Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?

(Editor’s Note: This is an update to an article originally posted June 2, 2014.)

You know your communications system is way past its prime, and economic pressures have led you to delay its upgrade or replacement.

But there comes a point in time when it no longer makes sense to put off replacing your communications assets—from both a financial perspective and a business/productivity perspective. Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.

Plus, keep in mind; the greatest risk to your business if your communications go down is your business shuts down. This can lead to huge losses for your business, including customer dissatisfaction, customer loss, damaged reputation and costs related to regaining your reputation. These all can greatly affect your business and result in huge losses.

Phone systems are one of the assets that many companies take for granted as long as they have dial-tone. They don’t think much about it and will definitely spend their budget elsewhere if they can. As a result, many of these organizations are sitting on archaic (or end-of-life) equipment that is no longer efficiently supporting their business while possibly putting it a risk.

Yet for some, the prevailing practice is to continue operating the existing system well past its useful life and beyond the end-of-support – not realizing the potential costs and the risk they are putting their business in.

We often hear the following reasons to avoid upgrading:

  • We don’t have the budget, or there is a higher priority budgetary request.
  • The lifespan on the last communications system was too short.
  • We’re afraid that if we upgrade tomorrow, something better will come out next week (a.k.a. the cycle of obsolescence).
  • We’re unclear on our unified communications plans and how our phone system should fit in with UC.
  • Newer phone systems are becoming too complex to use.
  • The buying cycle is too long, and we will have to get too many people involved who will all have different opinions.
  • We don’t know which approach to take—i.e. premises, hybrid, or cloud-based.

There’s a chance that the phones you think are supporting your business aren’t. While the value of your older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.

Free White Paper:  Time to Replace that Old PBX

We know the decision to move to a new telephony system is sometimes a difficult one to make. That’s why we’ve created the following list of 3 of the benefits of a modern unified communications system over an outdated phone system.

1. System Stabilization

If you are a business owner or decision maker, you have probably thought, “We save money keeping the old system. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Every day your business uses an analog, TDM, or older VoIP phone system that has reached end-of-life, you run the risk of having your phone system fail without access to support. If that happens, revenue will likely be lost as a result. How much? Well, you could lose what equates to hours, days, or even weeks of revenue—depending on the amount of time it takes to quickly repair or worst case find and install a new system. Not to mention what was previously stated about customer dissatisfaction and loss.

And hurrying to find a new system isn’t ideal. If your system fails, it could mean you are forced to make a quick replacement decision. Companies that don’t have the time or don’t take the time to research properly before purchase usually discover they’ve spent too much money or are unhappy with their purchase after it is too late to change it. Taking the time to find the right IP Telephony solution or Unified Communications solution will improve your business processes and efficiencies without over-extending your budget.

2. Improved Operational Costs

Maintaining separate systems like directories, conferencing software, voicemail, and telephony is expensive and time consuming for IT departments to sustain. In fact, it can be so time-consuming that the IT department spends the majority of their day keeping these systems functional—time that can be better spent on more strategic IT projects.

The older the system, the higher the operational cost is when you don’t upgrade. Some of the costs businesses accrue using older systems include:

  • Proprietary hardware at each location (equipment, phones, PBX)
  • Installation
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance, repairs and upgrades
  • Additional services
    • Fax
    • Business SMS
    • HD video meetings
    • Audio conferencing

When you factor the lost IT time spent maintaining each separate communications system with the opportunity cost of not having the advanced applications and features that modern unified communications provides, you end up with a total cost that is just too high for most businesses to ignore.

3. Competitive Advantage

Have you stopped to think about whether your competitors are taking advantage of modern communications software? If they are and you’re not, then chances are they are able to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. Working smarter gives them an edge by increasing their productivity and creating a competitive advantage.

Your competitors that are working with updated communications systems, most likely have these advanced features at their disposal:

  • Audio/video/web collaboration, white boarding and document sharing
  • Support for the mobile workforce with a consistent user experience across smartphones and tablets
  • UC clients that provide status, presence, call history, call control plus more
  • Integrated vertical applications through standard and open services

While the cost of upgrading may seem high, the advanced applications and features associated with modern communications systems will help re-gain lost competitive edge and offer companies an opportunity to better serve their customers.

Unified communications can help businesses re-gain competitive advantage in two ways:

First, a new system can help you increase your revenue by providing your business with the communications applications needed to be more productive and efficient. You could gain better advantages and increased competitive edge by choosing a modern solution with a lower total cost of ownership and features that enable collaboration across your business, improving the speed of your communications.

