Previous: What is presence?
While it's handy to know if someone is on the phone, presence offers plenty of other benefits to businesses.
To offer a greater level of personalisation, a presence system can integrate with your calendar and even your location details if you're using a mobile device. Now people checking your availability can be told you're in a meeting, or out of the office, and roughly when you'll be available again. Your voicemail and email auto-reply can also give people an idea of where and when they'll be able to reach you.
If you combine all this with a unified message platform, the system can even direct your incoming communications according to your preferences, for example sending callers to voicemail when you're in a meeting unless it's a priority call from your eight month pregnant wife.
One of the most useful applications of this technology is the automatic diversion of incoming calls to someone who is free and able to help.
Sydney software house JobBag deployed a Zultys VoIP system with presence features, allowing the creation of group policies for certain staff members such as technical support.
"If somebody calls in on a particular number, such as support, I can easily have calls forwarded to whoever is available within a particular group of people," says JobBag director David Blaymires.
"If no-one is available to take the call then there is a voice mailbox designated for that group, which any member of that group can get access to."
Presence is also useful when creating virtual call centres, with staff spread around the country or the globe, says Eddie Mahdi - director of Sydney-based communications systems integrator Centrix Solutions.
"Your calls might come into Sydney, but then the combination of presence and VoIP allows for intelligent load balancing between your various call centres. The system can see who is on the phone right now and who is available," says Mahdi - a Zultys systems integrator.
Presence is also a key feature in allowing organisations to get the most from collaboration tools such as Microsoft's Sharepoint portal, says Microsoft Australia director of unified communications Oscar Trimboli.
"Presence ads a valuable extra dimension to collaboration tools," Trimboli says.
"Industries where people move around a lot, or time equals money, that's where we're seeing the take-up - particularly any industry with highly mobile workers such as professional services."
Cisco's Peter Hughes - regional manager of the tech and business group - also sees presence as a key enabler of productivity tools, citing Cisco's recent acquisition of WebEx as a prime example.
"We were in a competitive situation, we got wind that people were looking to buy WebEx, so we sent the mergers and acquisitions team into overdrive. Within four days we had a handshake and in eight days we closed an acquisition that normally would have taken 45 days. How did we do that? Because we were using our own unified communications tools. There was presence, there was virtual collaboration, there was telepresence - all these things made us that much more dynamic. In the time it might have take the competition to get a board meeting together, or to get an approval to do something, we had acted on it. That kind of a story resonates with customers - that's business agility thanks to features like presence."