Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?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 Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.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older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.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.

 
 
 
 
 



What’s the Big Deal About High Availability Unified Communications?

Lately we’re hearing more and more about employee mobility trends and continuously accessible unified communications systems, about high-availability servers and the importance of staying connected at all times. So why is it such a big deal? Well, for one thing, the world has evolved into one huge marketplace where everyone seems to be on the move, and having answers and information at our fingertips, 24/7, has become an absolute necessity – or else!

With the growing need for employees to be able to access their work and collaborate with co-workers wherever they are, and at any time, unified communications applications are now commonplace. In fact, UC has become such a primary business concern that 56 percent of enterprise organizations recently surveyed by IDG Enterprise plan to upgrade or install new UC solutions within the next year, and 66 percent of small and medium sized businesses are also actively planning for upcoming UC improvements.

What’s driving the increase in UC investments?

With the increasing mobility of workforces today and a growing number of remote workers, it’s not surprising that the IDG Enterprise survey also reveals that 43 percent of the organizations reported their UC improvements were driven by the need for improved collaboration between their employees. The ability to resolve issues quickly, to share information, the immediacy of creative brainstorming and collaborative problem solving; these are some of the benefits of these powerful communication tools.

Similarly, 33 percent of the companies specifically attributed the upcoming upgrading of their UC to their need for increased flexibility for onsite employees and for mobile personnel. Enabling their employees to work from anywhere, and at any time, and to access and know when a co-worker is available and be able to quickly connect, these capabilities have serious value to businesses across all industries.

One of the top motivators for improving their UC was evident in the 42 percent of organizations who plan to install or upgrade for reasons of increasing their overall productivity—gaining the efficiency that results from streamlined operations and the immediate information share between departments and personnel.

What is High Availability anyway?

What does high availability of your unified communications have to do with the success or failure of an organization? Why is it so critical? Well, let’s look at what this term actually means.

*Gary Audin states that in the world of IT, the term High Availability refers to “a system or component that is continuously operational for a long length of time.” To repeat, that means constantly working, without any breaks or downtime, providing unified communications that are “continuously operational.”

Usually the ability of an employee to effectively do their job requires them to access the system to submit or alter their work. If the user cannot access the system, then it is termed “unavailable.” This kind of downtime impairs productivity, and causes workflow inefficiency and lost revenue. It has become critical for the UC system of any sized organization to be immediately accessible, with no disturbances or interruptions, for optimal business continuity.

What are some risks of being without a High Availability UC solution?

Your unified communications is mission critical, and accessibility is the very lifeblood of a successful organization, however these investments can suffer outages if not on a high availability infrastructure.  Without reliable redundancy and back up, you risk your people and your customers being cut off from information, workers from the workflow, and everyone from collaboration with each other. The loss of UC, for even a few hours, can mean a substantial loss to an enterprise.

What kind of losses are we talking about here? When your infrastructure fails for any length of time, along with lost productivity that obviously impacts revenue, businesses suffer the sharp decreases in customer satisfaction levels, the number of business relationships and customers lost, a damaged reputation, and the high costs of recovering that reputation.

In fact, the Ponemon Institute reported some interesting 2016 average costs associated with system outages:

  • Business Disruption – $256,000
  • Lost Revenue – $209,000
  • End-User Productivity – $138,000
  • IT Productivity – $62,000
.@PonemonPrivacy reported some interesting 2016 average costs associated with system outages. Click To Tweet

In Conclusion

So what is the big deal about High Availability UC? It becomes evident that the risk of incurring some of the losses that accompany broken communications and business disruption can become a very big deal.  For Smart Enterprises, UC has become a major focus for their strategic budget planning because it is a very big part of the success of their organization, and a critical factor for future growth.

Question: Do you have a true High Availability infrastructure that provides 99.999% UC reliability and prevents these kind of business disruption losses?

