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This article was prepared for the January 16, 2002 edition of U.S.
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Internet Telephoning Reaches for Maturity
Convergence is where we are headed. Wireless devices
the size of a peppermint patty strapped to the wrists of traveling
business people will carry news, live football games, phone calls
from the boss, and real-time video of the kids chasing the dog through
the living room. "That won’t happen tomorrow," says Chuck
Rutledge of all-encompassing electronic convergence, but less
examples of the coming together of our communications devices are
Rutledge, vice president of marketing for Eatontown-based Quintum
Technologies, speaks on "Convergence: New Service Deployment
for Enterprise and Service Providers" on Thursday, January 17,
at 8 a.m. The free event is sponsored by the New Jersey Technology
Council and takes place at the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s
Hazell Center in Newark. Other speakers are Mike Watson of iQ
NetSolutions, and Mike Krueger of Dialout.Net. Both companies
have headquarters in New Hampshire.
Quintum, a 53-employee company that was founded in 1998, works on
telecommunications convergence, bringing the computer and the
together. The IT network is used to carry phone calls as well as data.
Now, early days for the technology, Rutledge explains that the
is at the transport level. In other works, voice and data use a single
infrastructure, and typically it is IT focused. Both go over the
Even this marriage — far short of live streaming video viewed
on a wireless wristwatch — is just getting underway. "It’s
still mostly data over data networks and voice over voice
says Rutledge. But early adopters — those folks who banished
secretaries and passed out laptops back in the late-1980s — are
beginning to sign up. The technology is especially well suited for
industries where one company has many outposts. Financial firms, with
brokerage offices in every sizable city, are early adopters. So are
retail businesses with hundreds of stores, and airlines with ticket
offices throughout the world.
The big draw of the telecom convergence technology is that it saves
money. It uses one infrastructure rather than two, allowing companies
to do away with the trunk lines that typically carry phone calls among
their far-flung offices, or at least their major offices. And it cuts
down on phone charges. "Companies with offices in South American
and Asia can spend 50 cents a minute on phone calls," says
Calls over an IT network cost nothing most of the time.
The cost savings aren’t enough to get too many IT officers to champion
the systems to their bosses, not yet. Many fear going out on a limb
for a new technology. "I haven’t tried it, no one I know has tried
it," the thinking goes. It’s too risky to take a chance,
with a company’s core communications on the line. Fears break down
into three categories, says Rutledge.
voice (over the Internet)," Rutledge admits. The Internet was
not designed to carry continuous information. Its data passes through
a number of hubs on its way from Point A to Point B. "Things get
stacked up," he says, "and sometimes nothing comes out the
The new convergence systems answer this objection by monitoring voice
transmissions and switching to another network when one backs up.
"Sometimes that means going back to the telephone network,"
Rutledge says. Convergence does not mean a company can ditch its phone
service altogether. Not at all. It is necessary for local calls, for
911, and, once in a while, as a back-up when Internet networks get
too clogged up to carry voice clearly and reliably.
their phone lines in place. Ripping either out to obtain convergence
is a proposition few want to undertake. Convergence businesses that
want to attract customers need to minimize changes to existing
Although some will remember party lines, where neighbors shared a
connection and each had to listen for his own distinct ring, the
have always been incredibly easy to use. Compared with nearly any
piece of equipment in the home or office, including the electric can
opener, and certainly the VCR, the phone is a delightful no-brainer.
No company wants to tinker with the lovely certainty that is a dial
Seamless telecommunications convergence, says Rutledge, means
don’t see a change." Anyone who has experimented with placing
free Internet calls over a PC can vouch for a fact that no amount
of "free" makes up for the poor connections, dropped calls,
and hassles of placing a call. This is not the case with in-office
telecommunications convergence systems like those Quintum installs,
Rutledge assures. In offices already wired for convergence, everyone
picks up the phone and dials, the same way they always have done.
Switching to an optimum connection occurs out of sight, and users
never detect it.
University, Class of 1982, worked for Vialog Communications before
joining Quintum. Before that, he spent 13 years at AT&T. Telecom
systems still take a leap of faith, but those willing to become early
adopters can reap substantial financial rewards. "Payback on
tends to be nine to ten months," Rutledge says, "but some
companies can be paid back in weeks."
People. Few companies can do without lots and lots of
them. But how to get the most out of these humans for the greater
good — and profitability — of the company? The Gallup
Journal (GMJ), a glossy new business magazine published by the Gallup
Organization in conjunction with Time Inc. Custom Printing, exists
in large part to provide answers.
GMJ’s founding editor-in-chief is Jessica Korn, a graduate of
Yale, who holds a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard. Before
joining GMJ, she served as program advisor on the New Information
Economy at the Freedom Forum’s Media Studies Center in New York,
professor at Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, and lead staff
advisor on the enactment and implementation of the Telecommunications
Act of 1996.
Korn speaks on "Power to the People: What the Numbers Tell Us
about the Impact People Have on an Organization’s Performance All
Across the Board," on Wednesday, January 23, at 5 p.m., at a
of the American Society for Quality, at Raritan Valley Community
Cost: $25. Call 609-730-9681.
The numbers in GMJ, many derived from Gallup surveys, fuel articles
that delve into the many factors that make a difference between
who contribute to a company’s success, and those who sabotage it.
These excerpts illustrate the breadth of factors at work in human
interaction on the job:
in their jobs and personal lives than men do — and the gap has
widened. In GMJ’s second annual survey of U.S. workers, engagement
among women rose at twice the rate it did for men. This is significant
because, as Gallup knows from its research, higher levels of employee
engagement (which predict satisfaction and emotions like loyalty and
pride) result in higher productivity.
employees at small and large companies. The key findings: Engagement
is highest (33 percent of employees) at companies with fewer than
50 workers. Engagement is lowest (22 percent) at companies with 1,000
to 5,000 employees.
