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TELECOMS: The Future Of Enterprise Communications


Recent Western Cape Business News

The enterprise platform vendors may well inherit the business communications space in time to come, according to Cape Town-based Tellumat Telecoms, the converged communications specialist in the Tellumat Group.

It’s a bold statement, but Tellumat has a history of success based on some very astute strategic choices through the years. A string of supply partnerships with SA’s top telco operators contributed handsomely to annual growth of 30% in its latest results – no mean feat after 20 years in a commodity market currently beset by a recession.

 What’s more, the business expects a repeat performance in 2010, says Bennie Langenhoven, managing executive of Tellumat Telecoms.

Langenhoven says while the communications market is typically subject to fast-changing fortunes and technological shifts, this cannot detract from the massive underlying move towards integrating communications within enterprise processes. It is a trend that will mature over the next two to five years, he says.

What is the end-game, as he sees it? Langenhoven comments that the vision of Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) may still be somewhat deficient, in that it presents communications wrongly as the central idea, whereas business processes are at the core of this communications revolution.

Communications ought to originate within the enterprise back office and radiate outward,” he explains. “It should not be a case of enriching enterprise application processes with some nice-to-have communication add-ons.”

This subtle but important nuance makes all the difference. Gartner regards the so-called Big Four enterprise application vendors – Microsoft, IBM, SAP and Oracle – as future leaders in the communications arena. Although referred to as ‘quasi-communications service providers’, these vendors are not what one would expect in any communications Magic Quadrant.

Langenhoven explains that their strength lies in being integral to the enterprise and thus understanding business processes better than anyone. “That is where the real CEBP competition will come from,” he says. “Currently we buy voice solutions. In future we will buy enterprise applications with voice enablement.”

How will this play out in actual solutions? The usual unified communications tools will make up the communications fabric, says Langenhoven. Videoconferencing, tele-presence and multimedia collaboration will be common, but the precise shape of things to come is probably not wise to try and predict.

The main thing is that the routing logic will sit within the enterprise platform,” Langenhoven summarises. “And all of this will happen in the service of efficiency, customer satisfaction and, ultimately, profits.”

Langenhoven says the effect on the industry will be profound. Long used to selling point voice products, the industry graduated to converged communications solutions only recently. Then, as CEBP became a trend worth watching, providers became increasingly conscious of the need for a thorough understanding of business processes. Pretty soon, they will be dead in the water without it.

Communications vendors will to some degree be absorbed into the enterprise application ecosystem,” Langenhoven continues. “Lest they cease to exist altogether, it is best for them to develop a whole extra set of skills and strengths around business process improvement.”

He says to some degree this is already happening, but more is undoubtedly to come. “Whereas business analysts are already involved in implementing communications solutions, I expect they will be central to the sales engagement in years to come.

Another dimension to the ever-evolving enterprise communications game is that of social media. The virtual generation has already yielded many Facebook, Linked-In and Twitter executives.

And what better way to connect with one’s market?” asks Langenhoven. “The advent of social media will change people’s behaviour irreversibly, and communications will evolve to keep up.”

All in all, it is a future that is taking on an increasingly definite outline, and one that few would have predicted just two years ago. Enterprise communications is becoming an inextricable function of business processes and social engagement.

The providers and end-user enterprise who prepare adequately for it in the course of the next few years will be well-positioned among their peers in this brave new world.

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