Secondly, UC provides communications software that makes enterprise-level communications applications available on an ad-hoc basis. This either gives you access to applications that you might not have previously been able to budget for, or, saves your organization money as you no longer have to pay the fees required to utilize multiple services. Replacing hosted web, audio or video conferencing services is a perfect example. The accrued savings can boost the return on your unified communications investment, and expand your competitive edge through re-investment into other IT projects that help your business grow.

Increased Productivity

If you fear that your new technology will become obsolescent and use that as an excuse to avoid upgrading, you shouldn’t. Look for vendors that offer software assurances and extended warranties for hardware that will provide your business with more security and less risk in the long run.

With a modern communications solution, you ensure that your system has the flexibility to handle rapid growth, giving you the ability to provide support to your increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. Your IT team will re-gain some of their time, allowing them to focus on other strategic IT initiatives. And, your employees will re-coup benefits that improve the speed of communication from access to applications that positively impact your daily business—whether it’s through more efficient collaboration with colleagues, or improving customer response times.

Options Available to Your Business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate an outdated or end-of-life phone system.

Some organizations struggle with selecting the best model (premises, hybrid, or cloud-based) to meet long-term communication needs. Ultimately you’ll look for the platform and vendor that has the flexibility to customize the right solution to meet your specific needs.

Smart Enterprise

Free White Paper
Time to Replace that Old PBX

To learn more about the risks associated with running an outdated communications system and the steps you should take in purchasing a new system, fill out the form to download the white paper written by Dave Michels, principal analyst at TalkPointz.

 
 
 
 
 



Can you Change the Customer Experience with Technology?

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit the YMCA of Greater Louisville to gain insight into how they used technology to solve a common business problem. After speaking with customers and employees in the branches, I noticed just how much the organization cares about serving its members and visitors. And I was even more impressed with how they handle customer interactions. You can check out the results of our visit in the video case study.

One of the first things I noticed was how quiet the lobby was. Not one phone ringing. Instead, members were having direct face-to-face conversations with Y team members at each desk, and receiving their undivided attention.

Since the YMCA of Greater Louisville has centralized all incoming calls to customer service via UNIVERGE® 3C and Contact Center solutions from NEC, the front-line staff at Branch locations can focus on providing a great customer experience. This gave on-site employees the necessary time and the freedom to address every concern in person, while the customer was in the branch. Part of the YMCA’s mission is to ensure customer satisfaction via uninterrupted, one-on-one interaction, either in person or by phone.

So often, as we get caught up in the technology and not the people that it serves, we lose the intended purpose of the technology. But this was not the case for the YMCA of Greater Louisville. This organization found the right balance to meet their customer needs.

Free Ebook: UCaas RFP 2016

YMCA’s VP of IT (Ryan Kingery) and CEO (Steve Tarver) had encountered a problem that is not unique to any retail outlet or public organization serving its community: WAIT TIMES! At the core of the YMCA mission is the ability to serve its community and members, but the challenge they faced was the increasing wait times in their branches, which necessarily led to less in-person customer interaction due to long lines and busy phones.
Think of this scenario: if you have kiddos, you know that swim camp, t-ball registration or even your own “ME” time at the indoor pool cannot be done without registration. And the quicker you can get your registration(s) complete, the quicker you move on to being a satisfied customer, which is what we all want. The solution the YMCA put in place did just that–and it improved the quality of the real-time, one-on-one interactions between employees and clients.

Happy Customer = Better Customer Experience = Revenue Growth

Whether it’s about internal accounting clients at your company utilizing core IT- supported services, or a customer whose satisfaction is crucial to the continuing revenue growth of your company, a pleasing customer experience is the ultimate goal.

So, after this experience with the YMCA, I am wondering how many IT professionals are running across similar business problems that negatively impact a customer experience within your own organizations. What are you doing to change that experience?

You can watch the video below to see how the YMCA was able to achieve its mission.

Free Ebook: UCaaS RFP 2016

Free Ebook:

UCaaS/Hybrid RFP & Review IP Telephony and Unified Communications System

There are significant differences in offerings from the major vendors in terms of architecture, functionality and total cost of ownership. IT organizations are encouraged to work with their business units to understand their unique requirements and to articulate these in an RFP or other formal procurement vehicle.



Putting the ‘Power’ into Empowered Enterprise Communications

Meet Matt, a harried, frustrated VP of Sales who is in need of a more effective way to communicate with his sales team. Since Matt took the helm, sales have increased so dramatically that he is able to expand into new marketplaces while increasing the sales force in 15 satellite offices. He recruited savvy sales people to effectively promote the product, and now he is having trouble communicating with his team members to ensure they receive proper updates and have everything they need to function as a cohesive sales team.

