Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?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 Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.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older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.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

 
 
 
 
 



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.

4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift

7K0A0129The advent of unified communications (UC) technology has transformed the business landscape for companies that successfully adopt and use it.

These days, email, instant messaging, and social media combined with the myriad types of mobile devices can work together to create an incredibly versatile and productive work environment. But this environment, known as unified communications, is only successful if a business devotes the time, energy, and resources to implement both the physical UC solution as well as a UC-oriented cultural shift.

It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of companies never “fully realize” their UC implementation.  Why?  Well, while the physical implementation  of a new technology is often planned for, it’s typically assumed that users will accept the new communications system out of the box and will automatically understand its features. More often than not, this isn’t the case.

Here is the problem stated as blatantly as possible: either plan for the culture shift or reap the consequences that unrealized ROI can bring.

Whether your business is thinking of making the UC transition or  if you’re just upgrading to a new iteration of your current communications system, there are steps to follow to make sure that everything goes both physically and culturally smoothly.

Here are our 4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift.

1. Involve the Entire Team
The first critical step in implementing a UC initiative is obtaining the needed buy-in from everyone in the company (not just the management team). The need for buy-in warrants a process that ensures consultation of all department leaders and requires they come to the same understanding in regard to the implementation. This process makes it so all stakeholders can work and learn together—helping define what the vision for the UC implementation will be.

But developing a clear-cut picture of the UC initiative is just a small part of this step. Once upper-management has communicated the needed information to the department leaders, these key players must then take the time to energetically and continuously communicate with their subordinates. This portion of the implementation process is the time to cull departmental knowledge—on the current technology’s best practices and failings, and to get employee opinions on the tools that they think would increase productivity.

Topics discussed should include all of the opportunities that UC offers, even those that may not directly affect most people’s daily work. Case in point: a good UC solution can help businesses realize more timely interactions (that means more revenue) and can help them implement a Capex/Opex shift.

While Capex/Opex isn’t something that even I think about on a daily basis—I more than realize the need for more revenue. And if a new affordable technology is the way to achieve that, then I can more readily get on board with the technology change than I could if I didn’t know anything about the change at all.  And, when I get a look at the full picture, I begin to feel included in the actual decision-making process (which also makes me more likely to be at least interested in the new solution, if not a little excited in anticipating it).

 

2. Test for User Acceptance

While your IT department will lead the technical aspects of the implementation, departmental leaders, and other key personnel will need to be and should be included in the piloting phase. The role of the latter is to ensure that the software is usable in a practical, real-world, day-to-day scenario.

This step should include demo sessions for both senior executives, who can give “big picture” recommendations, as well as front-line employees. These employees are your best resource when testing new UC solutions because they can explain and highlight specific difficulties with certain tools—giving you the opportunity to take note and the company to tailor the solution appropriately.

Even if this project is your responsibility—i.e., you are the one who knows more about it than anyone else in the company—you must remain open-minded to any recommendations or criticism. In the end, a new UC solution will have to both accommodate the needs of everyone in the company more easily while also helping achieve new business objectives.
3. Market Internally

There are many enterprise-level software products that are remarkably robust and dependable. The failure of a UC-oriented one is rarely the fault of the technology. Instead, the more common cause is implementers failing to impress upon their team the importance of embracing the new “initiative.” Everything must be planned for, and everything must be explained.

The vendors, however, can’t do all the explaining themselves. The department leaders mentioned in Step One should “champion” the initiative, developing the messaging and communicating directly the benefits the new solution will bring to their direct reports, co-workers, and other staff.

But you can’t force change. You have to win over your converts. And that requires marketing. The language and materials that you use to market your UC initiative internally can have a dramatic effect on user acceptance and can potentially win over converts. The choice of the word “initiative” instead of “project” is not accidental. The word “initiative” denotes more powerful and compelling reasoning than the word project, and better conveys the all-encompassing nature of a UC implementation.

That vocabulary choice that we just made is actually called marketing. And when you market appropriately to the majority of your end-users, the stragglers will inevitably follow.