To learn more, download our Smart Enterprise eBook called “Achieving High Availability in UC” by industry expert, Gary Audin. This eBook takes a comprehensive look at UC and the importance of system availability plus examines the key components needed to build and sustain a UC-enabled environment.

(*Gary Audin has more than 40+ years of experience in computer, communications and security consulting and implementation, and is a well-known author of over 1000 blogs, articles, podcasts, white papers and webinars. Our quote is from the “Achieving High Availability in UC” ebook.)

 

Free Ebook: Achieving High Availability in UC

Free Ebook:

Achieving High Availability in UC

This eBook by communications and security consultant Gary Audin, president of Delphi, Inc., takes a comprehensive look at UC and the importance of system availability. Also examined in-depth are the components needed to put together and sustain a UC-enabled communications environment.

Want Consumer Loyalty? Get Smart About Hospitality Innovation!

At the recent 2015 HITEC event, the hospitality industry got a taste for industry highlights and overviews of things to come, and the event certainly did not disappoint. Among some of the more innovative solutions were concierge-style robots that provide more basic services like room service delivery, and of course NEC’s own Kylie!

Always top of mind for hospitality is customer loyalty. How do you reward those who are loyal to your brand? And how do you keep them loyal? One way is to ensure they feel welcomed and valued, as demonstrated through NEC’s VIP facial recognition avatar, Kylie.

Using NeoFace® face recognition technology and pulling from the secure database your organization collects, Kylie greets visitors, provides them with information pertinent to their stay and helps them with everything from getting checked into a room to getting to their return flight information. She is always on, always friendly, and always ready to greet customers to ensure a strong customer experience.

It’s More than Bells and Whistles

Of course, greeting VIP customers helps ensure a positive experience, but it’s only the beginning. Also important is an overall customer experience that couples the desired convenience with the required security. NEC’s Smart Hospitality Solutions are designed to provide both enhanced guest experiences with increased efficiency of hotel operations.

NEC Smart Hospitality Solutions consist of key solutions related to hotel operations, including communications platforms, Unified Communications (UC) applications, Property Management Systems (PMS), facial recognition systems, digital signage and guest room management systems. As the solutions are based on a modular approach and can be tightly integrated, customer information and other data can be easily shared throughout the portfolio of applications. As a result of this seamless integration, hotel owners and operators can provide highly value-added guest service and improve the productivity of hotel staff.

For example, NEC’s facial recognition solution makes it possible to use cameras at hotel entrances to identify VIP guests in real-time using previously registered data in a PMS. This enables the provision of personalized services and greetings to coincide with the arrival of a VIP. The guest experience can also be enhanced by enabling hotel check-ins and check-outs and room service orders and other requests to be accessed from tablets or guests’ smartphones.

NEC plans to continually strengthen the NEC Smart Hospitality Solutions portfolio while promoting its “Hotel IT in a Box” approach, which offers hotel solutions consolidated into a single server platform. Based on this approach, NEC launched its Application Platform for Hotels, a vertically integrated solution platform optimized for the hospitality industry. Moving forward, NEC plans to further integrate new solutions such as PMS into the Application Platform for Hotels.

NEC Smart Hospitality Solutions

A Glimpse into the Future

Of course, no event would be complete without a demonstration of futuristic technology. During HITEC, NEC demonstrated its  Interactive Projection System. This easy-to-use touchpad device connects with customers’ cell phones and provides information of their choosing, including property maps, coupons, and entertainment information. Giving customers the opportunity to self-serve actually improves the experience with quick access to information that can be uploaded to their mobile devices for access at the exact time they want it, a big bonus for those people on the go.

Customer loyalty is critical in the highly competitive hospitality industry, and comes down to the experience. Utilizing innovative solutions such as Kylie or the Interactive Projection System will create a positive visitor experience. Couple this with solutions that improve productivity, and both the customer and the hospitality organization win.

For more information on the NEC Smart Hospitality Solutions, please visit our website.

