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Saved by the Voice Directory

- November 12, 2009 - 5 Comments

Ever had a time when you NEEDED to call someone, but didn’t have the number?  Last week  I had three minutes to call my director – who likes meetings to start on time – and I didn’t have his number; I had to look it up in the directory; and my PC was rebooting after the Blue Screen Of Death and was going to take another 10 minutes at least to get to where I could open a browser. 

With two minutes to go, in desperation I opened the IP Phone “Services” menu to get to the “Directory” feature – the one where you have to text in the letters using the 10-digit keypad, which takes me way too long (I’m all thumbs), and how do you type in the apostrophe in “O’Donnell” anyway? – and I saw a new option: “Cisco Directory – Voice”. What the heck, I thought, as my PC asked me for my password, which meant that I had only another 7 minutes until I could open a browser. I hit the button for “Cisco Directory – Voice”, and a voice asked “Who would you like to reach?” I was stunned. I said “Jim O’Donnell”. It replied “Jim O’Donnell”, in JIM’s voice, and then said “Connecting Now”. That was it. In under 10 seconds from start to finish I was connected to Jim’s number, he answered, and I was a minute early. It actually looked like I knew what I was doing. It turns out this is a new IP Phone feature called “Speech Connect”. Only it’s not a feature of the phone, or of CallManager (excuse me, I meant “Cisco Unified Communications Manager”); it’s a part of Unity voice messaging. I don’t understand that: why is it part of voicemail, when I’m not IN voicemail when I use it? Cisco IT has some information on it at — they point out that it’s a good tool for people who are using their mobile and don’t have a directory connection (so it’s not just for people like me whose PC has taken a data dump just when they’re needed). You can call it direct from your phone, which is handy. And you don’t have to do something to set up the service, it’s just there. It was in place as soon as Cisco IT upgraded to CUCM 7 and Unity 7, earlier this year (in April 2009?). So far its been great. I’ve been told that it only works in English, and it really helps if the name is pronounced by an American or Brit – it even works better if they mis-pronounce the name with an American accent. They do say that “A unique feature about this offering is that the solution is fine tuned periodically by a 3rd party. So, if you tried to call a colleague and the system could not find the correct match, a 3rd party will review that event, and attempt to make the proper correlation for future use.” So if you say a name and don’t get connected, someone will listen to the recording of you attempting to say the name properly, and link it with the right name, manually. I sure hope they get around to me, because while I use it without problems with most people, I work with Ifeoma on a regular basis, and for over a week the service just refuses to understand me when I say her name. I feel so antique when I use the directory now. What’s the problem? I speak with an American accent. At least I think I do. I have a California accent. Most of the Brits I meet think I’m from Canada. Maybe that’s my problem. I’ll let you know if they fix this.


This blog is courtesy of Rich Gore with the Cisco on Cisco team.

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  1. In theory its great and when it works its even better but still have problems with it understanding me so at this stage I wont be using it when in hurry - but will persevere and keep trying to get it to understand me :-)

  2. Very interesting, I have an heavy accent too, I wonder how it work work for me.

  3. Always great to hear real life stories about how UC applications truly help communication among colleagues. As the 3rd party that supports Cisco's Speech Connect deployment (Lyrix), I am interested in how well the name Ifeoma"" is working now. Based on your usage, the entry was reviewed and modified on November 12."

  4. I just heard from someone who handles the garbled speach to text"" identification. He told me that the saw the ""Ifeoma"" issue and fixed it on November 12th -- about a week after I had my problem. I tested it just now -- and it works! So even with an unusual name, and a California accent, the system works!"

  5. Interesting stuff! Thanks!