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February 26, 2009

SIP Trunking � the 6 Cs of Communications Evolution


By Jon Arnold Principal, J Arnold & Associates



In this column I’ll be extending the SIP Trunking theme from my last article and present a more holistic view about how service providers can benefit from offering this capability. The previous column focused the core benefits of SIP Trunking for business customers – namely, cost reduction and improved productivity.

 
I’ll now move on to a bigger picture view of how I think service providers should be positioning SIP Trunking. To me, it sets the stage for a longer term communications evolution that allows service providers to keep the driving wheel rather than hand it over to Web-based competitors or content providers. Of course, SIP Trunking itself is not the answer. Rather, it’s an enabler for this evolution, without which, businesses will not get the full benefit of IP communications.
 
With SIP Trunking in place, I would propose a roadmap I call the 6 Cs of Communications Evolution. This roadmap has three evolutionary stages, with each stage having both a distinct behavior and associated benefit. Each is briefly outlined below.
 
Communications 1.0 – We Consume, We’re Connected
This represents the most basic level of communications, and embodies our historical experience with telephony. The 1.0 world is based on the first two Cs – Consume and Connect. In terms of behavior, we consume telephony services. In other words, we take what is given – dial tone and basic features. For the most part, this works quite well, with the associated benefit being that it allows us to connect with others. However, we only connect in a serial way – usually one-to-one, over one network, with one application and just one mode – voice.
 
In terms of behaviors, this is a transactional form of communication, where the parties basically send and receive but, beyond talking, not much else gets done. Being connected is a great benefit but, in today’s world, the possibilities are so much greater and SIP Trunking has a key role to play in helping businesses get there.
 
Communications 2.0 - Collaboration Builds Community
Building on connectivity, IP-based communications allows end users to get beyond silos and have a richer experience. This is where SIP Trunking starts to have an impact, as it enables new features not possible in the TDM world - not just for voice, but other modes, such as chat, IM, and video. Now, the pieces are in place for behaviors to evolve from consuming (typically one-to-one) to collaborating (one-to-many). This makes communications more powerful for end users, and by extension more valuable for service providers. By enabling collaboration, service providers open up a new realm of applications that were not needed in the 1.0 environment.
 
End users have always had conferencing tools, but these are very limited compared to today’s applications for supporting collaboration. Furthermore, these tools were usually controlled by IT and not meant for everyday use. Not only are today’s collaboration solutions more accessible, they are multimodal, user-centric, and create a much richer environment. With SIP Trunking, all businesses need to collaborate is a broadband connection, which opens the doors to a much wider pool of participants. Not only can businesses collaborate more effectively internally, but they can easily extend this customers, suppliers, strategic partners, etc.
 
As a behavior, collaboration supports one-to-many and many-to-many communications. This is very desirable for service providers, as it drives more traffic over their networks, and creates demand for services that enable collaboration such as whiteboarding, storage, private/secure hosting environment, mashup applications, etc. Out of this comes the associated benefit – the fourth C – Community. Collaboration, by its nature, will lead to community, which can be of far greater value to a service provider than the atomized world of simply having individual connectivity.
 
Community is, of course, very valuable to end users, as we all have an affinity for like-minded people. However, by supporting behaviors that lead to collaboration, service providers will be serving their own interests by facilitating the building of communities, which are defined by a common set of needs and wants. As these needs and wants become better understood, service providers will learn how to develop targeted offerings beyond 1.0-style communications to ensure that these communities continue to collaborate.
 
Communications 3.0 – We Create, and Commerce Follows
The final two Cs represent the most exciting opportunities for service providers, and the true payoff for SIP Trunking. Following the spectrum of behavioral evolution, just as consuming sets the stage for collaborating, collaborating sets the stage for creation. By its nature, collaboration nurtures the skills, spirit, and desire for creation. As business end users become more familiar with 2.0-style collaboration tools, a vanguard will inevitably emerge, from which new, high-value applications will be created.
 
In today’s terms, these would be mashups, many of which are solving real business problems now, and making money for savvy service providers. Tomorrow, they may come by a different name, but the storyline remains – collaboration begets creation, and this behavior yields very rewarding benefits. In the 2.0 mode, community was the benefit; when that community learns how to create, the associated benefit for Communications 3.0 becomes commerce.
 
Service providers stand to generate commerce in several ways. As business customers learn to create new applications, service providers can become their partners to commercialize them on a broader scale. Service providers can also adopt best practices from these and apply them to other segments of their customer base. By leveraging the power of their networks and all-IP peering with enterprise networks, service providers can learn to embrace, or even pioneer, new business models to monetize these 3.0-style applications. Building on this, they can also create entirely new offerings to enter new markets as well as engage with new channels to broaden their service reach.
 
All of these 6 C’s could be discussed in further detail – especially the last two – but hopefully, this brief article will illustrate what is possible once service providers take a broader view at the opportunity before them. SIP Trunking is not the complete story, of course, but it makes end-to-end IP possible, and this is a necessary condition for communications evolution, especially in getting to the 3.0 scenario outlined herein. If service providers only see SIP Trunking as a band-aid for saving their customers money, they will never get there. That strategy will work in the short term and during tough times, but as competitors move forward and bring exciting new services to market, evolution will be the only way to stay in the game.

Jon Arnold, Principal at J Arnold & Associates, writes the Service Provider Views column for TMCnet. To read more of Jon’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erik Linask
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