Ottawa-based Mitel Networks has been providing IP-based telephony systems to business for more than 25 years. The company claims more than 20 million users in over 90 countries.
The Mitel 3300 IP Communications Platform (ICP), cornerstone of the firm's IP-based communications product portfolio, is a converged communications platform that supports a suite of advanced call-processing and related applications and IP-enabled desktop devices.
Earlier this month, at VoiceCon in Orlando, the company highlighted what it believes is a major advance in the role of communications technology: embedded "presence everywhere" capabilities that provide workers with presence and availability information about their colleagues inside the organizationand even with key co-workers in outside partner organizations such as suppliers or customers.
"Take the case of two companies that collaborate on projects," Mitel CEO Don Smith told VoIPplanet.com. "It might be that we need to have our two teams work as one. In that situation we would federate, and the federation gives us the presence availability across our businessesif that's what we wantwhile at the same time preserving our corporate security."
In addition to this "federation" ability, Mitel's solution pushes presence information not just to PCs, as is typical, but also to phones and a variety of mobile devices.
The expansion of the role of presence builds on Mitel's ongoing convergence of communications applications into a "unified communications" fabric (bringing the formerly separate experiences of voice, text messaging, conferencing, etc. into a single interface) and its API-based integration of communications functionality into business applications.
Think of it as the icing on the cake: communications efficiency that leads to enhanced productivity, reduced costs, increased customer loyalty, and new revenue potential, according to Don Smith.
One of the key elements in bringing presence to the fore is Mitel's effort in integrating its networking infrastructure with Microsoft's Live Office initiative. "Mitel, several years ago, placed a bet that what would be really important was the direction Microsoft was taking with Office Communicator and that whole Live Office direction" Smith said, adding a personal motto: "If change is inevitable, you should drive it."
Accordingly, Mitel's Live Business Gateway now interoperates with the Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2005 and gives users the benefit of presence information accessed through Office Communicator. "We feed information through our Live Business Gateway into Office Communicator and vice versa," Smith explained.
With Microsoft's technology as the common link, federation partners can gain the benefits of shared presence without all needing Mitel infrastructure.
Conversely, all a Mitel customer needs to gain that federation value is to deploy the Live Business Gateway, which links the Microsoft-based data with Mitel applications, such as Mobile Extension (consolidation of desktop, mobile, and PC-based phone numbers), NuPoint Messenger IP (integrated message access via phone, pager, PC, or fax), and Quick Conference (server-based, ad hoc, drag-and-drop voice conferencing).
Smith went on to mention additional integration with Microsoft technologies. "We actually have a line of telephones [including the Mitel 5330 and 5340 IP models] that will actually show you the directory information off the Microsoft Active Directory," in addition to presence information. That is, instead of creating a separate phone directory for the system, IT personnel can simply tap into existing network directory structures for the data.
Mitel has also integrated presence into its operator consoles and its contact center infrastructure, so that operators have a detailed understanding of call recipients' availabilityeven availability for an entire work groupand can intervene with instant messaging tools when a high-priority call comes in for a worker who is already on the line.
Summing up in praise of presence, Smith told VoIPplanet "It's a huge enablement to businesses to be more effective. There's a whole raft of things we're doing that will keep making it easier for our customers to realize more and more benefits."