Matt is not the only one. Helen, the receptionist, cannot keep up with all the new team members, so it’s difficult to route calls correctly. Jeff, the IT guy, is just as frustrated. His current communications system does not have centralized management so any moves, adds, or changes are very time consuming, requires travel to individual sites and really impacts his productivity.  So with the addition of sales people in 15 different satellite offices, he is counting up the airline miles he will be racking up over the next several weeks and trying to figure out how to delegate everything else that needs to be done while he is working on this project.

For Matt, Helen and Jeff, growth has a whole set of problems that if not addressed, could mean minimizing sales, productivity and creating a scenario for poor client experience. So what does the savvy enterprise do in this case?

Power Up with Empowered Communications

Matt, Helen and Jeff are fictional characters, but their problems are very real. The truth for most organizations is that growth, expansion and the consistent move toward a more mobile workforce create challenges. Fortunately, a single solution can solve these challenges and empower communications within any organization.

NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions provide businesses with a choice of comprehensive on-premise and cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions – enabling employees to connect from any location, on virtually any device, and collaborate with colleagues, customers and partners. #Organizations can tailor their #communications to meet their specific needs Click To Tweet and leverage the unmatched flexibility, reliability and scalability of NEC’s platforms. NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions will increase your ability to remain competitive, while also maximizing productivity and ensuring communication is constant.

The Power You Need When You Need It

Not all businesses are the same, and each requires a flexible solution to really power up communications and collaboration. To achieve success, organizations need to innovate via the best tools. With NEC, you receive custom-tailored solutions to meet your unique needs. Whether it’s to connect and communicate from anywhere using any device, or the ability to manage large call volumes across multiple locations, NEC UNIVERGE solutions are up for the challenge.

NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions provide a native UC on all platforms with easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy delivery models. Enhanced vertical workflow solutions ensure your communications remain strong. In addition, you can choose to deploy an on-premise, cloud or a hybrid delivery model and even opt to use our professional services to manage and monitor your network.

UC-Downtime-Banner

With a natural migration path that will evolve to meet future needs, NEC’s UNIVERGE solutions offer investment protection and provide organizations with a platform that is poised for growth. Businesses that implement the right communication and collaboration tools can improve customer satisfaction and increase efficiency of operations, which can create a competitive advantage.

Are you ready to learn more about how to put the “power” in empowering your communications? or take a look at this post to get additional insights.

3 Questions Answered about IT Modernization in Government

Government-Mobility2014 marked the beginning of the Infrastructure Revolution for several industries, many of which are following in the pre-emptive footsteps of the national government.

In February 2010, the Department of Defense created the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI) to reverse the historic growth of Federal data centers. The FDCCI has been seeking to curb this unsustainable increase by reducing the cost of data center hardware, software, and operations; shifting IT investments to more efficient computing platforms; promoting the use of Green IT by reducing the overall energy and real estate footprint of government data centers; and increasing the IT security posture of the government.

Since then, the government has launched an IT modernization effort across departments which includes acquisition and deployment of more secure, collaborative, and mobile technologies—along with their associated skill sets and capabilities—to replace legacy environments.

By shutting down and consolidating under-performing technologies in the Federal inventory, taxpayers stand to save billions of dollars because of curbed spending on underutilized infrastructure. The smartest enterprises will follow suit, carefully architecting their path to modernization, leveraging key partners and modern technology architectures to create a more agile, secure IT environment.

What opportunities does modernization offer?

Legacy networking, communications and applications have become a significant IT and business problem in most industry IT departments. Not only do they require consistent maintenance from someone with a skill set that fewer and fewer people possess, they also carry a high cost of ownership and are difficult to modify when meeting ongoing business demands. Worse, with little leverage across these technologies, they are often forced to remain siloed instances, providing separate benefits to converging infrastructures.

IT modernization represents an opportunity for the evolution of government organizations’ (and others as well) existing application and infrastructure software, the goal being to align IT with forward-looking business strategies.

What are the immediate benefits of modernization?

