An executive interview with Jim Cannon, CEO of Toto Communications
We all realize how mobility is dramatically changing business communications as “blind” voice calls from location-based wired telephones over the PSTN are shifting to multimodal contacts from smartphones and tablets over the IP network. This is enabling more flexible contacts with mobile employees, business partners, and customers. However, many businesses continue to rely on existing desktop connectivity, particularly for telephone conversations, while treating mobile communications as an after-thought.
There has to be a practical way to provide interoperability between existing telephone systems and new mobile devices for comprehensive phone call management for any size business. This includes enabling mobile users to have separate access to both job-related and personal calls to their mobile device (“dual persona”). The practical implementation strategy is not to try to replace existing premise-based telephone systems, but rather to start using cloud-based hosted services that can handle new capabilities required by mobile end users inside and outside of the organization along with their personalized mobile smartphones and tablets (BYOD).
I am calling this focus on mobile call management “Call Management as a Service” (CMaaS), which is a practical migration step in moble business communications. To get further insight, I interviewed Jim Cannon, CEO of Toto Communications and a 20-year veteran in software design in MVNO/MVNE and cable operations, about his company’s CMaaS offering - Toto Lynx .
While mobility enables greater accessibility to people for contacts and information exchange, it also opens the door for more automated business processes to contact and interperate with people, often referred to as Comunications Enabled Business Processing) (CEBP). However, there is always a need for real-time, person-to-person connections which require efficient and flexible call management functions.
In this interview, we discuss what and how mobility is changing legacy call management needs and the challenge to organizations in planning and implementing such changes, while retaining existing desktop telephony operations.
What is changing the most about business communication technologies today?
The biggest change to business communications is operational and affects how end-users initiate and respond to a variety of communications modes. While wired desktop devices are still used by workers where appropriate, more and more employees are simply reaching for their mobile phones to take and place calls. And that’s not just happening when out and about – but also from the office. At the desk.
Who Are The End Users?
End users of all types use business communications to exchange information and intreract with others in various ‘anytime’ modes. End-users involved in business communications are not just internal organizational staff, but also partners and consumers or customers one does business with. Increasingly, internal staff are Millennials, who prefer more flexible multi-modal, mobile and asynchronous communications – who shun desktop telephony. By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be Millennials, and if there is one commonality among that generation it is their reliance on smartphones for so many aspects of one’s business and personal lives.
What this means is that your business communication infrastructure must absolutely be location and device independent in order to best accommodate business processes going forward.
What About Real-time Contacts?
Business communications range from asynchronous and “near real-time” text, voice and video - to real-time connections for IM, voice, and video conversations. Such real-time connections result from contextual information commonly captured in smartphones today - rather than from “blind” phone calls where the caller has no idea who or if the call will be answered by the right person.
A key factor in enabling efficient real-time connection is the availability status of the contact recipient, made through “presence” information. We’re used to this in instant messaging, but not in voice calling. Unless calling between deskphones linked together over the same private branch exchange, we simply have no idea until hearing a voicemail or busy signal if those we’re trying to reach via phone are available.
While it will eventually be common practice to initiate a real-time voice or video connection contextually from within a message or document via the likes of WebRTC, the current role of PSTN telephone calling will be around for a while, and must therefore be accommodated as part of the total user interface for multimodal mobile communications. But, mobile devices equipped with multimodal communication capabilities can provide more effective real-time communications, collaboration and performance.
How Important Is The Role Of The IP Network “Cloud”?
Beyond having to purchase hardware – often at each and every location - premise-based information and communication systems all had storage & upgrade limitations preventing businesses from easily and quickly participating in any business process improvements. Anywhere, anytime.
With the shift to IP networking for connecting people (especially mobile users), data, and online applications in a common network space, there is no limit on how different business processes can be easily implemented, accessed, and dynamically managed with minimum costs. For this reason, multimodal mobile business communications must be based upon cloud implementations versus legacy premise-based wired networks. There is no business starting fresh today that is not leveraging the economic power of the cloud.
Imagine having to update communication software every time Facebook, Linkedin, Google, Salesforce – you name it – issue updates. It’s the same with your mobile landscape. Reliance on the cloud for disseminating and maintaining mobile applications has made its way BACK to the desktop, as well as to any kind of internet-connected device today.
What are the biggest challenges that organizations face in migrating to multimodal, mobile business communications?
Even if everyone agrees with the benefits of moving to an IP-based, multimodal buiness communications environment, the biggest challenge is how to move forward with a painless implementation. It is not simply a matter of replacing everything on premise at once, but rather a strategic plan for a “graceful migration” from existing telephony technologies and services to the next generation of mobility and cloud-based applications, with minimumum disruption of existing legacy communications.
Who Needs Mobile Call Management Services?
