much thought to the bigger problem with presence – one that I believe is right in front of them.

Let me begin by saying that the presence/IM model is initiator centric. What this means is that a person has a client that represents the state of a set of other people. The client indicates a change in the state of a person who is part of this set by changing icons, or colors, or reordering contacts. I decide to contact a specific person based on the indicated represented state, which opens a dialog window for text exchange – or IM. This IM may be escalated to voice or video or web-collaboration at a later time. Since I initiate a session based on this client dashboard – we refer to the model as – initiator centric.

On this dashboard, however, a person is attractively present – or available — when they are typing away on their computer. They are less attractively present when their keyboard has been idle, they are using a phone, they’ve been logged off the network, their computer is off, or they are known to be using a mobile client. A person is most present when they are actively typing on their computer.

The problem is this: In my book, a person typing away on their primary productivity platform is being productive, engaged in a mental flow resulting in documents, communications, and system updates. In a word, they are productive. When a person is being productive is when I’d least like them to be interrupted. It seems somewhat problematic to indicate that a person in the middle of a productive flow is attractively present.

Thus, the problem with the presence/IM model is that it seductively puts the power of collaboration in the initiator’s hands. The initiator gets immediate gratification, the recipient can hardly claim ignorance of the request with the blinking notification at the bottom of their screen as the recipient is published as being available right now on the primary productivity platform.

The result is that the productive workflow is interrupted. Is there a different model?

The obvious answer is yes. Both email and SMS provide a model where the message is crafted without respect to the recipient’s presence. The drawback to email is that the message does not receive the priority or timely response the initiator desires since it goes into a bucket with many other messages. . With SMS, the drawbacks are that delivery is best effort and requires a link to a device the recipient has, it might not be secure, but should be more immediate than email.

Is there a better model than this?

I assert that the answer to this question is a presence-aware model. This model would be totally different. Instead of focusing only on satisfying the needs of the initiator, it would focus on method of message delivery based on the needs/desires of the message recipient.

In a presence-aware model, for example, the recipient’s presence would be less attractive when he or she is in the middle of a productive work flow. I would change contact method when the recipient is in a meeting, with restrictions when the recipient is hosting a meeting, and even further restrictions if the recipient is presenting from the primary productivity platform while hosting a meeting. If the recipient is talking on a phone, sitting next to the primary productivity platform, I might change the notification method. If the recipient is away and on a mobile platform, I would want an iMessage or SMS delivery. Same might be true in the case that they are presenting whilst hosting a meeting. It would be easy to imagine changing notifications based on who is initiating and if they’ve marked the message as urgent (perhaps with even levels of urgency).

The point of the new model is that the needs of the recipient are respected and integrated with the needs of the initiator. A system built for this model would be aware of presence, device states, calendar state, location, and even productivity flow. A presence-aware model is more encompassing, reflecting a potential evolution of presence/IM systems that solves some of the flaws inherent to initiator centric dashboard style systems.

Before we define unified communications with a productivity-killing model as its base, we should collectively consider the impact to workflow and balance any unified communications approach to the needs of the initiator and recipient. Lets not just be present, lets be smart, lets be aware.

Until next time …