Lucent spin-off to connect firms with customers

Lucent Technology’s new spin-off company, the Enterprise Networks Group (ENG), is vowing to hit the ground running after its IPO in late September. ENG says it will ramp up quickly by releasing a new “eCommunication” model that will be the roadmap for businesses to enter what the company is calling the third wave of e-business — the communications stage.

“We believe we can eCommunication-enable any business, from a start-up to a multinational,” said Don Peterson, ENG’s president and CEO, “so that it can quickly organize, optimize and personalize its multivendor networks, applications and portals for business.”

Karen Wishima, ENG’s vice-president of strategy, said e-business is moving beyond the first wave of Web site content and the second stage of transactions to a third phase — one dominated by customer relationships.

“We’re undergoing transformation driven by the customer’s desire to use any medium, anytime, from anywhere, and connect into a variety of systems and people, unconstrained,” Wishima said.

To that end, ENG has been actively partnering with industry players, including consulting firms Andersen Consulting, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Eloyalty, to help deploy e-business solutions more quickly.

Further, ENG plans to establish a consortium of technology leaders to partner in defining and developing software based on its eCommunication model, which is an open layout that will allow companies to integrate their front and back offices with their Web portals, across any type of multivendor network platform.

“This a major cornerstone of our e-business strategy,” Wishima said.

“We know that building the best solutions to meet the demands of the new economy requires speed and innovation, and no one company can do it all,” she said.

A wise move, according to Frank Dzubeck, the president of Communications Networks Architects in Washington, D.C.

Dzubeck said he is impressed with ENG’s strategic direction because it builds on the company’s inherent strength — Lucent’s history of customer relationship management and its call centre technology — while leveraging partnerships to make up for its weaknesses — its paltry market share in network infrastructure.

With support from existing partners such as the Sun/Netscape Alliance, Dzubeck said, it is just a matter of time before ENG is able to develop communication applets, which will allow companies to integrate their communications systems with a minimum of programming know-how.

The practical applications include enhanced follow-me technology, Dzubeck said, for both voice and telephony.

For example, say a major market event occurs which could affect a security company’s customers. The investment advisor sets up a list of 200 priority customers, who absolutely must know the information immediately. The advisor sends out a general e-mail, which is then transformed into and delivered in whatever mode of communication the customer prefers, be it a cell phone, e-mail, fax, etc.

“I don’t know about you, but I get tired about carrying around half a dozen devices,” Dzubeck chuckled, adding the example situation is not unrealistic in today’s fast-paced financial world.

“So you’d really like to communicate more effectively, have one thing that’s nice and simple,” Dzubeck said.

Jim Metzler, president of Ashton, Metzler & Associates, an analyst firm in Newton, Mass., said ENG’s focus on customer relationships and its understanding of the rapidity of e-business will be equally important to companies in need of direction.

“For example, I get very frustrated when I call some customer service line and get put on hold for 18 minutes,” Metzler explained.

“That drives me absolutely crazy.”

With the eCommunication model, ENG said on-line customers will be able to find the representative they need to speak to quickly and efficiently, with no content or context lost in the transmission. That is, customers won’t have to explain their reason for calling over an over, while being bounced from one agent to another.

“Success in the e-world requires the ability to use communications to develop and strengthen ongoing relationships with customers and suppliers, partners and employees,” ENG’s Wishima said.

“Wave 3 (of e-business) is all about relationships, driven by collaboration and personalization.”