While the government is actively modernizing its IT infrastructure, they will begin to find that they can react more quickly to the ever-changing environments (business, economic, political, etc). There are many results the public sector can expect from the process of modernizing. Namely:

  1. Intelligence – with converged infrastructures, including SDNs, virtualization, and distributed applications, leading to complete software-defined data centers with virtualization from desktop-to-network-to-applications.
  2. Agility – via improved standards for infrastructure programmability, data structure interoperability and fast infrastructure provisioning, leading to a more agile IT organization
  3. Alignment – by enabling IT practices that are more in line with business objectives.
  4. Responsiveness – as business changes create flux in organization size, location, and performance, IT is continually challenged to adapt at the speed of your business—a modern infrastructure puts IT in good stead to align with these changes.
  5. Flexibility and resilience – with systems that adapt automatically and recover from failure more quickly.
  6. Energy efficienciency – with technology and systems designed to reduce energy consumption.

To get the maximum strategic benefit from modernization, it is important to base your improved system on an architecture that is built on open standards and deployed on open systems. Just as important, is seeking holistic architectural thinking among your vendor suppliers that help you consider how a converged infrastructure can benefit your business.

What are the long-term benefits of modernization?

The success or failure of a consolidation/modernization initiative achieving long-term ROI depends on each organization’s goals. For many public sector businesses, long-term goals include: enhanced security, consolidating the infrastructure, and enhancing mobility.

Enhanced Security

Streamlining IT processes creates an agile IT infrastructure more capable of leveraging existing organizational vehicles for rapid delivery of tasks/orders. But none of this matters without a strong security platform that can withstand the stresses of and better respond to today’s cybersecurity threats.

A modernized IT platform must be hardened and able to detect, respond to, and report information security incidents, as well as developing situational awareness, utilizing authentication, reinforcing reciprocity, and leveraging automated assessments.

Infrastructure Consolidation

Today’s workforce demands applications that are always accessible and work consistently from any device.  Public-sector organizations that consolidate their enterprise networks—ultimately standardizing IT platforms, consolidating data and network operations centers, and optimizing architectures—create an infrastructure that is easier to manage and more secure in order to help support active user involvement.

Mobility Enhancement

As with most other industries, there is a significant push for both central and local government and associated not-for-profit agencies to move towards more flexible modes of working. Providing location agnostic access to data is a hot topic for the public sector as is the desire to provide better standards of service to employees and customers. Transparent communication has the potential to accelerate productivity and help realize mission requirements—provided it can be achieved in the face of the escalating austerity of ever-changing security measures.

Modernizing and consolidating IT infrastructures helps address unique resource challenges surrounding public sector enterprise mobility. Consolidation also enables government agencies to implement scalable enterprise mobile management solutions that extend to users, devices, applications, content, data, email and networks.

JITC Certified Unified Communications

Defense agencies are under increasing pressure to bring their disparate web technologies together.  That’s why the DoD has created the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) certification, so all IT investments—including collaborative communications solutions—can be protected.

NEC’s UNIVERGE®3C solution has been thoroughly vetted by the JITC against the highest government standards, and has been added to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Session Controller Approved Products List (APL) for Unified Capabilities.

The APL is a single, consolidated list of products that have been certified and approved for use in DoD networks to provide end-to-end unified capabilities. UNIVERGE 3C is certified as a Local Session Controller, referred to by NEC as Unified Capabilities Session Controller (UC SC).

The JITC evaluation process is highly respected by commercial organizations because JITC testing meets and frequently exceeds enterprise security levels. With Security Officers confident in the solution, the deployment process can be accelerated.

JITC certification requires compliance with hundreds of security measures as well as the ability to withstand extreme attacks on the software. Being JITC accredited means that we fully meet US DoD requirements and often surpass the security best practices of global commercial customers.

Visit us at Enterprise Connect booth 1121 to learn more about NEC’s JITC-Certified UNIVERGE 3C solution.

How to Choose a Cloud or SaaS Vendor

2015-02-26_1113Choosing a cloud and SaaS vendor can be tricky for SMBs with small IT organizations and larger corporations looking to lower operating costs. There are many benefits to choosing cloud or SaaS over on-premises but the route to those benefits is not always risk-free.

Difficulty vetting cloud or SaaS vendors is a common problem in today’s IT world. We see many organizations that continue to sweat older assets, having used on-premises software for many years. Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research, has pointed out, however, that more than 90 percent of businesses are starting to employ these technologies on some scale.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can be very easy if you take the right approach. Rather than simply taking trusting the vendor’s qualifications or what you’ve read/heard, you should validate each claim the vendor makes to ensure that they don’t overstate their capabilities.

Verification is the key to success when choosing a cloud or SaaS vendor. Here are our tips to help you make the comprehensive assessments needed to make the right choice.