Gallup researchers trace the higher engagement of small-company
to their greater sense of "local control," the feeling of
connection to, and accountability for, company output. But at large
companies, hierarchy and bureaucracy can make employees feel their
contributions don’t matter.
To replicate the local control of small companies, managers at large
companies should bear in mind that some work units within an
can be engaged at the small-company level. In work units of fewer
than 10 people, however, engagement will soar or plummet depending
on the manager. That’s because in small groups each member keenly
feels a good manager’s ability to communicate and motivate — and
a bad manager’s incompetence. So, if you expect your small teams to
be top performing, make sure your managers are up to the challenge.
are bound to share certain traits, such as a sense of responsibility
and a positive attitude. But one thing they won’t have in common is
their ages. That’s because highly dedicated employees are found across
the age spectrum. In GMJ’s fourth national survey of U.S. workers,
the percentage who say they are engaged, or deeply involved in their
work, varied only slightly by age group.
So, what might we learn about boosting engagement by examining some
workplace attitudes of different age groups? As it turns out, age
groups vary significantly in their view of the workplace as a
Only about a quarter of workers age 25 or older strongly believe that
promotion is based on ability, compared with 40 percent of
And only about a quarter to a third of workers age 25 or older trust
their company to be fair to all employees, compared with 45 percent
of younger workers.
If the older workers’ more jaded view truly reflects their experience,
managers should be able to boost engagement by asserting that their
companies are committed to fairness. That doesn’t mean everyone who
wants a promotion will get one. But it does require managers to
all employees appropriately.
tend to be less productive and report being less loyal to their
more stressed, and less secure in their work. They miss more days
and are less satisfied with their personal lives.
Like death and taxes, these workers will always be with us. But their
numbers can be reduced, and great benefits will result from making
even small inroads into the problem. Using two approaches, we estimate
that the lower productivity of actively disengaged workers penalizes
U.S. economic performance by about $300 billion, nearly equal to the
nation’s defense budget.
The 24.7 million actively disengaged employees miss 86.5 million more
work days than average workers and 13.6 million more days because
of illness. These numbers do not include the effect on turnover,
or health-care costs.
that with all other macro-economic factors staying constant, a
point decrease in the percentage of actively engaged employees would
boost U.S. productivity by $79 billion a year."
Having a web presence is an integral part of business
in all industries. It is the way you present your company or use your
presence that will make the difference and allow you to stand out
from the rest.
Dean McDavitt, vice president of business development for
company FASTNET, speaks on "Web/Internet strategies and your
line" at a multi-topic GetContactX seminar on Thursday, January
24, at 8 a.m. at the Ramada Inn, Route 1 South. Other topics are
your company in light of new business trends and technology
and "Human resource issues for small to mid-sized companies."
Paul Mlynarski, tax partner at Deloitte & Touche, addresses
the former topic, and Patrick McCann of HR Logic speaks on the
McDavitt, a graduate of Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania,
who holds a master’s degree in public administration, has been with
FASTNET for two years. The company, based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,
says businesses need to ask whether their websites give a good
of the business, are easy to navigate, download with lightening speed,
and contain interactive elements. Each factor is crucial. The best
websites also let internal and external customers gather information
and order products.
The list of what makes a website an important business asset differs
based on its audience and their needs. Via E-mail, McDavitt offered
the following tips:
very cool, McDavitt says, but will accomplish nothing if it does not
meet the needs of your audience. To build a profitable site, you need
to have an outstanding marketing and sales influence in the creation
stage. A site should be designed to drive revenue that will affect
the bottom line. Your site should have enough information to allow
a person to make a decision about your company or products on the
E-commerce solution or application is key. The package should be very
user friendly and not flashy. Use the least amount of steps possible
for the site visitor to accomplish what they set out to do, and ensure
that the process is easy to understand. Simplify the process.
want a site that shows the product, helps them understand the product,
and presents the best information so they don’t have to look any
People do not have much free time these days, so they need a visit
to a website to be fast and comprehensive — not time consuming.
effectively using a web site to generate profits is a company that
has a product with international appeal. FASTNET worked with a company
that had an international pharmaceutical product. They had no web
presence to allow international companies to order the product online
and receive up-to-date information on the status of their orders.
Their international sales accounted for only 5 percent of all sales
activity. That percentage went up 90 percent after they created a
user-friendly site with up-to-date information and a simplified
process. The goal was giving users a pain free experience.
Websites are becoming an application that allow users to be more
with a company or product they are dealing with. Your visitors are
no longer just doing research. If you want your products to be
across the globe, you need a website to reach your entire audience.
The web has created the opportunity to mine diamonds not only in your
backyard but also in the backyard of others at a fraction of the cost
of traditional marketing strategies.
prospective customers see your website is to make sure it stays up
and running. Choose a host that has the infrastructure and technical
support to monitor the availability of the site. A common mistake
companies make is spending big money developing a website, and pennies
to host it. No matter how good your site is, if it is not available
when people want to see it, then you have no site at all.
Spend the money to keep your business running 24/7. A website works
when you sleep, and needs to be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week. Do your homework on the company hosting your site to make sure
it meets all the criteria for keeping your site running seamlessly.
Look for a 24/7 fully operational and manned hosting center. It is
very important to know what type of connectivity the facility has
to the Internet. Can the provider implement VPNs (Virtual Private
Networks) for your internal and external customers? Can it secure
your site from unwanted intruders?
If the visitors to your website find it very slow and painful to even
get into your site and get started, they will run and may never come
back. Your site is a representation of how you do business and how
important the customer is to you. If you want to boost your revenue
and enhance your reputation, create a fast, interactive,
easy-to-navigate website, and make sure it is working on your bottom
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