Friday, 19 October 2007

IP07 - Please call someone

Popped into IP07 this week, the annual exhibition covering the convergence of voice data and video over IP networks. This produced a pretty eclectic mix of exhibitors. To give you a flavour:

  • BT and Thus with their managed network services,
  • Dialogic with their telephony cards,
  • Microsoft of course (what it must be like to have a marketing budget for attending every show almost irrespective of relevance).
  • Symantec and IPSwitch offering network monitoring management tools (we use WhatsUp)
  • Nokia with all sorts of device management offerings as well their obligatory sexy handsets in glass case
  • eFax with the internet faxing service
  • Coms, a hosted VoIP provider
  • Nortel, Mitel and Avaya offering their particular take on the next generation PBX.

It is to this last group I turn for an interesting insight.

I attended presentations by both Mitel (about Presence) and Avaya (about connecting mobile devices with the corporate PBX) and both had a recurring theme:

Please make voice calls.

People are increasingly using email and text messaging to communicate rather than picking up the phone. If you sell voice systems, this is bad news.

There was talk of the scourge of email trails and how organisations are becoming paralysed as people covered their backsides and cc’d the world. People are using email to hide but are being increasingly overwhelmed by more and more messages. If everyone just picked up the phone, they claimed, life would be better and things would get done.

Picking up the point about hiding, the man from Avaya did have the decency to mention voice mail, the original communication avoidance tool.

There will always be people who want to avoid direct communication but this can be for a number of reasons, not necessarily just because their work-shy.

I use a mix voice calls, email and text to better manage my communications. The choice is a function of the information to be exchanged, my availability and location as well as that of the other party.

Voice calls are if I want to discuss something now or just want to make the communication more personal

Emails are if it’s something that I don’t need an answer to straight away or I’m expecting the other person to consider or research a response

Text is when I’m mobile or I know the other person is, or I don’t know where they are. If it get’s complex or drawn out I’ll generally move over to a voice call or email from my BlackBerry

Receiving and answering a voice call is incredibly interrupting. It stops you dead in your tracks, preventing you from completing what you are doing. Interrupting someone while they’re mind is elsewhere forces them to readjust their thinking and as the caller, you have to negotiate the preamble while this happens before you can have an efficient conversation with the other party.

Email and text on the other hand allow the recipient to complete the task they are currently undertaking. This is far more efficient for both parties.

Send them an email or text and you give them a chance to respond coherently. I’m not saying they will, I’ve fired off far too many reactive emails and texts in my time, but they can.

Whether they do or not is a function of them not the communication method. Impromptu voice calls promote this kind of behaviour.

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