How to Spot Interoperable Education Technologies at FETC 2015

nec_uc_educations_solutions_4-resized-600This week while preparing for FETC 2015, I thought back to an article that Education Week published in December on digital content delivery and interoperability. With E-Learning software topping most educator’s shopping lists this year, interoperability is bound to be one of the many hot discussion topics heard on the exhibit floors during the show. So, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the article here.

A handful of large school districts (like Houston Independent School District) have begun aggressively pushing big publishers of education-based digital content to begin revamping the way they deliver instructional materials—a movement which will upend the long-established purchasing patterns that typically keep educators from accessing materials from other vendors.

The movement is reminiscent of several interoperability debates in the IT/Tech world right now, and we’re seeing many school districts lead the charge in declaring that they will not do business with publishers who refuse to become interoperable.

It’s a huge step on the part of the school districts. A shift towards interoperability means many things. It can revolutionize how content-delivery systems interact with each other. It could also transform how schools purchase and consume digital content, allowing districts to procure small “chunks” of content (individual chapters, lessons or videos, for example) from multiple vendors, perhaps through licensing agreements, rather than rely on yearlong or grade-span textbook series from a single publisher.

Finding Interoperability

As FETC helps kick off trade show season and as school districts start moving into 2015, it may be time to begin evaluating content technologies that can easily manage both the interoperable content coming from publishers as well as any other content types/formats.

Here are a few things to look for as you begin to evaluate new content distribution platforms:

“Create-ivity” and Customizability

Content distribution platforms (a.k.a. Learning Management Systems) traditionally employ a structured sequential learning method that drives students to move through class material in a predefined order. The best interoperable technologies are going to offer more by way of on-demand flexibility—letting teachers either create or select content relevant to each student’s learning experience, helping achieve the best possible results in the classroom.

A fully interoperable, flexible content management and distribution solution should give professors and students the option to employ either a traditional sequential learning model or the ability create a truly customized learning experience by accessing individual content pieces in multiple formats (video, presentation, documents, etc.) that the school has either licensed from multiple publishers or created on its own.

Collaboration and Interactivity

There is an increased focus on collaboration in higher education in order to prepare students for today’s collaborative and adaptive work environments. The right Learning Management System should provide the social interaction to which students have become accustomed, and should include tools that allow students and teachers to create discussion feeds and workgroups for classroom-based conversations and project-based learning.

Today’s Learning Management Systems should allow students to work collaboratively and efficiently together in real-time to complete class assignments and projects, and also include tools that allow interactive experiences with the course content,  including online components and hybrid learning strategies for flipped-classroom style learning.

“Integrate-ability” and Modernity

There are many challenges facing educators as classroom technology continues to advance.  That’s why a content distribution platform should be easy to use, should integrate existing educational resources, and should be integrate-able with your existing district technologies (think Unified Communications solutions, virtualized or cloud storage systems, or analytics technologies).

Collaborative Content Management

School districts like Houston’s are drawing lines in the sand—demanding more from the publishers creating K-12 content. The same demands will now need to be made of the technologists creating the distribution solutions.

That said, NEC is going to be at FETC this week demoing several of our education solutions—including our Collaborative Content Management solution, a cloud-based Learning Management System which is fully interoperable, flexible, and collaborative right out of the box.

If you’d like to learn more about NEC’s Collaborative Content Management before the show, check out our webinar below.

If you happen to be at FETC this week, stop by booth #1268 to chat with an NEC expert during normal Expo hours.

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What is The Big Picture for Retail? Customer Faces!

Brick-and-mortar retail establishments have fought hard to recover from the consumer transition to online buying. Even standing in the middle of a store aisle, a customer is likely to participate in “show-rooming,” which is to research online and purchase the very item you have right there on your shelf for less money from an online retailer. Fortunately, there are ways retailers can fight back, such as “web-rooming,” where you can enable the customer to find the item online, and then pick it up in your store. But that is barely scratching the surface to what is possible today.

