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Making sense of multiple messages
Govindraj Ethiraj in Mumbai
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November 10, 2007

The message read, "Waiting in your reception," I usually send such SMS alerts when I visit people's offices, knowing, that by the time the secretary gets my eye, tells the peon who goes and informs the secretary who, in turn, informs the boss, it's 10 minutes. This way, the boss knows I am there right away. The message that I was reading was a little different, it was sent from a Blackberry onto my mail system. So, I was looking at it in Microsoft Inbox, which, like most communication-obsessed professionals, I track more closely than my mobile. And I picked up the phone to have my visitor brought into the office.

I realised that my smart visitor had not just got my attention faster but also saved the cost of sending a SMS. Which knowing the network conditions in my area in central Mumbai, may not have reached either.

Imagine instead, if I didn't know where the message came from, mobile or Blackberry via internet, but it popped up on the same screen. And I sent a message back not bothering what device my visitor was carrying but knowing it would reach him. If you can, then you are the entering the world of 'unified communication'.

It goes beyond that. Unified, at least in theory, would mean that you manage email, messaging, conferencing and telephony on one platform on the backend. On the front, it could be a phone with a large LCD display and maybe a camera.

The internal benefits are higher. You could, depending on the product and offering, look on who is available, click to connect with them, call or leave a message, receive and SMS and alerts and so on. There are further variations. A missed call on your phone may result in an SMS getting sent to your mobile when you are on the move. A call to the same phone may get seamlessly forwarded to your mobile phone if you are in another part of the office. And the best part is that the forwarded call will ride on your office Wi Fi network rather than a mobile call that will boost your monthly phone bill.

Several organisations are already using these tools, though choosing which vendor and technology to go with can be challenging. Particularly since the software and hardware guys are both doing hardsells � read Microsoft, HP, Cisco, Avaya and so on. Of course, whoever you go with will tie up the other parties, software with hardware and telecom for instance.

So why is this a good idea? It is because it makes inter and intra-organisation collaboration easier and faster. Teams could potentially interact much better, share ideas and not get lost in time lags. Someone calling from outside can quickly connect with the next person who could help. Even as you are alerted about what you've missed. It means savings in communication costs. Finally, it means that you could run anywhere you wish when you wish. But you can't hide.

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