Clearly, everyone and anyone using a mobile device. There will be a ripple effect on existing business communications, when either the caller or the recipient uses a mobile device. In addition to traditional ringtone notifications of voice calls, there are new ways to notify recipients about who is calling or sending messages, and in context like why, when, from where. Most importantly, people that work in teams, who collaborate around projects or customers, and especially who are ‘location-agnostic’ rely heavily on constant communications where call management plays a significant role.
How will the implementation of mobile interactions impact current communication technologies and services?
This is a great question and generates a lot of interest today, since business communications has become a 360 degree landscape for most end users. It involves internal staff, business partners and associates, vendors, distributors, and consumers/customers. We find that Sales and Marketing activities can get the most “Bang for their buck” from improved mobile communications. So, while everyone can benefit from our CMaaS offering, Toto Lynx, we see Sales personnel as mobile end-users who benefit most from CMaaS.
Key areas of change are the choice of network connectivity options and legacy end user interfaces (UI) for initiating and responding to a variety of contact modes. Since it is most practical to move forward “gracefully,” it will be necessary to allow both legacy telephony and newer unified forms of communications to interoperate efficiently. This requires making changes to premise-based communicaton technologies, as well as mobile services from the carrier service providers. However, because technologies and standards are still evolving, this is not a simple task.
Our CMaaS technology proves its worth by enabling new forms of call management to be implemented without disrupting existing, premise-based phone call operations.
What does Toto Communications CMaaS with Toto Lynx offer with that is better than existing approaches for mobile business users?
Toto Communications has long experience in migrating gracefully from legacy desktop telephony communications to multimodal mobile communications and a variety of endpoint devices. But interestingly, in our original life as an MVNO, we simply developed a product around what we felt was not being addressed in the marketplace. We had migrated to IP telephony but at the end of the day realized no one ever used the deskphones provided. We all rely heavily on our cellphones so we worked on a solution that allowed us to port over all the ‘rules of engagement’ traditionally taken for granted in a private branch exchange (PBX (News - Alert)) onto a mobile platform.
In conjuction with European partners we developed the Toto Lynx service to provide a simple first step in migrating from internal desktop telephony to a cellular-based mobile platform. This approach allowed us to offer a solution with comprehensive benefits.
Toto Lynx also provides the tools necessary to evaluate all communication activities and productivity metrics of individual end users and the different business processes they are involved in.
What Kind Of Organization Can Benefit From Using Toto Lynx?
Our Toto Lynx service helps meet the rapidly changing expectations of many different types of mobile end users. Initially, we thought the ‘sweet-spot’ of companies benefiting from Toto Lynx would be in the 5-200 employee range, especially smaller businesses who need virtual receptionist services to ensure no call is missed, or to accomodate larger work teams that share in-coming calls. When employees aren’t able to receive calls, our automated switchboard steps in and the caller can be now pre-routed to another employee, an entire hunt group, music-on-hold, voice-mail, or automatically called back. And all on mobile devices!
But we are finding that it isn’t our ‘market research’ that really knows the sweet spot – it’s the market itself. For instance, we are finding that even those with one-man operations are using Toto Lynx and take advantage of our “dual persona” service by porting business calls to and from their personal mobile phones without compromising privacy. Real estate agents are good examples..
Another interesting find we hadn’t forseen, was how small companies manage day-to-day functions that legacy business phone systems can’t easily accommodate. This goes beyond ‘mobility’. For instance we have a company that uses the same employees handling incoming customer care calls during part of the day and week, while shifting to outbound billing calls at other times. Being able to easily and dynamically switch employee mobile devices in and out of different hunt groups is a powerful capability.
Larger business firms with operations in property management, professional services, retail, and other industries with a greater number of employees who tend to have one or more receptionists handling in-coming calls. Call-handling can be easily customized with Toto Lynx, and individual employees can opt in and out of their queues as needed, on-the-fly - and via their personal or business mobile phone.
Toto Communications recognizes that there are still many business organizations who rely on their existing deskphones. Last year, Pew Research revealed that 17% of all American adults indicated their landlines would be very hard to give up. Unnlike UCaaS – where a number of OTT apps are available free for the consumer market – there is no other ‘Mobile PBX’ App service as comprehensive as Toto Lynx in the US marketplace.
So what is Toto Lynx?
Toto Lynx is a cloud-based communications platform that is easily set-up via a web-based administration panel and accessed via a simple app on a user’s personal or company-owned smartphone. A web-based switchboard is also used for full call reception under existing PBX functional control.
Only Toto Lynx offers the latest industry standard for reliability, scalability, availability, and ease-of-use, regardless of the size of a business. A single business number connects your callers to anyone in your company. Toto Lynx is a convenient, economical, cost-saving alternative to traditional office phone systems.