Unified Communications: Click to talk


February 28, 2010  9:32 AM

Define “Unified Communications”



Posted by: Tony Bradley
business processes, communications, streamline, UC, Unified Communications

It can be very frustrating for IT managers and C-level executives to continuously see unified communications in the headlines, and apparently driving business communications and strategy, yet nobody seems to know what it even means. How do you adopt and implement such a thing?

A recent article in Processor Magazine seeks to help you cut through the confusion:

 “There are so many definitions and interpretations. Some people say UC when they mean unified messaging. Some equate UC with just email, just instant messaging,” says Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing at managed UC communications provider Azaleos (www.azaleos.com).

A sidebar to the article defines three key points to help simplify and define unified communications:

  • Unified communications is designed to help your employees communicate more effectively with customers and one another.
  • UC encompasses many different areas, including telephony, messaging, and videoconferencing, each of which may be deployed and integrated with your network as appropriate.
  • As you construct your UC system, you must make sure the network plumbing supporting it is secure and reliable.

Check out the complete article to learn more about Simplifying Unified Communications.

February 28, 2010  9:25 AM

12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software – Part 4 of 4



Posted by: Tony Bradley
IP telephony, UC, Unified Communications, VoIP

Part 1: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 2: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 3: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Cut Costs for Equipment by Using IP Phones Instead of PCs

XML service technology allows delivering interactive content right to an IP phone display and thus using it instead of a PC. With this capability you can streamline many business processes without equipping workplaces with PCs. For example, you can:

  • access
    • timely updated (due to integration with HRM software) corporate address book to find quickly a necessary contact with advanced search capabilities
    • corporate databases in accordance with your access rights
  • send quick text/voice messages to the selected users/user groups
  • deliver content to a user/user group
  • alert your employees when a panic button is pushed or a fire alarm is detected
  • set a preferable way of communication
  • sign-in for/sign-out from work (due to integration with ERP software)

Your benefits: IP phone services can help you:

  • save your employee time on daily tasks
  • save money on workplace equipment

Another tool to get maximum benefits from your enterprise VoIP network is call accounting software.

Decrease Your Employee Telecom Costs

Modern call accounting software is not only a tool to control employee telecom costs. As call-accounting software provides you with various reports on user phone conversations that are built on the base of call detail records (CDRs) received from your IP PBX, you can use it to derive information about

  • phone expenses of each user/user group
  • peak phone network hours
  • the longest and the most expensive calls, etc.

By grounding on these data you can

  • compose an appropriate call plan to smooth out peak phone network hours
  • set a number of rules to limit employee “friends & family” calls and even deny such communications at peak load hours to decrease both unnecessary expenses and network load

Moreover, you can setup your call accounting software to reduce telecom costs with

  • individual limits on telephony expenses for each user/user group
  • restrictions on long-distance calls and/or calls to flagged numbers (city/country codes)
  • grouping calls by users/user groups and allocating expenses properly to correct budgets (enabling charge back to departments, cost centers and clients)

You can also set you call accounting software to track

  • unanswered calls and control if your employees return calls in a timely manner
  • calls to/from suspicious phone numbers
  • calls to special extensions used for your marketing/advertising campaigns

Your benefits: call-accounting software can become your easy-to-use tool to:

  • manage/decrease employee telecom costs
  • enhance your client loyalty
  • measure advertising/marketing efforts
  • make your employees use enterprise VoIP resources more responsible
  • protect employees from abuse/threatening calls
  • simplify your accounting staff daily tasks related to phone bill processing
  • control/improve your call-center and sales staff efficiency
  • IP telephony software can also help you increase your administration staff productivity

Reduce Your VoIP Network Maintenance Expenses

The most of standard IP PBX administration interfaces are rather complicated, so you need highly skilled staff members to fulfill simple daily tasks. With special IP telephony management software you can simplify administration activities and entrust daily tasks to one, not necessarily experienced, employee.