 

4. Mandate Training and Measure Afterward
Here’s a fact. People hate “training”. When you’re in the process of implementing any new technology, you’ll find that most of your co-workers will balk at the idea of attending when the training sessions start.

In the same vein, many businesses are also hesitant to make training mandatory. Regardless of how your employees will feel about it, training provides valuable information on how to shift to the new solution and gives you another opportunity to champion your new solution. So they need to be there. And if you have to incentivize it with something awesome to keep everyone happy, then that’s what you should do. Making UC training fun and valuable—and it is imperative that you have your vendor’s help during this period—is the key to getting ultimate buy-in.

BUT, before you count the implementation as “complete”, you need to measure the adoption rate. Analytically speaking this is your one chance to determine whether the UC implementation initiative was truly successful. It’s also an opportunity to identify the last pockets of employee resistance.  If you want to overcome any and all lingering objections to the implementation—measuring the adoption rate is the way to do it.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your UC implementation. They will make the whole process simpler and really will raise your overall chances of success.

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How will the Internet of Things be Strategic to the Enterprise?

NEC-Ubiquitous-ConnectednessThe Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly becoming entrenched in both consumer and enterprise IT as both a technology priority and a buzzword. As IT practitioners continue the ongoing evaluation of the rapidly growing array of IT tools and technologies available to the Enterprise, it might be time to question how strategic the IoT will be to the successful and smart enterprise of the near future.

Perhaps it would be best to discuss the IoT by first removing its “buzzword” status. The IoT is nothing more than a convergence of today’s pre-existing top IT Trends—think smart mobility, cloud, biometrics, and big data. But it is the true convergence of these technologies—working together seamlessly as interoperable parts of a whole—which is the goal and should define the term “Internet of Things.”

The data should be familiar. By 2020, IoT will be an $8.9 trillion market with over 212 billion connected “things,” meaning that within the next 5 years, the connectedness of everything will be one of the world’s largest industries.

But the question is not “will the IoT be important” but is rather, “will it be strategic to the enterprise?” Will planning for and installing “IoT” ready devices now result in success over your competitors?

Adoption of the IoT

At its core, the IoT is technological equipment that is connected to a network enabling information transfer, and improving efficiencies. The benefits can be vast for enterprises.

First, businesses can accelerate product development and deployment cycles by unifying information from diverse sources and applications. Second, the IoT introduces new revenue streams by allowing businesses to take advantage of the latest smart technologies before their competition. Finally, all these new connected devices produce a ton of data that can be disseminated and quantified for more reliable outcomes.

Because IoT connects tens, and eventually, hundreds of billions of active devices that capture and project data that broadly enriches the network, both consumer and enterprise technologies will continue to be important, and both will affect the enterprise. Consumer products manufacturers like PhilipsGE, (and now Google ) and carmakers  are racing to connect their products to internet networks for this reason. This connection will generate incredible accumulate data value, and that data will have enormous competitive consequence.

Smart enterprises should be starting to build their IoT ecosystems, leveraging new technologies and growing their network effect in order to be the most appealing and valuable offering within their vertical industries.

Where the IoT will impact the Enterprise?

The best techniques for exploiting the IoT to create business value are still emerging. But, it’s becoming apparent that the IoT will affect the enterprise in the following ways:

  • Creating smart, connected workplaces. The smart, connected workplace is full of emerging IoT related technologies. Think wearables, 3D printers, and any other sensor or control technology that can be connected to the network.
  • Creating new, quantifiable business activities. With business process monitoring, control, and optimization technologies connected, disparate, previously unmeasurable business activities in the office will be systematically categorized and improved.  Wearables and technologies like smartdust will be instrumental in capturing deeper levels of data. Technologies refined to process this big data will be applied to manage, orchestrate, and extract meaning from the vast streams of digital knowledge elicited from daily enterprise activities.
  • Automating products and services. Companies will first IoT enable their products and services, but then soon design them for and around IoT.
  • Creating new business intelligence. IoT network connection will have profound new levels of insight into how the world around us works and interacts with technology. Like Big Data, IoT will help businesses adapt and become better attuned to new realities.

