This article introduces what Exchange Unified Messaging “Exchange UM” is really about, and goes through quick listing of the features it can provide. I usually find people and documentation lack proper introduction and configuration of Exchange UM and the hybrid model. This article will list the things you can do with Exchange UM. In different blog post, I will be talking about Exchange UM architecture and Exchange UM dial plans ,and Exchange voice mail.

What is Exchange Unified Messaging or Exchange UM ?

Exchange UM (Exchange Unified Messaging) is a big IVR* Application. It has:

  •  Speech Recognition system, so you can ask it “read my email” and it will do that. This is same as Siri in IPhone devices. This feature is called Outlook Voice Access or OVA.
  • Text to Speech TTS: It converts your voice messages to text, and deliver it to your inbox using a feature called Voice Mail Preview.

* “Interactive voice response (IVR)” is a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and DTMF tones input via keypad.

What does Exchange UM provide?

  1. Voice Mail solution.
  2. Outlook Voice Access or OVA: users can call their inbox to access voicemail, email, calendar and contacts.
  3. Play on Phone: allows users to play their voice mails on a phone, rather than through their computer speakers.
  4. Outbound Calls.
  5. Auto Attendant: has a set of default prompts, but can also have company-specific prompts (can be voice or DTMF).
  6. Missed call notifications: delivered to your inbox.
  7. Voice Mail Preview: uses speech-to-text, to take a voicemail and put a text preview in your inbox (uses best guess for words it does not understand).
  8. Message Waiting Indicator.
  9. Others.

What is Outlook Voice Access or OVA?

Outlook Voice Access users can use Outlook Voice Access when they access the voice mail system from an external or internal telephone.

  • Access voice mail.
  • Listen to, forward, or reply to email messages.
  • Listen to calendar information.
  • Access or dial contacts who are stored in the organization’s directory.
  • Accept or cancel meeting requests.
  • Set a voice message to let callers know the called party is away.
  • Set user security preferences and personal options.
  • Search for users in the directory of the organization.

Voice Mail

Exchange provides full voice mail solution that is fully integrated within Skype for Business client. The following features are some of what voice mail can do in Exchange:

Play on Phone

If the user works in an office cubicle, is using a public computer or a computer that isn’t enabled for multimedia, or is listening to a voice message that’s confidential, they might not want to or be able to listen to a voice message through computer speakers. They can play the voice message using any telephone, including a home, office, or mobile telephone.

Call answering

Call answering includes answering incoming calls on behalf of users, playing their personal greetings, recording messages, and submitting them for delivery to their Inbox as an email message.

Call Answering Rules

Call Answering Rules lets users who are enabled for voice mail determine how their incoming call answering calls should be handled. So you can say if my boss calls and I am not available, then instead of prompting him to leave voice message, instead let Exchange dial my mobile number and connect him through. This is what can be done with call answering rules:

  • Leave a voice message for the UM-enabled user.
  • Transfer to an alternate contact of the UM-enabled user.
  • Transfer to the alternate contact’s voice mail.
  • Transfer to other phone numbers that the UM-enabled user has configured.
  • Use the Find Me feature or locate the UM-enabled user via a transfer from an operator.

The great thing about this feature is that end user can configure all this from within their outlook web app experience (OWA).

Voice Mail Preview

Exchange Unified Messaging has a feature called voice mail preview. The Mailbox server uses Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) on newly created voice mail messages. When users receive voice messages, the messages contain both a recording and text that’s been created from the voice recording

Auto attendant

We cannot talk about Exchange Unified Messaging without talking about auto attendant. An auto attendant is a set of voice prompts that gives external and internal users access to the voice mail system. Users can use the telephone keypad or speech inputs to move through the auto attendant menu, place a call to a user, or locate a user in the  organization and then place a call to them. An auto attendant gives the administrator the ability to:

  • Create a customized menu for external users.
  • Define informational greetings, business hours greetings, and non-business hours greetings.
  • Define holiday schedules.
  • Describe how to search the organization’s directory.
  • Describe how to connect to a user’s extension so that external callers can call users by specifying their extension.
  • Describe how to search the organization’s directory so that external callers can search the organization’s directory and call a specific user.• Enable external users to call the operator.