You can also use IP telephony management software to

  • do phone inventory at all your sites from a single workplace
    • with a special multi-location inventory feature or
    • by integrating IPX management software with your existing inventory solution
  • remove compatibility restrictions with integration of your VoIP network components and thus cut costs for your telephony network deployment/extension/upgrade

Your benefits: IP telephony software can help you:

  • save time and money on IP PBX administration
  • improve your qualified administrator motivation by giving them only the tasks that demand their experience and expertise
  • save effort and time on phone inventory management
  • cut costs for VoIP network deployment/extension/upgrade

Conclusion

By implementing IP telephony software you can solve several important problems that impede your business growth. In particular, you can

  • save your employee time and effort on daily tasks and communications, improve motivation and productivity of your contact center staff, sales personal, network administrators, managers and accountants, optimize the joint work of remote teams and thus increase your business efficiency in whole
  • enhance the quality of your customer service, resulted in increased client loyalty
  • cut your expenses for
    • long-distance communications
    • contact center services with a multi-location solution that helps reduce facility expenses and salary rates
    • workplace equipment by using IP phones as mini-PCs
    • VoIP network deployment, extension and upgrade by overcoming compatibility restrictions
    • IP PBS administration and support.

To solve your unique business problem you can

  • choose an appropriate IP telephony solution in the market of “out-of-the-box” software or
  • build a custom solution, developed in strict accordance with your requirements.

Part 1: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 2: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 3: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

——————————————————
About the Author

Alexander Anoshin is the author of the book, “The Connected Enterprise”, from which you can learn how to reinforce your enterprise with VOIP. Alexander is the CEO of BCS-IT, which specializes in enterprise VoIP software development.


February 28, 2010  9:09 AM

What to Do if Your UC Vendor is Acquired



Posted by: Tony Bradley
acquisition, merger, UC, Unified Communications, vendor, VoIP

There are a number of advantages to embracing new technologies early. By the time competitors catch on and jump on the bandwagon, your organization already has the pieces in place and maturing business practices built around the new tools.

Early adoption has some roadbumps as well, though. For example, the unified communications and VoIP arenas are in a relatively constant state of flux still. New companies emerge. Old companies die off. And mergers and acquisitions make for a constantly changing landscape of tools and technologies.

That may be confusing if your organization is trying to get in the game. It can be absolutely horrifying if your organization is already in the game and its your vendor that is shutting its doors and being acquired.

In ‘My unified communications vendor was acquired: What do I do?’, Gary Audin points out:

A very negative result of an acquisition may be the sale of some of the acquired company’s assets to pay, in part, for the acquisition. If these assets/products are those an enterprise depends on, then the customer will go through a second acquisition cycle, leading to more turmoil. In some cases, the acquiring company buys the technology, intellectual property and key employees and terminates the products.

Check out the rest of the article for tips and caveats you should be aware of if you end up in this situation.


February 28, 2010  9:01 AM

Why UC ROI Might Be OR (Overrated)



Posted by: Tony Bradley
communications, investment, ROI, UC, Unified Communications, value

Everything about technology projects seems to revolve around ROI–return on investment. The C-level executives want to know how long it will take to recoup the initial investment before giving a project the stamp of approval.

Blair Pleasant questioned the logic and practicality of that approach in a recent article:

Networking and telecom pros know they must prove unified communications (UC) return on investment (ROI) to their CIO, CEO or CXO before purchasing and implementing unified communications solutions and that ROI needs to be actualized in less than 18 months, right? Probably, but I’d like to promote the idea that in the near future, providing a business case for short-term UC ROI may not be as necessary. 

Pleasant goes on to say:

In most cases, we don’t question whether or not we need email and voicemail — they’re basic communication tools that virtually every organization needs so that workers can be efficient and effective. The same should be said for UC.

The point that Pleasant is essentially making is that organizations right now are looking at UC as a novelty and struggling to define its role in the organization, and hence its value from an ROI perspective.

However, UC is more than that. It is a productivity enhancer, a timeframe compressor, and an efficiency streamliner. UC comes with a lot of intangibles that are difficult to quantify directly in an ROI. But, that doesn’t change the fact that organizations that don’t start developing a UC strategy and investing in UC infrastructure will soon find themselves on the outside of next-generation business processes looking in.


