Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?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 Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.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older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.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

 
 
 
 
 



UCaaS / Hybrid RFP: What Can Cloud Providers Deliver?

Are you looking to move your communications infrastructure to the cloud?

Download today the IP Telephony and Unified Communications System (Cloud and Hybrid Solutions), a free whitepaper / eBook from independent consultant David Stein of Stein Technology Consulting Group that offers the unique chance to examine cloud and hybrid cloud solutions based on actual vendor RFP proposals.

In this free eBook  you will get:

  • An unbiased evaluation of 7 proposed cloud and hybrid cloud solutions
  • Insight into the merits of 5 leading communications vendors
  • A explanation of vendor differentiators

Free Ebook: UCaas RFP 2016

Free #Whitepaper: UCaaS...What Can #Cloud Providers Really Deliver? Click To Tweet

Download and share this information rich eBook with your decision makers so they can also understand NEC’s leadership position in cloud and hybrid cloud migration, the value of a cloud-based UNIVERGE® Blue solution that is backed by NEC’s more than 117 years of expertise as a leading technologies and services provider.

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.



NEC at Enterprise Connect 2016

Enterprise Connect always attracts technology innovators and creative disruptors in cloud solutions (UCaaS, IaaS, CCaaS, etc.), Unified Communications, the Internet of Things and more. This year’s event was again abuzz with powerful keynote presentations, lively panel discussions, and distinctive product demonstrations and exhibits. As a proud platinum sponsor, NEC helped attendees “Discover the Power of SMART Enterprise”, attracting an impressive crowd to our booth and winning a prestigious award for the second year in a row.

Ram Menghani - Enterprise Connect 2016“Last year, we introduced our Smart Enterprise approach to helping companies work more efficiently,” said Ram Menghani, vice president of product management and development, NEC North America. “This year, we demonstrated how our Smart Enterprise solutions are making a difference in all parts of our customers’ organizations, from the reception area and data center, through other areas like customer care centers and conference rooms, along with mobility solutions that enable seamless communications from any location.”

Showcasing the SMART Enterprise

On the show floor, visitors enjoyed a tour of the SMART Enterprise. Our display represented different departments within a company, highlighting how NEC solutions, such as UNIVERGE 3C and UNIVERGE BLUE, help unite every area of a business.

Examples of what visitors experienced:

  • Our SMART Receptionist, a touch-screen that allows someone to work remotely while managing the lobby, greeted guests in the reception area. Security protocols then went into effect as visitors were screened by one of our biometrics solutions.
  • A jaunt to the SMART Conference Room allowed visitors to work at individual stations, such as laptops or tablets, while seamlessly sharing information (even across several rooms or locations).
  • The SMART Customer Care Center displayed how UNIVERGE BLUE’s multi-channel interaction – voice, email, chat, video and voicemail, remote agent support, and analytics in the cloud – improves customer service and productivity.
  • The SMART Data Center showcased high availability infrastructure, including NEC’s unique Fault Tolerant servers that provide up to 99.999% uptime.

UNIVERGE BLUE Wins Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)/Hybrid RFP Award

Each year Enterprise Connect holds a mock request for proposal (RFP) session. Every vendor that submits a response is required to answer questions related to their solution’s architecture, features, and total cost of ownership over a five-year period.

NEC was awarded the highest overall score in the annual UCaaS/Hybrid mock RFP session for the second year in a row when NEC’s UNIVERGE BLUE Business Cloud Services UCaaS solution was selected as Top Cloud Solution with Lowest Total Cost Ownership.

“NEC has consistently ranked at or near the top in delivering value to its customers, said Menghani, “and the back-to-back, top-mark results from this mock RFP analysis further validates the value of an NEC solution.”

We’ll have a whitepaper of the 2016 results available soon. You can review the specifics of last year’s win by clicking here.

Session Speakers

NEC and its partners were featured speakers in several sessions throughout the week.

Menghani took part in the first general session of this year’s conference, the “UC Summit: Is the Path to UC Changing?”.

Watch video of the UC Summit

It was a lively panel featuring NEC and execs from Google, Cisco, Mitel, Microsoft, Avaya, and Unify.

“The communications market is changing aggressively,” Menghani said during the summit. “Having a combined infrastructure of UC and IT plays a very important role because they go hand and hand. It’s a wonderful benefit.”

Other featured speakers at this year’s Enterprise Connect included:

  • Gail Kasek, senior manager of SMB Product Management, hosting the breakout panel,  “Your Next Endpoint Deployment: Getting to Specs and Costs”
  • Kurt Jacobs, director of Internet of Things solutions at NEC Enterprise Communication Technologies, featured in the panel, “Disruptor Panel: Internet of Things and Enterprise Communications: Is Convergence Coming?”
  • NEC customer Steve Molander, chief information officer of Frandsen Financial Corporation, as a panelist for the “Driving End User Adoption for UC” session
  • NEC customer Roger Bruszewski, vice president for finance and administration at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, featured in the “EC Summit: Is There a New Model for Enterprise Communications and Collaboration?”

“When looking for an enterprise communication solution,” Bruszewski said to his audience, “there are plenty of vendors out there. However, you don’t want just a vendor. You want to find a partner who will take time to understand your needs and thoughtfully integrate their solutions within your company.”

Thank you to everyone who visited us during Enterprise Connect 2016 – our customers, partners, consultants, analysts, and media. We look forward to connecting with you again next year as we continue to evolve the SMART Enterprise.

NEC Advantage Executive Conference Gives Dealers First-hand Look at Latest Solutions

More than 125 top dealer organizations gathered in May to attend NEC’s annual Advantage Executive Conference, held this year in Phoenix. A total of 502 attendees came together to learn about NEC’s latest Smart Solutions for Smart Business, see demonstrations of the latest solutions, and network with counterparts from other organizations.

The annual event provides an excellent opportunity for NEC dealers and consultants to meet directly with NEC product and solutions experts and management. The exhibit area featured demos of not only NEC’s newest solutions, but also related products and services from vendors who work directly with NEC.

A highlight of this year’s event was the keynote address by Gartner analyst Tiffani Bova, who spoke on “Reading the Tea Leaves: Responding to the Speed of Business.” Bova addressed “keeping the customer as the true north” when preparing for the new business reality of what Gartner calls the Nexus of Forces: the convergence of social, mobile, cloud and information.

A wide range of products and solutions for both enterprise and SMB organizations were showcased during breakouts and in the exhibit area, including:

  • NEC’s award-winning software-defined networking (SDN) solutions and its Smart Enterprise IT portfolio of SDN-ready UC solutions
  • Smart Solutions for verticals, including higher ed/K-12, hospitality, healthcare and government
  • Applications for NEC’s new UT880 terminal
  • UNIVERGE SV9000 series of communications platforms
  • UNIVERGE Cloud services and hybrid models
  • Customer care solutions
  • Innovative biometrics solutions

“This year’s conference was probably our best ever, in terms of attendance and showcasing a wide range of NEC solutions,” said Larry Levenberg, vice president of sales, NEC Corporation of America. “Our Smart Solution portfolio, featuring innovative NEC technologies such as biometrics and SDN along with our communication networks and UCC solutions, received an enthusiastic response from our dealers.”

To learn more about NEC’s technology and solutions, visit http://necam.com.

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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