Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is the Program Co-Chair of the Enterprise Connect events, helping to set program content and direction for the...
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Eric Krapf | December 11, 2012 |


Call Control and Controlling "Calls"

Call Control and Controlling "Calls" Enterprises professionals will need a base of knowledge and breadth of skills exceeding anything from the old days of PBXs.

Enterprises professionals will need a base of knowledge and breadth of skills exceeding anything from the old days of PBXs.

Earlier this week, Neal Shact posted a very thought-provoking item here, asking the question, "What Happens When the Cost of Call Control Approaches Zero?" Pointing to developments like over-the-top services (e.g., Skype), WebRTC, and virtualization, Neal argues that the PBX is in the process of "losing its monopoly on telecommunications."

I generally agree with Neal's basic argument: To the extent that the enterprise's PBX no longer has a hand in setting up and tearing down every communications session in which every enterprise employee participates, the PBX is definitely losing its place at the center of the communications universe.

That change isn't coming in the future; it's here now. Mobility is rapidly becoming the single largest enterprise communications expense line item, and the vast majority of that communication takes place over the cellular networks, into which the enterprise generally has little or no visibility, let alone control. Add to this dynamic the already-existing and soon-to-come Web based communications--Skype, WebRTC, Google Hangouts, and dozens of variations--and the idea of a single "switch" controlling all communications seems like a pipe dream (so to speak).

That doesn't mean that enterprise communications people will decline in importance to the enterprise, however. If anything, I'd argue that our industry's work is becoming more complex, and therefore more critical, than ever.

In the old days, a communications technologist could see the PBX as the embodiment of his or her task. It did the job of making sure that enterprise end users were connected and the enterprise was protected--financially, legally, and in its market positioning. That basic role within the enterprise hasn't gone away and won't go away. But now, in a world where no single "box" or software application can handle this dispersed challenge by itself, communications technologists have to marshal a whole new set of technologies and associated skills in order to accomplish the same basic goal that they used to be able to achieve just by running a PBX competently.

The one overriding reality that I think every communications technologist will have to deal with in the future is the need to orchestrate public and private network services. As Melanie Turek points out in another recent No Jitter post, managed and hosted communications services are likely to become more and more common, but this is unlikely to be a wholesale outsourcing of everything related to communications. Rather, it will be a decision, different for each enterprise, about what functions should run off-prem, and which need to stay in house. And it's a holistic job for which the enterprise IT/communications team will remain accountable, regardless of who's actually running each of the discrete elements of the services.

At the same time, enterprises will need to give their users the freedom to use public services like cellular and web-based offerings, while being able to certify that these services don't threaten enterprise assets, and while also being able to manage the costs incurred by use of these services. Some of these services may touch the enterprise call control system--if for example the enterprise is running single-number service for cellular users--but for some services, it may be management systems such as mobile device management, that are critical.

The bottom line: "Call control" as a technology will probably be commoditized over the long term. But controlling "calls" is a mission-critical task for which enterprises will need professionals whose base of knowledge and breadth of skills exceeds anything from the old days of PBXs.

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