Active Voice Maintains Active Role in Unified Communications
By Rich Tehrani, TMC President and Editor-in-Chief (Originally published on February 8, 2008 by TMCnet)
I recently had the chance to speak with Eyal Inbar, General Manager of Marketing for Active Voice.
A leading player in the unified messaging space for many years, Active Voice solutions are designed to empower people to communicate and manage their information conveniently and efficiently using virtually any communication device to access and control their messages, data and real-time communications.
Inbar spoke of his company’s experience in this market and the importance of leveraging that experience to help companies move forward with their plans to migrate to unified communications deployments.
RT: Where does Active Voice fit in the current world of Unified Communications?
EI: After 25 years in this industry, Active Voice is ranked as the third largest provider of messaging systems in North America and fourth worldwide, according to the Telecom Intelligence Group’s InfoTrack for Converged Applications (ICA) Full Year 2006 North America Messaging Report (August 2007). We help our customers move from legacy messaging systems to Unified Communications.
Unified Messaging is a very significant part of UC and probably the easiest to demonstrate actual business value. We have been using our presence in the UM market to build advanced applications that provide customers real business benefits such as messaging integration to Microsoft, Lotus, Groupwise and POP accounts, speech recognition and text-to-speech. From there, we take it to the next level with FindMe FollowMe, ViewCall and VideoMail.
RT: Active Voice had perhaps the strongest brands in Unified Messaging in the nineties. Does this experience help in the Unified Communications market?
EI: Absolutely. Our history of UM innovation (most recognize Active Voice as the inventor of Unified Messaging) paired with our existing market share, establishes Active Voice as an attractive partner and solutions provider for migrating to more advanced communications solutions. Although the industry was, at first, rather slow to adopt UM, we now see the fruits our brand recognition with so many customers now implementing UM as part of their bigger overall UC commitment.
RT: What are the most important criteria organizations need consider when migrating to Unified Communications?
EI: UC is not a product or even a one-vendor solution. UC is an evolving concept. It’ll take more time to see what the best solutions are in each UC category. But waiting should not be an option. Therefore, companies implementing UC right away have to build with versatility in mind. Whatever solution they choose, they need to make sure that it will integrate with their other UC solutions. Active Voice is investing a lot of resources into R&D to make ensure that our solutions integrate with any other solution the customer can choose in the future for his email, mobile and voice platforms.
RT: What do you think the most overlooked step is when organizations migrate from their legacy systems to Unified Communications?
EI: It is hard for companies to understand the value of UC until they’re using it. Therefore we strongly recommend taking a gradual approach.
The UM feature set is the easiest way to demonstrate the business value of UC. Our modular design allows companies to choose the best UC features. We took into account new installations, while supporting the need to migrate from aging messaging systems. This provides Octel Aria and Serenade, and Centigram/NuPoint customers the flexibility to enter UC step by step, giving them the interfaces they’re used to. Starting with the basics, companies should find the right solution to manage their voice, fax, e-mail, and video from a single inbox using a single set of management controls. This offers immediate and tangible benefits such as increased productivity, improved customer responsiveness, and a greater return on their existing telephony investments.
RT: How will end-users’ current messaging habits change with the wider adoption of Unified Communications?
EI: I don’t like voice mail and I really don’t know many other people who do. So our goal is to make the messaging systems an end-user’s personal assistant — no matter where you are — through real-time applications and tools. Callers should get your VM only when you choose. We’ve made tools allowing users to be more mobile, while staying in touch, such as through iGoogle portals, RSS feeds,etc.
Lately we introduced VideoMail. We were the first to use video as an actual embedded part of messaging. The impact of a short video is ten times greater than e-mail or voice mail.
RT: How would you define the value of Unified Communications to those organizations that have yet to adopt it?
EI: I think we’ve reached the tipping point. We’ll see more organizations moving ahead,deploying pieces of what’ll eventually be full UC solutions.
To drive adoption of UM and UC solutions, Active Voice was among the first to change pricing models. We don’t believe it makes sense to ship a VM system anymore. Customers are not getting the value from a voice mail-only system. Everything we ship is UM or UM-capable. If customers want it for just voice, that’s OK, but at anytime they can turn on the UM features and start benefiting from it. Once other vendors do the same across all UC applications, we’ll see a dramatic increase in adoption.
RT: What’s the biggest challenge working in an industry where you have to please both IT and the Telecom departments within an organization?
EI: UC brings IT and telecom departments together for us — not only in the customer’s organizations, but also between integrators and vendors. It is perceived to be politics, but it is more about the way the teams are used to doing business. When both IT and telecom departments compare our product side by side to our competitors in the UM and UC marketplace, both departments agree on it. We provide the 99.999% reliability that telecom departments desire; the technology and deployment that IT departments require; and advanced features that satisfy all.
RT: How has the rise in Unified Communications and the adoption of IP telephony impacted the messaging business?
EI: First of all, Active Voice made a conscious decision more than a year ago to automatically include UM features in all our products. So we’ve been an advocate to deliver on the promise of technology improving business. With that said, we have seen increased growth in application sales and advanced messaging options. Now with IP standards, we have made Kinesis and Repartee 10.0 SIP-enabled. This gives customers the benefit to choose a best-of-breed solution — whether they are concerned with the TDM integration they need today, or migrating to an IP PBX tomorrow.
RT: What do you think the biggest new trends in Unified Communications will be in the next 12 months?
EI: The biggest trend we’ll see will be that people will actually start using UC. We talked a lot about it in the last few years, but how many have actually implemented it? I believe that this will be very different this year. We have the infrastructure in place and with SIP as a standard protocol, it makes it very easy for customers to choose and deploy the UC solutions they need.
The beauty of UC is that it is changing the industry in a way that makes the customer is the winner. In the past, customers had to choose one vendor for all their communications solutions. They don’t have to do it anymore. They can choose the best solutions and smoothly integrate all of them.
RT: What does Active Voice look forward to most in 2008?
EI: The most exciting thing to look forward to is the growing adoption rates of UC. Active Voice has all these innovative solutions to provide, and the marketplace is just now catching up to the technology available. Each year we hear industry analysts saying that this is the year. I think we are finally here.
Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC) publishes Customer Interaction Solutions, INTERNET TELEPHONY, Unified Communications, and IMS Magazine. TMCnet, TMC's Web site, is the leading source of news and articles for the communications and technology industries. Ranked in the top 6,000 most visited Web sites in the world by alexa.com*, TMCnet serves as many as three million unique visitors each month. TMC is also the first publisher to test new products in its own on-site laboratories, TMC Labs. In addition, TMC produces INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO, and Call Center 2.0 Conference.
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