Implementation Options for Unified Communications

nec-unified-communications_optionsUnified communications (UC) is about connecting employees, business partners and clients with information in an efficient, collaborative workplace. Today’s users expect complete compatibility across all interfaces, including tablets and smart devices. A communication framework that can accomplish these aims must be reliable, secure and, above all, extremely versatile.

If implemented successfully, UC will yield results across an entire company. The existing business will adapt more immediately to market changes, and new products will be envisioned and brought to market in a much shorter time frame.

Three approaches to unified communications that stand out as presenting the greatest, most effective opportunities for the forward looking company are: expanded voice systems, enhanced desktop functionality and communications-enabled business processes. However, every business situation is unique and faces its own set of challenges as it relates to UC adoption. Selecting a partner that can provide a customized approach utilizing any number of techniques is the ideal way to meet your specific requirements.

Expanded Voice Systems

Voice communication systems are easily the most used (and sometimes overlooked) communication tool. The addition of web collaboration, audio and video conferencing, presence, instant message, support for mobile devices and the integration of business applications can substantially improve the usefulness of your voice communications system. These options are varied but always versatile, scalable and cost effective. This approach also allows you to take advantage of your voice system and integrate elements of UC with installed desktop applications.

Enhanced Desktop Functionality

You can choose to add elements of unified communications (instant message, presence, and click-to-call) to desktop applications such as e-mail and calendar. Desktop applications are an obvious necessity to any successful business, as they provide the interface to, and are the focus of, all the information systems of the business. This information is the lifeline of your business, and enhancing access to them is imperative.

Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP)

A picture is worth a thousand words. This statement is as true in business as anywhere else. Integrating your core business applications with your communications network can allow your employees, partners and clients to experience rather than just read the information you want communicated. Simply put, representations of complicated or highly technical information can be portrayed as images. Everyone from sales associates to senior management will benefit tremendously from the ability to quickly grasp and adapt to this information and use it to act more decisively.

These benefits encompass all business departments and industries. Every department will be able to make rapid, informed decisions based on the same information and, if needed, further detail is always available on the system. Industries as diverse as manufacturing and education as well as government offices can be confident in their ability to communicate across every user interface.

While the market definition of UC seems to be ever evolving, the drivers remain constant. The value of UC is most evident when one recognizes the vast amounts of information that are communicated across formerly separate communications technologies. But the true value is reaped when, as a result of UC implementation, innovation, collaboration and teamwork are all enhanced and significantly increase the efficiency of a business.

Enterprise Communications: How to Avoid a Traffic Jam (Part II)

nec-unified-communications-traffic_management-2You’ve identified your problem, now let’s solve it and maintain the results.

Ongoing traffic maintenance is critical to the success of a well formed traffic management strategy. You must continually monitor your call flows to ensure that the patterns have not changed.

In most cases, weekly or daily traffic reports are run and analysis performed to ensure that no busy conditions are occurring. If they do occur, it is imperative that you first check to see that this is not due to a fault such as a downed T1 that has reduced the number of available trunks on the route. If this is not the case, then a traffic problem exists and needs to be immediately accounted for.

Call Center environments are especially sensitive to traffic problems. In call center environments, an aggressive traffic management strategy should be implemented and diligently attended to. The voice administrator needs to have exposure to everything that is going on related to that route to properly troubleshoot issues or plan for growth.

What information will I need to assess my trunking needs?

Depending on the needs of your organization, the types of traffic information you find valuable will determine which traffic types you should collect and store. For example, peg count and call second usage information can be collected for many different types of traffic based items including trunk utilization, station statistics, group usages, attendant statistics and call center information.

Another traffic type that can be collected is the VoIP statistics information as it relates to any number of different IP based voice devices throughout your communications solution. This information is based on the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) packets that are passed between the devices throughout the course of a conversation. This data is valuable because it tells an administrator how much bandwidth is currently being consumed by voice traffic and over which network segments that information is flowing. It is beneficial in aiding network capacity planning efforts or in troubleshooting problems experienced with VoIP implementations.