February 28, 2010  8:49 AM

Polycom Adopts Unique Strategy to Compete



Posted by: Tony Bradley
Cisco, Logitech, network bandwidth, optimization, Polycom, Tandberg, telepresence, Video conferencing

You’ve heard the phrase “fight fire with fire”. Faced with an industry quickly converging to deliver video conferencing solutions–Cisco/Tandberg, Logitech/Lifesize, etc.–Polycom chose to blaze a new trail rather than fight that same fire.

A recent SearchUnifiedCommunications blog post titled ‘Polycom reduces network bandwidth costs, expands telepresence portfolio’, notes:

Incumbent Polycom quickly mobilized with a counteroffensive play, hyper-focusing on a strategy to retain their current market share and pull customers away from the monolithic Cisco. Forging new partnerships, cultivating deep alliances with existing partners and an aggressive focus on product development is Polycom’s core strategy.

Read the blog post for more details about Polycom’s unique strategy to take a different fork in the road in an attempt to set itself apart rather than competing head-to-head.


February 28, 2010  8:35 AM

Virtualizing VoIP



Posted by: Tony Bradley
bandwidth, jitter, lag, Virtualization, voice quality, VoIP

Two of the hottest technologies over the past few years have been virtualization, and VoIP (three technologies if you throw in unified communications). Companies have been racing to jump on the bandwagon of virtualizing servers to save reduce hardware, power, and cooling expenses, and embracing VoIP to expand the potential of voice communications while cutting costs.

Unfortunately, due to the demands of VoIP and the need for maximum bandwidth and processing power to ensure voice quality, VoIP and virtualization haven’t played nicely together. Organizations could virtualize servers–just not the VoIP server.

Well, the technologies are catching up to each other, and now it is becoming possible to include VoIP in the virtualization project. Check out ‘Enterprises put VoIP virtualization into production’ for more details.


February 28, 2010  8:27 AM

The Case for UC Consultants



Posted by: Tony Bradley
consultant, UC, Unified Communications

Why should you need a consultant to deploy unified communications. The core of UC is voice communications and email which you already have–check! You just need to install a softphone / instant messaging client and configure the voicemail to be delivered to the email, and voila! A little duct tape and chewing gum, and you already have UC. Consultants. Ha!

Well, not so fast. A recent article on SearchUnifiedCommunications titled ‘Hiring a consultant can bring guidance or grief’, states:

In a recent survey of the purchasing intentions among SearchUnifiedCommunciations.com readers, 44% of respondents said their organizations lacked the expertise to implement UC projects in-house, and 68% of respondents acknowledged that they needed to learn more about unified communications.

Take a look at the article to learn more about the pros and cons of UC consultants, and why hiring an expert with a bigger strategic vision might save a lot of time, frustration, and money in the long run.


February 28, 2010  8:19 AM

Cart Driving the Horse for UC Innovation



Posted by: Tony Bradley
consumer, Google Buzz, Google Voice, Skype, UC, Unified Communications, VoIP

Unified communications and collaboration is obviously meant for business. No consumer technology would adopt such a complex collection of syllables as its name. Regardless of where the concept for UC, or for UCC began, though, there is evidence that its the consumer market, rather than the enterprise market, that is driving innovation, and perhaps even leading the way for more mainstream acceptance and adoption of many UC technologies.

Tools like Skype, Google Voice, or Google Buzz are targeted primarily at consumers, yet provide some level of UC capabilities and become a sort of ‘gateway’ technology.

An article from TMCNet titled ‘VoIP, UC, and UCC: Still Driven by Consumer Tools?‘ notes “An argument might also be made that much of the value of UC or UCC actually is captured by use of relatively simple tools such as Skype, or Google Voice or any number of other rather easy to understand consumer applications.”


February 23, 2010  8:36 PM

Unified Communications Meets Social Networking



Posted by: Tony Bradley
collaboration, Gmail, Google Buzz, linkedin, Outlook 2010, social connectors, Social networking, Twitter, UC, Unified Communications

The email client is generally the focal point for unified communications. Emails go there. Voicemails can be trasncribed into emails, or sent as attachments or links in an email. Instant messaging sessions and phone calls can be initiated. And now, with the addition of Google Buzz and Outlook Social Connectors, the email client is becoming the focal point for managing social networking as well.

