What is your preferred mode of communication?

* Our personal communication policies

Almost all of us have policies and preferences as they relate to communications. For example, we don't want to be called at home after a certain time of night or before a certain time in the morning on weekdays; we may not want to be called during dinner or during a Monday Night Football game, etc. We may also have similar types of policies at work, even if those policies are unstated, such as not wanting to be called by telephone when working on a deadline that's less than an hour away.

I believe that these policies will ultimately result in the convergence of workplace e-mail, instant messaging (IM), fax and voice into a single communications hierarchy that is driven largely by policies stored in an enterprise directory. Using such a capability, you might come up with the following policies:

* Office voice is my preferred mode of communication and IM is secondary between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. unless my presence status is busy, then default to e-mail.

* Outside of these hours, IM is my preferred mode and e-mail is secondary unless my presence status is busy, then default to voice.

* If a problem is urgent and my IM status is away, my preference is cell.

Using a system like this would do two things. First, for recipients it would allow them to receive communications using the medium of their choice based on the time of day, their presence status, how busy they are at a given time, etc. For senders, it would free them from having to guess how recipients want to be contacted or the most efficient way to contact them, and it would free them from having to know all of the modes of communication that a recipient has available to them. For example, if all a sender knows is the recipient's e-mail address, the directory would be able to send the message to any device the user has available based on that user's preferences.

Some of these capabilities already exist in various forms, but I believe that this type of hierarchy, driven primarily by recipients of communications and not senders, will become the norm. I'd appreciate your feedback on how useful this would be or how ridiculous it sounds: Please drop me a line at mailto:michael@ostermanresearch.com.

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