Building a Better Business Case for Unified Communications and Collaboration Part II

nec-unified-communication-collaboration-business-caseNow that you know the ins and outs of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C), how can you make its deployment work best for you and your organization? For starters, you should know that your budget will certainly benefit. The reason: all UC&C solutions, whether hosted or on-premise, improve overall business efficiency and productivity through the integrated solution, thus providing a greater chance of cost reduction. According to data from Wainhouse Research, a fully integrated premise-based UC&C solution can save up to 97% more cost annually compared to similar externally hosted collaboration solutions. Additionally, when considering cost, be sure to think in terms of TOTAL cost of Ownership rather than ROI, as we mentioned in the last post. When considering the TCO of deploying a software premise-based UC&C solution, consider the following additional factors, suggested by Information Week, when justifying your decision and maximizing your TCO.

Key Factors in Determining and Justifying UC&C TCO

  1. Operational Expenditures
  2. Capital Expenditures
  3. Employee Productivity and Job Satisfaction
  4. Training
  5. Feature Adoption Timeline
  6. Increased Sales Due To Increased Collaboration
  7. Market-Share Increase

If cost isn’t enough to help build your case for UC&C implementation, then perhaps improved business efficiency and performance will. According to an Information Week survey, some of the specific drivers identified by enterprise customers who have deployed or are planning to deploy UC&C solutions are:

 

  1. Improved Employee Collaboration
  2. Improved Employee Efficiency
  3. Legacy PBX Retirement or Upgrade Technology to meet Business Needs and Stay on Par with Peers
  4. Create a More Mobile Workforce
  5. Improve Communications with Customers

How will you determine the right UC&C approach for your organization?
Based on your organization’s specific needs and budget there are many solutions to choose from and methods to deploy them. The growing trend of deploying fully integrated software-based premise solutions provides you with the greatest control and choice, as well as substantially lowering your TCO. This annual savings can be substantial when compared to a hosted solution. Although there are many factors to consider when determining an accurate and representative TCO, clearly developing a strategy and defining a deployment road map with the right vendor gives you the best opportunity for successfully realizing the benefits UC&C can offer your organization.

Building a Better Business Case for Unified Communications and Collaboration

nec-unified-communication-business-caseEver-developing technologies are causing business communications for today’s organizations to undergo rapid transformations. Developing an understanding of the basis of this shift can provide you with key insight into how to effectively leverage new technologies and build a business case for deploying Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) within your organization. UC&C has evolved over the last five years, with many manufacturers offering different solutions and delivery methods. From this evolution three main options have arisen: a fully hosted solution, an adjunct attachment to an existing PBX or IP PBX and a fully integrated all-in-one premise based solution.

So how do you view UC&C? Keep in mind that it should not be recognized as a specific product, but more as an integration of services and or an ongoing modular strategy that can be implemented or phased in over a defined period of time. The evolution of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) has evolved from basic features such as Unified Messaging, Presence and IM to an ever expanding set of new capabilities. UC&C provides many distinct functions and services, and thus should not be viewed as a single capital expense, but as an operational investment over time. In this case, consider your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) rather than your Return on Investment (ROI), as you would with other purchases.

A complete UC&C solution consists of a number of elements that provide users with a truly unified experience, enabling them to communicate in a timely and productive manner specific to their roles in the organization. These elements are generally categorized into 3 main categories. Let’s identify and describe these categories to determine which makes the better business case for your organization’s needs:

  • Core Foundational Elements: This category includes a Multi-Service Network, VoIP, and Pervasive Presence
  • Traditional UC Elements: This includes Unified Messaging/Voicemail/Fax, Text Chat/IM, Audio/Web Collaboration, and Video Conferencing
  • Emerging Elements: Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP), Mobility (Fixed Mobile Convergence), Mass Notification, and Social Media/Federation

Which category suits your organization’s needs? Do you fit strictly into one, or an overlap of multiple? In the next post we will further examine and focus on a current emerging trend in UC&C, which is to provide all of the above mentioned elements in a completely integrated software-based solution approach, thus allowing UC&C to be deployed in a more flexible and modular manner. This deployment will in turn give organizations more control in determining which solution elements they want to utilize across their company to best suit their needs.

Top 5 Non-Emergency Uses For Mass Notification

nec-mass-notificationWhat do you do when you need to deliver time-sensitive information to hundreds, or even thousands of people? Do you have a mass notification system in place to help get the word out quickly and efficiently? There are times when alerts sent to the general population of a hospital, school or business are not only helpful, but necessary. In a hospital setting, implementing a mass notification system extends beyond emergencies – doctors, nurses and administrative staff can also be alerted of shift changes or increased availability. This can be accomplished with little to no effort when a mass notification system is in place. With the systems that are available today, the same message can be broadcast to literally thousands of people. For those messages that need to be dispersed quickly, mass communication sent to personal devices is becoming very popular. Within minutes, an important alert can be sent in a timely fashion to everyone who is affected by the content of the message.
Mass Communication Alerts

Historically, the reason for a mass communication has been emergency related. Mass communication alerts have typically been sent for extreme weather bulletins or when there is a dangerous situation taking place at a specific location, such as a particular building on a campus or business site. While mass notification systems incorporate a variety of response mechanisms to allow educational institutions to improve their communications in the event of an emergency, the systems can also be used to improve the business process of hospitals as well as major corporations.

