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Calling all companies

August 1, 2000

Beth Stackpole

Sentinel did not encounter any integration hurdles since it wasn't trying to synchronize CallXpress with any legacy systems, says Rashkovich. There are minor issues, however, associated with the text-to-speech recognition technology that translates e-mail messages over the phone so they can be heard. "We can listen to e-mail although it's not always easy to recognize because the mechanical voice that transcribes the message sometimes gets confused over the more complex words," says Rashkovich. However, text-to-speech recognition technology is improving and will continue to evolve with each new iteration of the software, analysts say.

Another benefit to consider

Fairmont General Hospital, which has been using Active Voice's voice products and Unity unified messaging tool for about a year, ranks the ability to prioritize responses in all forms of communication as one of the technology's primary benefits, says Fred Sartoris, telecommunications specialist for the Fairmont, W. Va., hospital. One of Unity's standard features gives Fairmont users a list of messages and a brief descriptor, allowing them to respond in order of importance instead of in the order they were received. The hospital encountered few bumps installing the software, since the unified messaging installation was part of a larger program to replace a legacy phone system.

Even though the unified messaging capability is only available to one-fourth of the hospital's 200 employees--primarily administrators, department heads, and people who travel--Sartoris says he would not even entertain buying a voice-mail system today that doesn't incorporate the technology.

It's the same sentiment at Royal Specialty, although there, all employees are making use of unified messaging. And while there are still complaints about the onerous Atlanta commute, drive time is no longer downtime--unless, of course, employees choose to check out and enjoy the traffic. //

Beth Stackpole is a freelance writer living in Newbury, Mass. She can be reached at

What's to come: the three phases of unified messaging

Introductory phase, (1998-1999):
  • Unified messaging services are rolled out in advanced markets. Early adopters include business travelers, small businesses, and Soho subscribers, as well as heavy Internet consumers.

  • Potential market is limited because e-mail is not yet critical to many small business subscribers and most consumers. Spotty availability of services, limited marketing, and difficulties with interoperation and migration are other inhibitors.

  • Interoperation problems prevent services from providing effective enterprisewide systems for medium and large customers.

  • First generation of personal assistant and call-stimulation applications are rolled out independently of unified messaging, mainly on mobile networks.

Mass market development phase, (2000-2003):
  • Unified messaging increasingly seen as a necessity among power users in all business and consumer segments, allowing adoption to grow rapidly.

  • Improved techniques and more widespread deployment of interoperation standards reduce interoperation and migration barriers. The first effective enterprisewide services become available, providing an alternative to customer premise systems for medium and large corporations.

  • Its role in differentiating service providers spawns enhanced services with integrated personal assistants and productivity applications.

Advanced personal communications phase, (2004-2006):
  • Services are again enhanced to become true Advanced Personal Communications Services based on unified messaging interface.

  • Growth in the mass market is rapid, with many individuals in industrialized nations having their own unified inbox.

  • Enterprisewide services attract corporate marketplace, which increases investment in unified messaging products.

Source: Ovum Inc.

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