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Successful voice mail: GE supports AMIS standard and boosts return on investment.


General Electric Corp. realizes a 16.4% return on its investment annually and 19.4% return on equity.

That's important for the telecomm manager at GE to know. Unless Jerome King can beat that rate of return, and beat it convincingly, there's no way management is going to give him money to spend.

"Generally, I need to prove 25% return on ivestment," he says. "All of our voice mail systems beat this goal."

The record, perhamps, is held by a 64-port system which paid for itself within 45 days.

GE's multinational DialComm, a private network with seven-digit dialing to 1800 sites, includes nodes in North America and Europe, with planned expansion to Eastern Europe, Middle East and Far East.

The real-time voice network King describes (from his Bridgeport, Conn., office) handles 300 million call minutes per year. It includes the GE private network, virtual connections, and DID (Direct Inward Dialing) connections.

GE's businesses are in multiple locations and often share facilities--a prime reason they implemented a standard approach to voice mail. Sharing support services demands standardization, whether the business is nuclear, aircraft engineering, turbines, or light bulbs.

It's More

King still calls the network a voice mail system, though it progressed far beyond that.

"You don't get 45 day payback on phone answering, but it is easer to explain to management if you use a name, like voice mail, which they are familiar with."

The network got started in 1986. It featured flexibility, company-wide interconnection, at a good price because of a volume price agreement.

Whether a GE employee is located in Connecticut, Cleveland, or Cairo, Egypt, a seven-digit number provides immediate access to the correct office or mailbox.

Jerry King's GE identity is 223-3227. It doesn't inflate to 18 digits if the caller is in Europe. GE's voice mail environment handles 130 million messages per year. It's that many more successfull connections vs. callbacks crossing the TAT-8 line.

GE's hybrid voice mail architecture combines CPE and service bureau technology.

The network system has logical support, in Princeton, N.J., for people coming on line for the first time.

"When a new location is 'sold' on the system, we change the pointers in our routing table and they are moved to the real system," King says.

Transparent To User

At that point they become fully integrated members of the GE voice mail network. This is completely transparent to the user. Users get message waiting, phone answering, personalized greeting. The entire site gets specific voice processing, network messaging to other sites, and all of the services one would expect with full-service voice messaging.

The rate GE's Telecomm Technology charges is equivalent to what commercial bureaus would charge--no more, usually less.

"If I charge more for the services, they'll go outside."

Of the 1800 sites where potential for voice messaging exists, 1500 are considered "small offices." These benefit most from the service bureau, which is cost effective and helps balance services across the company.

There is a European service bureau, too. Time zones and language differences make this imperative.

The 100 systems currently installed range from 40 to 6500 users per site.

Of those systems, 70 are interconnected and active. King sees 400 as a likely target for "full implementation," although plans would allow it to reach 1000 sites some day.

Octel is the lead vendor on the system, but AT&T, Rolm, VMX and Centigram all are present. Despite the fine reputation and high visibility of all of his equipment providers, King has some specific advice for those just getting started:

Demand AMIS

"Don't ask the vendors what you need. Ask other users. Then tell the vendors and service bureaus that you want AMIS capability," he says.

The Audio Message Interchange Standard was engineered in 1988. The AMIS committee is made up of users, service bureaus, manufacturers, and providers. The name AMIS derives from the first specification written by the group.

King's immediate goal is to put more emphasis on value-added services, to leverage small incremental costs on the installed bases.

One example is General Electic Corp.'s aircraft engine division, which is based in the United States and in France.

Bilingual system prompts allow users from any of the locations within this division to leave fast, accurate messages on either side of the Atlantic without leaving their desks.

Many users, in addition to GE, have bought into MIS in a big way.

Corporations like Amoco, Coca-Cola, DSC Communication, Eli Lilly, Ethicon, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Northern Life, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sprouse-Reitz, and The Travellers all subscribe to the new voice messaging standard.

Service bureaus, including Ameritech Services, Async, Bell Core, NYNEX, Pacific Bell, Southwest Bell, Tigon Voice Com/British Tel, Voice Response, and Xerox participate.

Many equipment manufacturers also are involved. These include Applied Voice, AT&T, Centigram, Dialogic, Digital Sound, Genesis, Glenayre, Northern Tel, Octel, Rolm, VMX, Voice Mail International, and Voysys.

Don't take for granted what AMIS is accomplishing.

Despite what you may be told, general inter-vendor voice mail networking today is not possible.

AMIS is a voluntary group that completed its goal of developing voluntary specs for networking messaging systems from different vendors.

The specifications are available--and free users of the bonds of proprietary protocols. There are both digital and analog specs.

The analog is an open networking system tailored to smaller applications.

The digital, a "closed" network requiring prior administrator involvement (like password exchage), is based on CCITT's X.400.

King sees ability to travel by phone as a plus.

"I don't have a passport and I don't want one," he laughs.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:General Electric Corp., Audio Message Interchange Standard
Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1990
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