Leveraging Unified Communications to streamline collaboration and workflows
When asked that simple question, many people will respond that UC is workplace instant messaging, an IP phone system, or visual voicemail. While these are all common features, they are by no means the whole answer.
Zones defines Unified Communications as a networked communications platform that seamlessly integrates voice, data and applications to enable workers and customers to interact in the most efficient way possible.
Today’s UC systems extend beyond voice, email, web chat and instant messaging to include multimedia collaboration capabilities as well. Using a variety of technologies from top-tier manufacturers such as Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft and Polycom, Zones deploys UC solutions that scale from network-based PBX systems to integrated voice/messaging/video collaboration suites to those including multi-site telepresence systems.
Collaboration is the key
By enabling new levels of collaboration, UC solutions free employees to deliver project status updates via instant messaging, discuss tactics via smartphone apps, and collaboratively modify complex documents via desktop sharing. Video capability enables lifelike videoconferencing, live video streaming and digital media signage for dynamic marketing.
Ultimately, no matter the specific collaboration vehicle, unified communications solutions enable employees to move beyond traditional methods of accessing resources. It’s not so much about finding and sharing documents; it’s about collaborating with subject matter experts and finding and sharing answers.
At Zones, we group the building blocks of UC into the following component categories:
- Voice and Telephony — Fixed, mobile and soft telephony as well as PBXs and IP PBXs. We also include real-time, one-to-one communications technologies such as video telephony.
- Conferencing — Teleconferencing, videoconferencing and web conferencing.
- Messaging, Presence and IM — Applications and services that make availability and location of networked users visible to one another and enable email, voice mail messaging and retrieval.
- Clients — Thick desktop clients, thin browser clients, smartphones and tablets.
- Applications — Collaboration applications, contact center applications, and notification applications, as well as administration, reporting and analytics tools.
From a strict cost-benefit perspective, unified communications solutions offer hard-dollar benefits in many industries. Faster time-to-market improves profitability in the technology sector, better collaboration among healthcare staff reduces costs and improves outcomes, and improved accuracy in insurance claims reduces processing times.
Advantages across the organization
Let’s look at some of the operational, productivity and strategic benefits UC solutions deliver.
Operational benefits are the easiest to quantify. Zones solutions architects can help you deploy a solution that delivers reductions in costs associated with the converged network and IT management. If the solution includes collaboration, additional operational benefits associated with reductions in travel costs are expected.
- 30% – 40% reduction in Voice and Data Network costs
UC can reduce or eliminate carrier communication expenses. 30% to 40% of long distance charges for multi-site enterprises typically are from internal communications. Moving this traffic to the corporate WAN will substantially reduce this expense. If you deploy your own web and audio conferencing, you can reduce those service charges even further.
- 10% – 15% reduction in voice trunking cost through centralization
Enterprises can centralize their trunks, which increases their use and thus cuts down on the number of trunks needed to carry the same traffic. Session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking with compression can further cut down on the aggregate trunk bandwidth needed to connect the WAN to the carrier. Centralization also allows for a centralized least cost routing (LCR) plan, which further reduces telecom expenses.
- Reduce administration costs
In the past, the move from legacy PBXs to standard servers did not achieve expected savings due to the cost of required physical servers. Today, vendors such as Cisco, Avaya, and Microsoft squeeze more savings through hardware virtualization. Virtualization can reduce management and staffing costs by making moves, adds, and changes much easier to perform. Mobile workers can utilize PC- or laptop-based soft phone programs, reducing the expense of managing an inventory of physical phones.
- Reduce travel costs
Companies can realize a reduction in travel by using videoconferencing. To realize those savings however requires executive-level support and governance. For example, a large multi-national pharmaceutical company analyzed the internal travel between key cities for each business unit and documented those costs. These funds where then redirected by the CFO to deploy telepresence in the key cities.
- Eliminate duplicative software licenses related to collaboration
Consolidating UC capabilities into a suite will optimize software licenses. Many firms that have deployed UC have licensed overlapping solutions (e.g., deploying both Cisco and Microsoft) and thus paid for the same capabilities twice. Zones will design a solution that avoids such overlaps to deliver maximum value from your UC implementation.
Productivity benefits are somewhat more difficult to quantify, but can include reduced time in process cycles, a reduction of costly process errors, increased customer satisfaction, and a vastly more connected and collaborative workforce. Given that two of five U.S. information workers work outside the office regularly or occasionally, it’s no surprise that improved collaboration between dispersed teams is the top benefit that businesses have gained from unified communications.
Strategic benefits relate to the ability to enable executive vision. UC can help companies increase customer satisfaction and retention, increase teaming and internal collaboration to meet their strategic goals, and attract a younger workforce whose lifestyle is dependent to 24/7 multi-channel connectedness.
Today, Unified Communications typically include a full suite of on-prem or cloud-based solutions and endpoints that deliver reliable and advanced capabilities for workers, no matter where they are. Zones Professional Services UC experts can help you architect and deploy a solution that leverages a single, converged network to efficiently run voice, data, and video communications, taking advantage of desktop, mobile and conference room voice and video IP endpoints to meet your most demanding communications and collaboration challenges.
System selection essentials
To maximize long term ROI on the UC implementation, you’ll want a solution that can adapt to evolving trends in business and technology. Specifically, a future-ready solution should offer:
- Native support for mobile devices, essential given the growing prevalence of smartphones and tablets in the workforce
- Support for emerging consumer platforms, enabling consumer devices and applications that typically drive unified communications adoption
- Video capabilities that enable video-conferencing to drive innovation and strategic brainstorming
- Enterprise-class social software which can unlock new levels of productivity and knowledge-sharing as well as engage a millennial workforce thatgrew up with Twitter and Facebook
Zones account executives, as well as our Advanced Solutions Group solution architects and systems engineers, will help you plan, design, and implement a solution that delivers next-generation collaboration capabilities to reduce IT complexity and deliver excellent reliability, scalability, and flexibility well into the future.