Microsoft and Google have entirely separate approaches to integrating social networking, though. Google Buzz is actually a social networking service itself–integrated into the popular Gmail email interface. Google has faced some serious backlash and challenges related to privacy with Buzz, but privacy issues aside it is basically like having Twitter rolled into Gmail without the 140-character limitation, and you can actually pull your Twitter feed in as well.

The Google approach has some potential as a real-time collaboration platform that can help Google combine tools to deliver a viable unified communications solution, but it actually adds to the messaging noise rather than cutting through the clutter and helping to manage social networking.

Microsoft’s approach, using social connectors with Outlook, provides users with a means of aggregating all communications and activity for a given user in one space. The People Pane in Outlook 2010 shows a complete email history with the given user, calendar events, file attachments, RSS feeds, and social networking comments and status updates.

Microsoft Outlook with social connectors is a much more efficient and productive method of sifting through all of the messaging clutter to be able to quickly and easily find all relevant communications from a given user. There is still room, though, for someone to create a single software application to act as an interface to aggregate all of the various social networks in total, rather than on a contact by contact basis.


February 12, 2010  8:39 AM

12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software – Part 3 of 4



Posted by: Tony Bradley
IP telephony, UC, Unified Communications, VoIP

Part 1: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 2: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Get a Single Solution to Improve Call Processing at Your Local and Remote Sites

For dozens of years large enterprises deployed hardware attendant consoles to save effort for incoming call processing. With VoIP technologies all features of traditional consoles were transferred to software-based ones. Thus an operator can use such consoles of the both types to get incoming calls from several phone lines and route them to appropriate employees. However a software-based attendant console can help you also support:

  • Quick employee/phone number search
  • Quick text/voice messaging
  • Call recording
  • An intelligent call queuing

Moreover the foremost benefit, that a software-based console provides you with, is a remote team/at-home operator support.

Your benefits: you can deploy a single solution that integrates the advantages of many separate IP telephony applications to help your local and remote teams process incoming calls in the most effective way instead of purchasing several solutions for each site and thus save your money.

In some cases, you may need only some of the above features. Then you can get the demanded facility with a separate application, for example, a call recording application.

Get an Exact Picture of Your Customer Interactions

Call recording applications usually provide you with possibility to record all/selected conversations and manage these records.

Your benefits: A call recording application can help you:

  • Settle a dispute with a client
  • Get an exact picture of customer interactions
  • Monitor and improve customer service quality
  • Analyze a conversation with a colleague/partner

In particular, many companies prefer recording conference calls.

Save Time and Money for Communications with Effective Phone Meetings

You can use audio/video conferencing software to set up phone meetings with multiple local and remote participants in the most effective way:

  • Plan meetings and send invitations
  • Automatically connect conference call participants at the prescribed time
  • Re-dial users if a connection is broken
  • Share the documents
  • Record a conference session
  • Send chosen participants text messages
  • Organize a polling among conference call participants
  • Limit the number of full-duplex users (when tens/hundreds users participate in a conference call) and thus both avoid noise and prevent interruption
  • Connect to the current conference call new participants, who use IP/mobile/analogue phones or 3rd party web-conferencing solutions (such as Skype, WebEx, etc.)

(Note that conferencing solutions from different vendors provide various capabilities.)

Your benefits: With conference software you can:

  • Organize effectively the joint work of your remote team members
  • Conduct meetings with tens and even hundreds of participants
  • Save on equipping special meeting rooms

To save time on conference call gathering, you can send participants automatic invitations/notifications right from your IP phone, using an appropriate XML service.

Part 1: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

Part 2: 12 Smart Ways to Save Time and Effort with Enterprise VoIP Software

——————————————————
About the Author

Alexander Anoshin is the author of the book, “The Connected Enterprise”, from which you can learn how to reinforce your enterprise with VOIP. Alexander is the CEO of BCS-IT, which specializes in enterprise VoIP software development.


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