Beware of demands for inter-office presence awareness applications

The concept is simple, though the implementation may not be. One possible scenario of presence awareness is a contact list that lets you tell whether colleagues have logged on to the network or are on the phone because little icons will appear beside their names.For example, if you want to talk to someone right away, you can find out whether they are on the phone and whether they are reachable through instant messaging. This way, you can send an instant message in the hopes that they will read the message instead of listening to the person with whom they’re having a phone conversation.
Alternatively, if you find someone is not available by landline, they may still be available by cellphone.
Nearly half the companies surveyed by Infonetics Research Inc. have said they’re using some form of presence awareness now and more than half anticipate they will be using it within two years.
But presence awareness is only useful if you’re dealing with colleagues who are not in the next cubicle, and in some cases, you’re dealing with customers, partners and suppliers located in a different city or a different country, supported by a different IT or telecom department. They may not be using the same networking or messaging system.
If your department is responsible for supporting a manager who wants presence awareness, and he complains that when he logs on, the appropriate icon does not appear on a key customer’s contact list, what do you do? Suppose another manager wants to be able to determine the availability of an account executive with a Chinese supplier. How much time are you going to spend dealing with the Chinese firm’s IT department to set this up? How is the the vendor going to ensure interoperability with other companies’ systems?
Interoperability is not impossible, but these are the questions telecom managers should be asking vendors who are trying to sell them on the concept of presence awareness.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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