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VoiceCon keynote: Kraft Foods UC vision includes Avaya and the iPhone

Kraft Foods sounds like a fun place to work. During his keynote, Tom Behnke, manager of network services, global architecture and strategy for Kraft, gave VoiceCon attendees a glimpse of the future for information workers at his company. He offered details of a unified communications pilot program at Kraft’s Chicago facility.

Behnke’s pilot involves a rethinking of not only communications and collaboration technologies, but also the workspace. Kraft wants to change the collaboration culture among its employees. To do that, it did away with traditional cubicles and office, putting information workers at large work table, where they can sit side by side and face each other.

As far as technology, Behnke brought in Avaya to deliver its voice infrastructure. He also decided to go with a wireless office, so employees could move freely throughout their workspace, building a Cisco wireless LAN infrastructure that was designed by HP/EDS. And he engaged AT&T to come in and build an in-building cellular system so that he could deploy iPhones to every employee.

Behke said his goal was to change the user perception that he was providing them with technology widgets that they had to use. He was trying to create something that would focus on the individual user experience, that would help them the way they do there jobs.

One thing that really jumped out at me. He designed this new environment to be free of MAC addresses. If a user needs to move his work station, he can just get up and walk somewhere else. IT doesn’t need to reassign the employee’s phone and network profile to a new set of ports.

I’ve asked Avaya to give me a one-on-one conversation with Behnke is doing at Kraft. If they come through, I’ll write more extensively about this project for

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I have read your follow up interview on this subject and the shift in emphasis of an "office" environment from private offices to open, mobile team collaboration spaces, will bring greater need for UC-based multi-modal contacts and interactions. On the other hand, in such an "open" work environment, telephone calls and talking will be very disruptive and subject to greater privacy needs. This suggests that visual communication interfaces (i.e., email, IM, SMS, voice-to-text messaging, etc.) will further dominate traditional voice contacts. This also confirms that the next-generation "office" environment will be be similar to that of the mobile user who must be able to communicate based upon both their availability/priorities, mullti-modal device accessibility, and their environmental circumstances. That individual flexibility is what UC is really all about!