In order to be more effective, as well as improve the customer experience, retailers have moved well beyond the basic point-of-sale into a full ecosystem. In this environment, a retailer can deploy end-to-end solutions that increase revenue while lowering operating costs and improving the customer in-store event. At NEC, we have devised a state-of-the-art retail ecosystem that ensures retailers can complete in today’s online purchasing world. So what is the ecosystem, exactly?

Point of Sale

Of course, point of sale (POS) systems are a given in today’s retail stores, but they don’t have to be the cashier, front-of-store type that we’ve used in the past. Today’s POS embraces the mobile environment, allowing payment via mobile wallets and purchasing applications. In addition, you can run on multi-purpose, smaller devices that are eco-friendly and have a smaller footprint (leaving more room for product merchandising). The smaller all-in-one compact POS terminals, such as the new NEC TWINPOS G5, are so easy to use and feature high-resolution displays and better processing power.

Mobility / Cloud

As we have already discussed in previous posts, customers will engage in show-rooming to look up reviews, price points and shop for better deals. In addition, consumers have become less patient, not willing to wait in line to purchase when they know they can order a comparable or even that exact product online at the click of a button. Ideally, your sales team has the ability to provide check-out services from the floor with mobile devices, ensuring that lines aren’t a hindrance and that the customer is served immediately. NEC’s Stanchion® integrated retail solution combines software, hardware and services to effectively improve the POS system and provide mobility solutions.

Back Office

It would not be an ecosystem if the store operations were not included. That is why NEC’s solution includes back office in the mix. By adding the ability for sales teams to access inventory information on the fly, customers are served more efficiently. Data integration is critical to giving the best information to the customer and keeping the sale. Using NEC retail software, you can now optimize data management so you gain access to information from warehouse to shelf. This level of data management improves loyalty programs as well as retains sales, all at the touch of a button.

Life-Cycle Management

Consumers live in real-time, and expect that information they receive from your own online channels is up-to-date and true. If a customer enters your store expecting to find a product listed on your website, but instead learns that product is out-of-stock, then that customer is frustrated and may not give you a second chance. The reality is that customers expect a fully-integrated online and offline experience, and if you do not provide one, they will find a retailer that does. They are looking for seamless experiences, which require you to have seamless integration for full life-cycle management.
NEC has a fully integrated solution that improves shopping experiences so you can get more satisfied customers and improve your bottom line.

The Big Picture

The NEC Retail Ecosystem puts you on the right road to great customer experience, and improved bottom line. That’s powerful, but can’t be the end. After all, technology consistently changes and as a partner to retail chains, we believe in supporting you through the next wave of technology. So what is that next piece to put you in front of the competition?

Biometrics!

We recognize the power of face recognition in loyalty programs, security, and overall improved shopping experiences. That is why NEC has developed solutions that integrate biometrics into the retail experience. With the NeoFace® Watch system, which uses proprietary face recognition technology, retailers can identify individuals such as VIP shoppers or loyalty club members, as well as track buyer activities at retail displays and capture demographic data on shoppers – the next game changer.

Come visit us at the NRF Big Show at Booth #3653. You can see the ecosystem first hand, and experience the power of facial recognition and take a peek at new retail solutions.  Make plans to also stop by booth 2803 to learn about NEC’s collaboration with Microsoft on an exciting new retail signage solution that combines NEC face recognition technology with Microsoft’s Kinect camera system to create a next-generation shopping experience. The solution serves up digital retail signage based upon an individual’s age and gender, and archives in-store demographic and engagement data in the cloud for later analysis by the retailer. This solution will be demonstrated in Microsoft’s booth during the NRF event.

And while you’re at NRF 15, we invite you to take part in our #BigPicture Twitter contest. Simply take a selfie in front of the NEC signage at the expo entrance and Tweet “I was @NEC#Big Picture” for a chance to win up to $500. Full contest rules available here.

The Big Picture puts a face on your customer. See how you can make that happen by visiting us at Booth #3653!