Once you’ve collected the data, determining how much you should store will be dependent on your organization’s business needs. Every business is different, but each business likely experiences peaks and valleys in call volumes. If you experience higher traffic volumes on certain trunk routes at certain times during the year, be sure to plan to store enough traffic data to cover those peaks.
Regardless of your particular situation, traffic issues and trunking errors are costly and can potentially damage your organization’s reputation. Knowing the fundamentals of traffic management and coupling that with the right tools is the key to an effective traffic management strategy.

Hey, you made it all the way to the end. Learn more about tools designed by NEC to make traffic management both simple and automatic.

Enterprise Communications: How to Avoid a Traffic Jam (Part I)

nec-unified-communications-traffic_managementThere’s no question that your organization’s communications system is critical to your business. But did you know that traffic management is a key component to ensuring your unified communications solution is running at its peak performance? While trunking is a common “fix” and contributes to the functionality of your UC solution, if not done properly it can be both costly and damaging to your organization. Read ahead to learn more about identifying and fixing common traffic problems that could very well be inhibiting your communications solution, and ultimately your business.

First, identify your problem…

Is your route Over-Trunked?

If so, then you have too many voice channels dedicated to a particular trunk route. This is costly for your organization because you are paying for service and equipment that is not needed.

Is your route Under-Trunked?

If so, then you have too few voice channels dedicated to a particular trunk route. Under-trunking can lead to a loss in productivity by your employees because those needing to dial out won’t be able to. Additionally, when customers are trying to dial into your office, they may hear a busy signal, which could potentially frustrate and cause them to take their business elsewhere – this can damage your company’s brand reputation or customer loyalty.

Are you experiencing VoIP Traffic Problems?

Voice over IP (VoIP) traffic problems are the result of a lack of bandwidth across a routed network link. This will lead to bad quality calls that are choppy or have a great deal of delay. None of these symptoms are at all desirable because they lead to garbled and confusing phone conversations and generally poor perception of the communications solution.

Traffic related problems are also costly for your business because you’re paying for equipment and service that you don’t need. They can also lead to the following problems for your organization: lost potential revenue, lost brand reputation, lost customer loyalty and lost productivity.

Now that you’ve identified the problem, how will you fix it?

Stay tuned for the next post where we’ll discuss how to resolve your traffic problems.

Food for Thought: Top Considerations Before Moving to the Cloud

nec-cloud-considerations-privacy-securityWe’ve all become attached to on-prem computing when it comes to our individual and business needs, so the abundance of skepticism around the cloud computing concept is understandable. The premise behind cloud computing is to “rent” space, and only pay for what you need, keeping cost and energy consumption at bay. Cloud offers benefits for both the individual and the organization, so is switching to cloud the right move for your organization? Of course, you’ll determine which of the following is top priority based on your business, but check this list out for a few things to consider when making your decision:

1) Demand & Growth: Is your organization’s growth sporadic or predictable? Assess your organization’s need before moving to cloud. Cloud favors scalable and on-demand deployments

The Harvard Business review cites research from by Gartner Vice President Mark McDonald, noting that the percentage of CIOs interested in cloud computing has grown considerably, from 5% in 2009 to 37% in early 2011. Management in larger companies have been more likely to name cloud as a “top five” IT priority. Assess your business needs and then supplement with technology to make your business the best it can be.

2) Data Privacy & Security: Is your organization one with rigid security requirements? Clouds were initially designed for individual or small group use, not larger organizations. Whether you need a system that will keep “intruders” out, or one that will control who has access within your company, Cloud computing vendors have taken this into consideration and implemented technologies to better protect devices. Bottom line: evaluate your organization’s security requirements when considering how cloud will accommodate you best.

3) Reliability and Bandwidth: Arguments have been raised questioning reliability of the cloud infrastructure versus an on-prem infrastructure. Regardless of which Cloud technology you choose to adopt, no connectivity makes cloud as useful as not having it at all.

4) Users base (Localized vs. Globally Dispersed):
Cloud enables collaboration between mobile users with ease, more so than on-prem computing. But if the majority of your users are localized, is moving to cloud the best decision for your organization?

