From the Analysts: Handling an IP-based telecom world

With all the talk about on-demand software, I'm amazed there isn't as much buzz about other on-demand services such as telecom. That may be starting to change.

Last week Forrester came out with a report entitled "The Four Stages of Enterprise Managed IP Communications (" When I see a title like this, I immediately start wondering what the stages are. Denial's gotta be one, for sure. Longing. Maybe despair and then resignation? Actually, in this case the stages aren't as important as Forrester's fundamental premise, which is that enterprises must be thoughtful and proactive to successfully navigate the coming wave of utility-priced IP-based communications services.

Forrester based its report on a survey of European service providers that are trying to help large enterprises integrate communications applications -- basic and advanced telephony (contact centers), audioconferencing, point-to-point and multipoint video, voicemail, and unified messaging -- into a common infrastructure and operational framework. This convergence, notes Forrester, will be enabled by new innovations such as SIP, service-oriented communication apps, and higher capacity IP networks.

This new "IPC" world, according to Forrester, will offer lower costs, more business-friendly functionality, and a new unified control layer for better management. But enterprises are struggling to implement IPC because of long ROI payback periods and confusion about how service providers' offerings fit together. "Business cases for IPC projects don't stand a chance of approval by the IT budget committees," says Forrester, given the current state of affairs.

Enter the four stages, according to Forrester: 1) visibility, 2) transformation, 3) end-to-end service management and 4) self-service.

First enterprises must take a thorough inventory of all the communications 'islands' in their existing environment (good luck). Then they must switch to utility pricing models and add workflow improvements, focus on security and also do plenty of organizational handholding (good luck). Once they've transformed, they should make sure they can do automated end-to-end service management, and use portals to let their users self-provision service (ditto).