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CommBank ditches softphone strategy for smartphones

news The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has confirmed plans to substantially modify its high-profile softphone-based unified communications strategy recently implemented at its flagship Commonwealth Bank Place facility in Sydney, turning instead to a mass smartphone deployment as its replacement.

The bank’s unified communications strategy

The bank’s unified communications strategy was unveiled in a Microsoft case study published in May 2011. The strategy saw the bank deploy the 2010 version of Microsoft’s Lync UC platform to some 32,000 staff across its operations, in one of the largest known rollouts of the UC software in Australia then. The idea was that staff, especially at the bank’s new high-tech Commonwealth Bank Place offices in Sydney’s Darling Harbour, would use a combination of desktop videoconferencing, IP telephony and unified communications features just as instant messaging to improve internal and customer communications; in a softphone-style headset rollout that would avoid the need for employees to pick up the traditional desk phone.

However, Delimiter was told this week, last week the bank briefed senior staff on a decision to dump the hardware being used to power the softphones — Cisco and Plantronics branded gear — and shift to a mass smartphone deployment strategy at the bank, due to what was claimed to be flaky research and increased costs. An unverified source claimed that mobile phones were to be issued to all staff at Commonwealth Bank Place who did not already have a BlackBerry handset or a permanent desk phone.

"As part of our continued planned set of experiments into productivity and bring your own device capabilities, the Commonwealth Bank has decided to use mobile phones as the preferred telephone solution for staff at Commonwealth Bank Place,” a spokesperson for CommBank said in a statement in response this afternoon. “Employees can continue to use Microsoft Lync for instant messaging.”

The spokesperson said the bank wouldn’t comment on negotiations with suppliers, however the same source said that two vendors were currently locked in a battle to land a contract to supply the smartphones.

Despite the fact that CommBank inked a $1 billion telecommunications services contract with Telstra in April 2009, the source said, Optus was currently the frontrunner in negotiations to supply the bank with smartphones, with the telco looking to supply close to 5,000 Nokia Lumia 800 handsets to the bank at no charge, should it secure the deal. Apple Australia is as well allegedly having discussions with the bank, and is interested in providing a similar number of iPhone 4S handsets, at a similarly subsidised price.

Both Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform are likely to have their supporters within the bank, however for different reasons. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform has in the past been positioned as a consumer platform, yet it appears to be falling back into business favour due to its integration with the rest of Microsoft’s office productivity suite, including Lync but as well Microsoft Outlook and Office.

Last week it was revealed that the Australian division of tyre manufacturer Bridgestone has picked Nokia's Windows Phone7-based Lumia 800 smartphone as its platform of choice for its corporate smartphone fleet, with the Finnish company beating rival offerings from the likes of Technology in Motion, Apple and Google to the work. And Telstra is currently positioning HTC’s Titan 4G handset launched over the past week as a business smartphone.

However, CommBank as well has an existing heavy Apple presence, particularly at Commonwealth Bank Place, where the bank has deployed thousands of Apple MacBooks to staff. Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte has expressed strong praise for Apple’s user interface in the past, and a number of the bank’s executives are believed to already be using their own iPhoens and iPads within the bank’s infrastructure — including access to certain company datastores, just as email.

Commbank’s move to shift away from its smartphone strategy throws a significant wrench in the movement towards softphone use in Australia. The bank’s deployment — along with a similar rollout of Microsoft’s Lync software at Qantas subsidiary Jetstar — had been one of the most significant and high-profile known implementations of a hardware-less UC strategy in Australia. Given that the bank’s underlying network and desktop infrastructure at Commonwealth Bank Place is believed to be in the extreme modern, given the fact that the facility was only constructed over the past few years, the rollback onto smartphones will call into question whether softphone strategies are practical in large Australian organisations at all.

opinion/analysisThere are several very striking things going on here which I actually think Australian chief information officers and IT managers considering their future internal communications strategies need to pay attention to.

Firstly, if the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, with its huge IT budget, forward-thinking CIO, educated white collar worker staff base and brand new facilities can’t make a softphone-based UC strategy work so then in its operations, at that time it is questionable whether other Australian organisations can. Those phones on desks may not be going away for a during yet — if they are at all.

Secondly, the bank’s shift to a mass workplace smartphone strategy is as well very significant. Australian organisations have been debating such strategies for years, however typically this debate has been focused around the idea that employees would be issued with dual-mode smartphones which would place internal calls over the internal Wi-Fi network and through the company’s IP telephony system, roaming onto traditional mobile phone cell networks when outside the office or when out of Wi-Fi range.

It doesn’t look like CommBank is doing this here, but — it looks to me as if the bank is going purely for a 3G smartphone strategy, with all calls placed over the terrestrial cell network — and data, presumably, usually being piped over its internal Wi-Fi network. This is why the bank is talking to Optus. It would be fascinating if CommBank did go down this route, because if it does, it will in essence be saying that many employees no longer need desk phones — they can get by with company issued smartphones instead, connected to 3G mobile phone networks and internal Wi-Fi for data. This would represent a new evolution in our understanding of how large organisations do internal communications.

Of course, I could be completely wrong and CommBank could be intending to on the whole pipe much of its smartphone voice traffic over its internal Wi-Fi network. However my gut tells me this isn’t the case.