5) Performance: While some of the greatest accomplishments achieved through Cloud technology is a result of its collaboration capabilities, look up-front at the important pieces that contribute to the performance for your organization. Will switching to cloud directly support your business operation? Will it enable your business to effectively generate revenue? Keep in mind that Cloud is just one component; application use and availability, along with bandwidth should be taken into consideration for your deployment.

Cloud computing gives you the opportunity to continue to compete effectively without owning all of the technology you use, and while the concept is nothing new, it forces the difficult consideration of consolidating your entire business framework in order to move applications like email, CRM, or storage to the cloud. It certainly merits a deeper look into the considerations above, particularly when you consider the added possibility of moving real-time applications like voice and unified communications to the cloud. Now that’s “food for thought.”

Top Barriers to Collaboration and How to Overcome Them

An undeniably common trend these days is collaboration. Web collaboration, audio collaboration, document sharing, the list goes on. Everywhere you look collaboration tools are poised to assist us in project management, communicating with one another or sharing information.

Of course, collaboration isn’t a new concept. As humans, we’ve been developing collaboration techniques since the days of using grunts and finger points to get two hunters’ arrows into the same wildebeest. The arrows may be IPO’s now, and the wildebeest our competitor’s market edge, but collaboration is just as crucial as it ever was.
Just as collaboration is not new, neither are the barriers to collaboration that we are faced with every day. There are four common barriers that are easily identified:

1) DISTANCE – Our intended partners may be separated by distances of hundreds or thousands of miles. This barrier is probably the most easily understood, as well as the easiest to overcome.
Today, we have the ability to communicate over vast distances not only by voice, but also text, email and video without leaving our desk or even our home. Cell phones, tablets, web, VoIP and video are all merging together (and with the advent of uMobility technologies, practically interchangeable). Nearly ubiquitous device and network access means that we are more connected and capable of being in touch than ever before. At no time in history has distance been as little a consideration as it is now.

2) LANGUAGE and CULTURE – Being able to hear or even see someone a thousand miles away is all well and good, but doesn’t help much if neither of you understands the other’s language. This may be one of the most vexing barriers, because, whether it be software driven or people managed, simple translation cannot always help us navigate the differences inherent in a multicultural business.

New software such as Google Translate has made it possible to get extremely fast and reasonably accurate translations for common phrases, words, and sentences. Putting those in context and building the foundation of trust and understanding that is necessary for efficient collaboration may be something that takes years, however.

3) FUNCTION/EXPERTISE – Have you ever witnessed a discussion between your company’s CIO and Marketing Director about the pros and cons of a particular piece of technology or software? Not only may they not have any common ground for understanding, the terms and background training that each would expect from a peer may be completely absent.

Even though they’re speaking the same cultural language, they are not able to effectively collaborate because there is just too great of a gap between the viewpoints and knowledge base that the other takes for granted and necessary for their daily work.

4) ORGANIZATIONAL/BEAURACRATIC – Even if you are in the same building, floor or room, collaborating with someone of a different department or level might be difficult. Failing to make the shift from a bounded, within-group mindset to a boundary spanning, cross-group mindset can mean the demise of your chances to excel, both for your organization and personally.

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Organizational issues are some of the most difficult boundaries to remove. It’s the “unseen line” that many individuals and companies don’t even realize is there. If middle managers aren’t able to look up, and senior managers don’t bother to or are incapable of seeing down, mission-critical decisions are made without a clear understanding of the business impact. The same is true of managers who are unable to cross lateral departmental boundaries. The inability to understand the motivations and needs of other areas in the same organization, or feeling uncomfortable discussing current projects and initiatives with them can create a huge disconnect.

The ways in which we collaborate today are extensive and varied. With hosting and webinar style solutions practically ubiquitous, Microsoft’s Sharepoint and other document storage services are achieving enterprise maturity. Even comprehensive audio/video/web systems such as NEC’s Meeting Center are making their mark on the business world – learn more about the power of collaboration within UC.

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