Friday, March 9, 2012

Unified Communication - Improve Employee Delivery System.


Business communication technology is constantly evolving as employees seek better ways to reach co-workers and customers faster. For many enterprises, the next stage in this evolution is Unified Communications (UC), as it allows organizations to communicate and collaborate more efficiently, more accurately and in real-time regardless of location.

To bolster collaboration and communication of an increasingly distributed workforce, UC weaves together technologies such as Internet Protocol (IP)-PBX; voice over IP (VoIP); voice mail; Web, audio- and video-conferencing; presence; e-mail, unified messaging (UM) and instant messaging (IM); and various flavors of mobility.

Unified Communications is prone to market confusion as the term, at times, is misapplied by vendors and misused by analysts. The goal of this article is to offer a clearer understanding of UC essentials; the UC market; how to analyze your UC needs; and a how-to-buy guide that analyzes solution, cost and vendor considerations as well as suggesting a short list of solutions and vendors to suit your needs.

Unified Communications: The Top Reasons Why Businesses Buy?

  1. Elimination of communications silos: Businesses recognize the need to integrate voice and telephony with other communications modes. The legacy approach of having silos for each mode — telephony, fax, email, video, etc. — is seen now as being costly and inefficient.
  2. Lower cost of communications: UC consolidates the aforementioned modes, which is more cost effective than maintaining them separately. Many UC offerings also have a hosted component, reducing or eliminating the need for capital-intensive hardware, especially around the phone system.
  3. Improved collaboration: Businesses see the possibilities for better collaboration among employees, as well as improved personal productivity, both of which can provide competitive advantage.
  4. Simplified IT: IT is under increasing pressure to do more with less, and UC offers a way to do this, long with simplifying their operational needs.
  5. Strategic Initiative: Businesses are at a point where leaders are thinking more strategically about communications, not just in terms of the investment level, but about what it can do to make the business perform better. UC is more than just an IT domain, as it speaks to making all employees more effective in their jobs as well as better team players.
  6. Innovation: Businesses understand that IP and Web-based communications are rife with innovation, these new applications will benefit their business, and UC represents the best way to do it.
Your Needs

There are three major motivations for implementing in UC: to reduce costs, to improve collaboration and communications and/or to enable key business processes.

Cost Reduction :There are lots of ways to reduce costs with unified communications; heading the list are reduced travel, reduced administration/TCO, and improved productivity.

Reduced Travel: The justification for video conferencing has always been based on reducing travel, but video was only one mode and an expensive one at that. UC has the potential to democratize video and put a camera on every desktop at the office and/or at home. Combined with richer collaboration tools such as desktop-sharing, a lot more can be done than before. Factor in the increased costs and dramatically increased hassle factor of traveling and the business case becomes quite strong. The hassle factor is especially important. You can’t get through security at an airport in less than an hour anymore, and you can’t take a suitcase easily either.

Reduced Administration: This goes back to centralization enabled by VoIP, SIP, and broadband. This is the first time since the invention of the PBX that a branch office may not need a PBX anymore. Either simply place remote phones there and/or a gateway. These gateways have a come a long way and now companies such as Microsoft, Avaya, and Mitel offer survivable gateways that can fail over to local POTS lines should a WAN failure occur. Centralizing administration reduces costs in lots of ways — each branch PBX is expensive, requires administration, and requires peak circuits for peak capacity. The switch maintenance costs and circuit costs are recurring and add up.

Product Consideration

  1. Network interoperability: There are a number of ways to develop UC solutions, and you want a minimum of compatibility problems to make it work. Investigate potential issues around how well the solution will interoperate with your existing phone system and network infrastructure.
  2. Scalability: It is not safe to assume that all UC solutions scale equally, a consideration most relevant for larger enterprise.
  3. Provider reach: Aside from being able to support a large number of sites, you need to know that a potential provider can serve all your locations. The more geographically dispersed your sites are, the more of challenge this could be.
  4. Mobility: While demand for mobility is growing, you need to consider what types of devices/endpoints the solution will support, along with which specific vendors and operating systems. UC providers will have widely varying capabilities here, and if you are heavily invested in a particular mobile deployment, this could be a deal-maker or -breaker.
  5. Pricing models: Pricing models can vary widely, as there are many variables that impact the overall expenditure. The key driver could be amortizing the hardware investment, bandwidth consumption, or the price of voice minutes. To avoid surprises, you must know your usage patterns, or work closely with the provider to craft a pricing plan that best reflects this.
  6. Feature parity for telephony: The better you understand your current feature set, especially the ones you use most often, the better prepared you will be to evaluate UC offerings. Among telecom vendors, voice feature sets for UC will likely match what you have now, but other types of vendors probably will not.
  7. Support for applications: App support is an important part of the evolving value proposition for UC. Capabilities here — not just to support applications, but also develop them — will vary widely. This holds for all types of solutions, even among those from telecom vendors.

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