Objectworld recently announced the release of Unified Communications (UC) Server version 4.2, which adds an abundance of user-configurable functionality to the companys flagship unified communications software.
From a basic unified messaging perspective, UC Server 4.2 allows users to view and manage incoming voice-mails, faxes, and e-mails from a single inbox and sort them according to priority. But according to Nick Matejuk, the companys vice president for its Microsoft strategic alliance, the real value of the solution comes in the degree of control available through two different user interfaces.
The first of those interfaces, Personal Assistant, gives the user point-and-click control over greetings. Everybody still has the ability to go down inside their telephone user interface and do the things they do today, like record their external greeting and transfer callsbut most people dont do that, because they cant remember the key sequence to get through six levels to do so, Matejuk says.
Instead, the Personal Assistant presents all options graphically, and allows users to control what greetings are given when, and to which callerseven down to a specific caller, based on caller ID. The same interface can be used to forward calls (or message notifications) to a users cell phone when they walk out the door, or to set calls to be forwarded to a specific location at a specific timeor, again, to forward calls only from specified callers. The point and click interface adds a lot of value, Matejuk says. It gives people more control over who they communicate with, and when.
The second interface, the Personal Business Assistant, provides the same type of graphical control over call flow. What weve done is pushed the concept of an auto-attendant down to the end-user level, and allowed each user to build their own personal auto-attendant, Matejuk says.
By dragging and dropping various graphical elements, like a call menu, call transfer, or fax-on-demand onto a blank palette, users can create complex menus of options for their callers in a very intuitive way. Those menus can even include IVR [interactive voice response] scripts that reference ODBC-enabled databaseslike having the caller punch in a six-digit order number, then querying a database and using text-to-speech to respond with the callers order status.
UC Server 4.2 also adds a SIP console: a graphical grouping of extensions that enables drag-and-drop call routing, allowing a user to transfer calls by clicking and dragging an incoming call to the desired extension. The same console can also provide a screen pop for every incoming call that links to all available information on the caller, listing all e-mails, documents, and other searches related to that contact.
The point, Matejuk says, is that convergence is about a lot more than just enabling voice over IP. Convergence really only happens when those back-end business processes are converged with your communications processes, he says. VoIP is just the protocol thats going to allow voice and data to run along the same pair of wires. SIP is what really is going to enable the integration into applications to do things like Objectworld is doing.
And in enabling that kind of integration, Matejuk says Objectworld has focused specifically on ease of use in a way that most competing solutions havent. Weve built this application from the user experience backwards, he says. Most traditional TDM or VoIP technologies have been built on top of existing technologyso you started with core voice-mail, then you added unified messaging in a layer on top of that, and then you added UCand every time you added that functionality, you added complexity. What weve done is weve masked the complexity of implementing these types of systems, not only from the end user, but from the people that are actually installing them.
UC Server 4.2 is available now as software delivered on a single CD, at a cost (depending on functionality and organization size) of approximately $150 to $175 per seat.