The actions of the suppliers here

We as well need to look at the actions of the suppliers here. If it is true that both Optus/Nokia and Apple are offering steep discounts for mass purchases of their smartphones by CommBank, this indicates that smartphones are in point of fact becoming commodity items in the enterprise, and that what as a matter of fact matters to these vendors is having bulk scale in the enterprise, on their platform — not the profits of the moment. This could indicate that other Australian organisations could similarly get great deals on this kind of mass internal smartphone rollout.

Lastly, there is the fact that both Technology in Motion and the Android vendors have been left completely out of this equation. As I wrote last week when Bridgestone picked Nokia, it appears as if Android is making very little headway in the Australian enterprise, compared with the mammoth growth it is seeing in consumer-land. To make up for it, Microsoft, which is having trouble pushing its Windows Phone 7 platform to consumers, is seeing early interest from large Australian organisations.

Lot here to analyse

There truly is a lot here to analyse and discuss. I will be fascinated to see the direction in which enterprise communications goes in Australia over the then and there several years. So much of the pie is without warning up for grabs, in this highly dynamic market. I suspect that in a few years, the way Australian organisations provide communications services to their employees may be very different from the way much of the industry had been predicting. The future of the enterprise is looking highly consumerised — and less and less like UC vendors like Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft would like it to.

Also first sentence in the last paragraph earlier the opinion.“Commbank's move to shift away from its smartphone strategy” I suspect you mean shift away from its softphone strategy.

What happens with business over the at once few years

It’ll be VERY interesting to see what happens with business over the at once few years and integration with BYOD’s.

I’m not surprised Enterprises aren’t considering Android.The fact is if you ready any mobile threat reports, malware for Android devices is increasing exponentially, whilst malware for other mobile OS are steady or even declining. [1]This is in no way whatsoever a post about how bad Android is, nevertheless the stats are pretty clear in regards to malware threats on Android at present.

One day the iOS or Android devs are going to in effect stuff it up, and leave a back door open so some drive by virus can get root. When that happens it will have complete access to the phone and all its data, the user won’t know the thing is present on their machine and even if they do figure it out there will be no way to get rid of it as formatting and reinstalling from media isn’t an option on most phones. And we won’t be able to use “malware” to describe it, as the word has been perverted to mean something in substance harmless.

Corporately controlled device

There are good reasons to choose iOS over Android for a corporately controlled device, however malware isn’t one of them.

But plenty of companies have issued Android phones and locked the kernel and have their own Intranet app service, allowing them to only install secured apps they pick and check themselves.

Mac Air!! Why?

Windows XP on a Mac Air!! Why????. You can see how this went wrong. I suppose they will buy Windows Smartphones to fix this mess too.

Kind of off-topic however I’m interested in the justification of this line “However, Microsoft, which is having trouble pushing its Windows Phone 7 platform to consumers” ?

Windows Phone is now outselling RIM in US, outselling RIM in France and has already taken anyway 5% marketshare in most EU countries.

I’m sorry, nevertheless big fucking deal. RIM was never primarily a consumer phone manufacturer and only enjoyed a tiny portion of that market. Windows Phone 7 is getting slaughtered by iOS and Android and in other words simply a fact. If you don’t like it … deal with it.

To be fair GTRoberts, WinPhone has been around for…what, 2 years now? And they’ve managed to gain, according to the latest figures, about 2% of global market share. In that same length of time, Apple gained about 20% when they arrived with the iPhone and Android gained about the same.

They may be excelling in some markets, however overall, they’ve but to make a more than a superficial dent in the mobile market. The fact that they’re better than RIM……so then, RIM are calling in the bankers, so…..what does that say? Not much.

How are they going to do video on the desktop?

How are they going to do video on the desktop? Enabling video enables voice. Windows Phone share over the last 2 years was heavily impacted by the lack of decent handsets. It’s only with the Lumia 800 and 900 that after all there are devices of the quality of an iPhone. The Lumia 800 has been available here for a only a few months and the 900 has only just been announced. Let’s see what happens from here in. As Microsoft have proven again and again, they play a long game.

how was/is lync being used ? was it the smartphone? is it native lync? is there any integration to pabx here? what software/harsware is being used to integrate to pabx? are there plugins here? if there is plugins on top of lync, can see why that would be a failure.

The chief information officer of National Australia Bank has delivered a major speech arguing that it’s too early for any of Australia’s major banks to “claim victory” in the race to upgrade their aging research platforms, in comments that run directly counter to the Commonwealth Bank’s ongoing claims that it is far ahead of its rivals in the area.

In an if not unrelated article on the organisation’s adoption of Internet Protocol version 6, an article published by ZDNet.com.au yesterday revealed that Australia’s peak scientific technology agency was nevertheless running some copies of Windows 98 and NT4.

The choice about whether your organisation should deploy a private or public cloud computing solution represents a false dichotomy. Instead, why not deploy both in an integrated approach, to take advantage of the strengths of each model? And why not consider developing your applications the same way?

The Department of Defence said last week that it expects to receive Government approval to go ahead with a number of major ICT projects in the then year, ranging from telecommunications to datacentre reform and its long-anticipated overhaul of its PMKeyS human resources platform.

More information: Com
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