Vetting the Business

You wouldn’t buy a car from a manufacturer you knew nothing about. The same should be said of a cloud or SaaS solution. When your business is thinking about adopting a new cloud or SaaS technology, its imperative that you vet the vendors’ businesses as well as their technology.

You need to ensure that their leadership is strong, their business model is sound, and that the firm has the financial stability to survive the stressors of the current economy. This stage is the time to ask the tough questions, and get real, specific responses in return. Keep pressing until you get a real answer, one that’s supported by policies and procedures. Questions like these can help you determine the viability of the business at large:

  • Do you have a burn rate where you are making less than you are spending? If so, how long is the runway where you can survive at this pace without new partners investing?
  • Is your leadership rounded and truly qualified? Do you have a technologist at the helm, and has he surrounded himself with the operational, financial and sales expertise to keep turning out great products and services?
  • How do you maintain accountability for your administrative staff in regard to the control and management of customer data within/and outside of your application? What security challenges might we face if we give you direct control over our sensitive or compliance-relevant data?
  • How do you address government regulations?
  • Can we adjust our services as the business evolves?
  • Where does my support come from (vendor, support partner, etc.)?
  • What will I really pay?

Vetting the Technology

Just like with the manufacturer situation stated above, you probably wouldn’t buy a car you hadn’t test driven or looked under the hood of either. In order to determine whether the products/services you’re vetting work properly, you’re going to need to get your hands dirty and test each cloud or SaaS product/service for yourself. Does the product/service have known glitches/issues? Will it fit into the environment(s) as expected? Will it work with all of your platforms and impacted software products?

Now is the time to get the engineers involved to assess the technologies behind the vendor and ensure that they are ready for your purposes. Again, specific instances and case studies will help provide proof points to the vendor’s claims. Questions like these can help determine the efficiency, security, and usability of the technology itself:

  • What role does customer input play when your company plans updates and enhancements?
  • Can I see the software/technology’s R&D roadmap? What other changes are planning for performance and usability? Is this investment actually future proof?
  • Can you describe your data center?
  • How do you define uptime and downtime?
  • How frequently do you test your disaster recovery procedures?
  • Do you have a Service Level Agreement (SLA)?
  • How different is our current infrastructure from yours?
  • Can I move existing apps/services from my private cloud to your public cloud without massive reconfiguration?
  • How do you support my workforce’s mobility requirements?
  • How are my apps and data protected from other users on the same cloud servers?

Vetting their Customer Service

Let’s hit the car analogy one more time. You wouldn’t buy any car from any manufacturer if you weren’t going to get service and support to help you maintain the car over the course of its life.

So when vetting vendors, you need to ask point-blank if they are ready to handle you as a client. The only question that need to be asked during this phase is, “Can I speak with some of your customers?” Current customers are the best resources when it comes to determining whether the vendor’s product/service is on par with what you are expecting.

Don’t settle for the few they give you either. Look at trade shows and vendor events for customers that aren’t raving fans. Looking for non-specific issues can save you a lot of headaches in the future. Be skeptical, but open-minded. Knowing the issues that could arise will help you prepare for them in the future.

Vetting cloud or SaaS vendors can take up to 200 man-hours and could require some policy changes on your part. To do it right, though, you do need to assess more than the technology—you need to look at everything; the vendor’s business, technology, security, service, and employees. While it might seem like a bit of an undertaking, spending more time up front will save you headache and frustration in the end.

SaaS and Cloud in Perspective: UCaaS

Let’s take a quick look at a unique cloud and SaaS perspective: UCaaS.

Let’s say you aren’t ready for a full cloud deployment. You still have some reservations about the public cloud, and you have on-premises assets you want to continue to use. Research is actually beginning to show that “Hybrid Cloud UC Demands Unified Platform Management”. This is one of many cases where UCaaS makes sense.

The market for UCaaS is growing pretty rapidly. Among IT pros responding to a 2014 Spiceworks survey, 11% had adopted UCaaS. However, another 12% indicated they are planning to adopt it in the next year, more than doubling the number of people using UCaaS today.

Some suggest that growing confidence in hosted solutions in general is the impetus for the projected dramatic increase in adoption. Much of that confidence is due to the service providers’ dedication to security improvements.

We are excited about the opportunities UCaaS presents to the cloud and SaaS Markets.

Fear of vetting vendors shouldn’t hold you back from learning more. Check out the Reducing UC Costs and Increasing Business Performance whitepaper to take a deeper dive into the advantages of UCaaS, market drivers, concerns, and what to look for in a provider.

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