An Enhanced Feature

Clearly, there are scenarios where specific features are not only a critical part of a work process, but also well understood and fully used by an organization and its users. Therefore, not only should an effective IP telephony solution support those features that are critical to specific organizations, but it should enhance those features/capabilities as well. Let's examine a few of the traditional PBX features that are common across most organizations, and discover how IP telephony can enhance those features and the work processes they support.

Consider how time-of-day ringing can be used in the education industry. Although schools increasingly want telephones in the classrooms (often for security reasons), in most cases, the schools place parameters around how the phones are used. A common PBX feature incorporated into schools is time-of-day ringing (or call routing). In other words, because the teacher is in class teaching most of the day, it is important that outside callers do not interrupt the teaching process. If the front office needs to contact a teacher, they use the intercom system to communicate with the teacher. Outside (and even internal) calls coming in to the classroom need to be blocked during certain hours of the day. Whether those calls roll (or forward) to voice mail or to the front office becomes a choice the school makes.

This feature is absolutely critical to the work process for teachers. IP telephony allows schools to implement this basic feature, and expand upon it as well. With IPT, a teacher determines how calls are handled based not only on time-of-day, but also on caller ID.

Take Mrs. White, who teaches high-school English. The generic parameters block calls from 8 A.M. until 11 A.M., when she is teaching, then open calls between 11A.M. and 11:40A.M., which is her lunch period. Then, calls are blocked from 11:40 until 2.M. She has a free period from 2 P.M. until 2:40 P.M., so calls are allowed through. From 2:40 until 3:3(P.M. when school ends, call blocking is in effect. This is a traditional way of handling calls for Mrs. White.

Suppose, however, that Mrs. White has placed a call to Timmy's parents. Timmy has been having problems, and she wants to speak with his mom or dad.

Here, IP telephony can offer some enhancements to the traditional PBX feature. An IPT application can be written that personalizes the treatment of Mrs. White's incoming calls. She could pull up a list of students and then highlight, or click on Timmy's name. (She can do this either from a PC workstation or directly on the application-enabled IP phone.) The application would then search a database and find the various phone numbers for Timmy's parents that were captured during student registration. His parents' home number, work numbers, and cell-phone numbers have been stored in the database. After Timmy's profile is marked, Mrs. White can direct the phone system on how she wants a call coming from any of Timmy's parents' numbers handled, even allowing the call to ring through to her classroom during the hours that regular calls are blocked.

It is clear that linking individual profiles is a useful feature. Continuing with the education example, because Mrs. White highlighted Timmy's name earlier in the morning, the application looks at the incoming caller ID for all calls and compares the incoming caller numbers to the phone numbers stored under Timmy's profile. If the incoming caller ID is blocked or does not match any of the phone numbers, the traditional time-of-day routing schematic remains in effect and the call forwards to voice mail or the front office during hours that Mrs. White is scheduled to teach. If, however, a match is found between the caller ID and a number in the database for Timmy, something different happens.

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