Siemens removes communications pain

In a small business, implementing computer technology generally takes second place to getting on with the job. But we all know that time invested in computer technologies can pay off handsomely …

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22nd October 2007 at 3:24 pm

In a small business, implementing computer technology generally takes second place to getting on with the job. But we all know that time invested in computer technologies can pay off handsomely in improved performance. The reward comes later. And, depending how you approach the challenge, sometimes much later.

Probably the worst, but the most likely, thing you can do is to slap in this, that and the other application as you discover it or when you have a moment. Or, even worse, let staff adopt whatever technologies they want and watch as the incompatibilities mushroom along with the support requirements.

It’s little wonder that people choose to major on one or two key providers. At least if the bits don’t work together, it’s easy to nail the culprit.

Now we find ourselves in a similar situation with communications. We have phone, mobile phone, SMS, email, voicemail and fax. We also have instant messaging such as Skype for seeing if another party is online in order to text, call, conference call (or text) or exchange files. The trouble with all of this is that it is fragmented and hard to implement and manage.

Well, Siemens Communications has been watching this mayhem for a long time and has decided to bring some of its enterprise system functionality to small and medium businesses – in its terms, that’s companies with 20 to 150 users. It comes in the form of an appliance, announced today, that plugs into the company network and brings all important communications together in one place. It can be installed and configured in a few hours.

Sounds like a dream for harrassed IT folk. Called HiPath OpenOffice ME, it costs between 200 and 300 Euros per user. It provides presence awareness for participants (so contact is routed to the right place), drag and drop conference management, integration with Microsoft Outlook, mobility, call journal, voice and fax message boxes, personal auto-attendant, live call recording and the ability to dial out from any application. It can contain a mail server for email client independence.

Here’s a screenshot of an ad-hoc conference call:

HiPath conference call

It allows users to connect on the road or in the office using whatever equipment is to hand: desktop, laptop, mobile phone or certain kinds of handset or deskphone (they have to be bought separately). It also takes care of collecting messages for you when you’re beyond reach.

The whole thing is designed to ensure that people remain connected when they need to be, improving responsiveness and thus accelerating the time to results.

It will be available in Germany this month and in other European countries from February 2008.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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