The growing demand for mobile applications is set to challenge the apprehension that enterprise telephony buyers have towards 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 was told of this reality when we launched the WebSphere Application Server Feature Pack for Communications Enabled Applications (CEA), and have since seen this reality play out.
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 or other well established telephony solutions. One can hardly blame enterprise telephony buyers. We don’t think twice about having to refresh a web browser if a web application crashes. But what if a conference call crashes or a call between a customer and a contact center representative is terminated abruptly?
One may sympathize with enterprise telephony buyers, but their decisions are impacting the seed at which IT departments can respond to end user demands for innovative applications.
Next generation mobile applications demand communications enablement:
As mobile web application usage grows, the first step will be to delivering today’s desktop browser application on a mobile browser. Forward thinking IT departments and enterprises will look instead to deliver a class of applications beyond those available on desktop browsers today. In time, the majority of enterprises will follow suit.
These mobile applications will be communications enabled from the start.
A mobile CRM application that lets a sales executive review a sales lead, and within the application itself, call one of her direct reports, based on presence availability and personalization information, and jointly co-browsing through the sales lead data online while speaking over the phone will become standard practice.
A mobile retailer application that lets buyers co-shop online using desktop or mobile devices, and if required, call the 1-800 number and be routed to the appropriate contact center representative, based on browsing history, without having to traverse automated call menus, will become standard practice.
The challenge for IT is that these and similar applications require IT and telephony groups to work more closely together. More importantly, these applications will require a degree of telephony flexibility that enterprise telephony buyers aren’t likely to be comfortable delivering based on their risk adverse nature.
So what’s an IT department to do?
Open source and cloud telephone to the rescue:
An interesting solution is being offered by open source Twilio Cloud Communications. Twilio recently announced OpenVBX, an open source telephony in the cloud solution. OpenVBX offers virtual telephone numbers, voice transcription, voice collaboration amongst users and a drag and drop approach to building call flows and menus.
OpenVBX is offered as a hosted solution so IT departments don’t have to trouble themselves with keeping a telephony infrastructure up and running.
Most importantly, OpenVBX can route calls to existing phone numbers. This means IT can build innovative new applications that rely on the enterprise’s existing telephony infrastructure without actually having to involve the telephony department in the application development process.
I am not proposing that IT circumvent the telephony department in the long run. However, I’m simply suggesting IT departments consider applying the lessons of grassroots open source adoption. It’s much easier to convince decision makers to use open source when the organization has already been using open source.
Neither am I suggesting that telephony departments should migrate away from their existing enterprise telephony solutions. That would be a fool’s errand. I am however suggesting that telephony departments should evaluate how open source and cloud offerings can augment the existing enterprise telephony environment to deliver end user application innovation.
A mobile communications enabled application generating revenue for the enterprise will go a long way toward convincing telephony departments to augment their telephony infrastructures with open source and cloud offerings.
As an end user, I can hardly wait.