Monday, 22 October 2007

Just KISS and it'll happen

It’s a maxim we try and keep at the forefront of our minds when developing our services, it’s core to the XP methodology we live by. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) is something that is often overlooked in the technology industry.

In the presentation I saw from Avaya at IP07, they were demonstrating how to get your employees to make their mobile calls through the corporate PBX. The overwhelming message was make it simple, that’s what will make users adopt it.

Their two recommendations were

  • Avoid dual mode like the plague, it’s too difficult and therefore people work around it
  • Do a deal with you network operator whereby all calls to and from your company’s PBX are at flat rate

Taking point 1 initially, this is signals to me that the traditional FMC (Fixed Mobile Convergence) approach of WiFi or Bluetooth while in the home zone and then traditional GSM/3G when out of range is being accepted as not viable.

While there may be some cost benefit, it’s not significant to overcome the user experience hurdles that the current dual-mode handsets put in front of users. People just want to make calls, and in actual fact are prepared to pay more to make them more conveniently.

In the business context the question of cost is even less of an issue to the end-user. Generally their company’s paying, which leads nicely onto point 2.

If a company can negotiate a fixed cost deal for any calls made from employee mobile phones back to the PBX it becomes economic to route all calls through it. Suddenly full routing, tracking and recording is under the control of the company. Calls outside the company can take advantage of fixed line pricing instead of costly mobile agreements, especially when calls are made internationally.

However there is a problem. In order for this to work, the user has to download, and use an application on their phone. The application then accepts the number dialled, calls the company’s PBX and requests that it establishes the call to the destination.

Suddenly it’s no longer simple.

This does get round the call quality and coverage issues presented by offerings from companies like Truphone. Using the existing mobile network, with 99+% population coverage means people should be able to make the calls pretty much where they want.

The problem is, users don’t want to use applications; they want to use their phone. They are Normobs, why would they want to navigate the applications menu on their phone to make a call when they can just key in the numbers.

A company may be able to convince/incentivise some hardened road-warriors to use an application like this, but the whole workforce, IMHO not a chance.

The mobile operators could technically provide this service to their corporate customers but I don’t see the economics stacking up for them. Fixed rate deals are just something else that’s turning them into a dumb pipe, not something they’ve spent billions of pounds over the last decade or so to achieve.

I do find the many approaches to try and circumvent the mobile network operators intriguing, many are very innovative but I don’t believe any yet will be adopted by the Normob (Normal Mobile User).

Therein lies the strength of the mobile network operators position. Unless you KISS people are not prepared to change.

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