Staying engaged and connected with customers via UC

In short, the IoT represents a zero-sum presence in our customer’s lives. By being connected in a meaningful way 24/7 with millions of our customers through IoT-enabled systems of engagement, we can ensure our organizations stay relevant and keep the competition from doing so.

There is a lot going on in the background of the IoT discussion to bring this meaningful content to the consumer that involves Unified Communications. What’s exciting from a UC perspective is that the IoT integrates into mainstream enterprise systems and supports interoperable real-world, on-line end-to-end business applications.

So, in short, yes, IoT is strategic to the enterprise. There isn’t much time, so build your ecosystem, accumulate knowledge, and get it delivering and capturing data as soon as possible.

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NEC Ranks Highest in Customer Service, Trust, and Technology

nemertes-pilothouse-nec-ip-telephonyOur unified communications (UC) customers have always said that NEC provides highly reliable communications solutions designed to support their unique businesses, and industry analysts have also agreed.

Recently, Nemertes Research surveyed 500 IT decision-makers to determine how they rate their technology vendors. The survey asked 20 key questions that were designed to help determine which IP telephony vendor has the best customer service, and what that service actually means when put into context.
The survey results show that NEC ranks the highest among vendors in the following categories:

Trusted Advisor

IT decision-makers know that vendor credibility is as important when making a purchasing decision as the architecture of the solution purchased.

A trusted telephony vendor should be able to stand behind its solution. It should commit to providing consistent product software updates and maintain a track record of evolving customer technology. A trusted telephony vendor doesn’t do forklift upgrades, preferring instead to provide value, measurement and consistency. And, most importantly, a trusted telephony vendor should always make a commitment to businesses of all sizes—small, medium, and enterprise alike.

To better understand how IP telephony providers measure up in this area, Nemertes built “Trusted Advisor” questions into its survey. These questions help numerically determine each vendor’s:

• technology expertise
• credibility
• innovativeness
• character
• timeliness in response to customer needs

NEC ranks highly in all of these sub-categories, but two of our greatest strengths have always been our expertise and credibility. As one of the original telephony vendors, we not only understand, but have also helped define both the industry and its technologies.

We bring our expertise and credibility to the market in multiple ways. One way is through innovative products. The second, according to the report, is through our value-added resellers or dealers. NEC customers have determined that we are the most capable at passing our knowledge to our dealers—who serve as an equally knowledgeable and capable extension of NEC.

Technology

In today’s environment it’s extremely important to choose the right UC solution. IT organizations are under pressure to select multiple business solutions that provide the best technology available and that deliver the best value possible—and communications technology is no exception.
The technology portion of the Nemertes report shows how each vendor’s products rank in the following sub-categories:

• reliability
• interoperability
• management capabilities
• technology roadmap

NEC consistently ranks highly among communications vendors as providing reliable, interoperable and innovative communications and IT solutions. In fact, our highest scoring metric was product reliability, meaning that in the eyes of our customers we not only provide innovative products, but also deliver reliable and dependable products that provide a continuous path forward.

Customer Service

According to Nemertes, NEC unequivocally ranked highest in the Customer Service category. The survey assessed the customer’s needs in the following categories:

• pre-sales responsiveness
• post-sales responsiveness
• break-fix responsiveness
• accuracy and timeliness in delivering invoices

From the results Nemertes determined that no other vendor is currently providing the same quality of response to its customers as well as NEC.

NEC is proud to rank highest in this category, and we continue to make customer service of the utmost importance to our business. We have award-winning products. When our technology is factored with our credibility, expertise and the quality of our customer service, it’s easy to see why the report shows that NEC has the highest percentage of organizations who wish to stay our customers of all the vendors polled.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Download the Nemertes Report now.

Nemertes-IP-Telephony-Customer-Satisfaction-NEC-1