Now that alerts have become broader in scope, it is becoming more common to see alerts about:

  1. Event Notification: to alert of upcoming, canceled, or even impromptu events
  2. Attendance alerts: in an educational setting, this can alert parents and guardians when a student is tardy or absent.
  3. News Updates: about a particular item that affects the group.
  4. Building Closure: for maintenance reasons or an outage of electricity.
  5. Ad-hoc meetings: when it is necessary to gather a group of individuals

There are multiple methods of communicating messages, from text messages and e-mail alerts to delivering a voice message. Read on to determine the differences and assess for yourself which would be most successful within your organization.

How are messages delivered?

Most systems offer features which allow you to call recipients and leave a pre-recorded message. Seems simple, but on one hand, when a call is received from an unknown phone number, it is often ignored or sent to voice mail. Thus, defeating the whole purpose of the mass notification, as the event may have already taken place once the recipient retrieves the voice mail.  In response to this, some systems have taken steps to alleviate this problem and skip calls altogether and send a text message. This approach could prove more successful, since research shows that when a text is received, it is often checked sooner than a voice mail even from a known caller. It is quicker to check when the phone signal is weak and the receiver can still get the full text message. The New York Times references data from uReach Technologies, who operates the voice messaging systems of a leading wireless provider. The data states that over30 percent of voice messages go unheard for a minimum of three days. But what about wireless subscribers who do not use or even have the ability to send or receive text messages?
This is where multi-modal systems come in and prove to be most effective. Leading manufacturers now offer multi-modal systems, which allow you to use multiple delivery methods to communicate your message. Whether you want to send a voice call, e-mail or text, these multi-modal systems can handle it all. Some systems have the ability to know when a voicemail system answers and can leave a message but also continue to contact other devices simultaneously, avoiding any downtime in getting the word out. Are you the information officer for a large school district and wondering how you will know if students, faculty and parents received your message? Or maybe you work in a hospital setting and you’re experience a staff shortage so you need to alert team members who are not currently in the hospital. How will you know if they’ve received word that they’re needed? Problem solved – when you select a mass notification system that offers full reporting capabilities so you can always keep track of who received your message.
Deploying: Premise-based vs. hosted 
If cost is your major concern, then a premise-based system will prove to be more cost-effective than hosted with delivering mass notification alerts. Emergency notification lends itself to utilizing larger numbers of lines and shared equipment to get critical information out to big groups as rapidly as possible, and in those cases hosted solutions may be ideal.  For ongoing, less time-sensitive communications however, a small investment in technology can lead to large returns in stakeholder experience and loyalty.  By using trunks and lines that are already paid for, in most cases there will be no additional operational expenditure to send these messages. Regardless of your preferred method, it is necessary to take the steps to implement a mass communications system, as early warning is critical since most people in these environments cannot be mobilized easily.

CapEx vs. OpEx: Which way is your budget shifting? Part 2

nec-uc-opex-vs-capex-2The internal debate on hosted versus on-premises might continue, which means, you’re still faced with the challenge of how you will acquire a unified communications solution without breaking your budget. In our last post we introduced financing, now let’s take a deeper look at your options and the best ways to apply them.

Leverage your financing options

OpEx financing models allow many organizations to leverage all the benefits of predictable monthly payments traditionally found in hosted solutions in an on-premises solution. For many, this can be the best of both worlds: a service-oriented model found with a hosted solution with none of the concerns some organizations may have with security and availability of a hosted service. What’s more, a $25,000 on-premises collaboration and audio conferencing solution may be a difficult solution to get approved, however, an on-premises solution with all of the capabilities of hosted for less than $400.00 per month can be a powerful internal conversation. Are you more comfortable paying out a lump sum or breaking payments down into a monthly scale? Regardless of where your preference lies, there is a financing option for you.

You don’t always have to spend money to make money. Sound too good to be true? Take a look at the following example:
ABC Company has identified that upgrading their current infrastructure provides an opportunity for significant cost savings. But there’s one problem: with no funds left in this year’s budget, their IT Department will pay more for their existing inefficient infrastructure until funds are available; not to mention the risks associated with operating an outdated system.

With financing, there’s another way.

Financing companies in the technology industry work to solve this common customer problem by offering plans that reduce up-front acquisition costs. The plans and programs come in the form of OpEx or CapEx with deferred payments (90-120 days is typical although longer deferments are available), step payments (increase or decrease over time) or seasonal payments (payments due during times of increased revenue for the customer). Bottom line, leverage a technology financing partner who offers the most accommodating (and cost reducing) structure for you.
So wherever you are in the process, you have options in choosing a solution that can be tailored to your specific needs without waiting until the approved budget kicks in. If you leverage the tools available to improve the communications services you deliver, you’ll reduce the risks associated with continuing to operate an outdated system. Just remember that with financing,you have options – the key in obtaining maximum value from these options is in how you leverage them.

Mobility & UC – Get Everything You Want on the Device of Your Choice

nec-mobility-uc-tabletUnified Communications (UC) has enjoyed a steady, if not slow, broad acceptance as technology users begin to accept the efficiency and effectiveness of new market-driven apps. With employee mobility becoming a priority, an office for some does not include the traditional four walls, and as a result, smartphones and tablets have caused a rush for the door.

InformationWeek’s State of Unified Communications 2012 report by Michael Finneran surveyed more than 300 IT professionals, 67 percent of whom said they currently have deployed or are planning to deploy Unified Communications.

Collaboration and efficiency were cited as the driving forces for the IT professionals’ decision to supply UC systems. To further support the growing partnership between UC and mobility,InformationWeek cites a survey in which 87 percent of 300 respondents claim to expect smartphone use to grow in the field of sales. In this same survey, only 8 percent reported plans to purchase desktops.

These reports come as no surprise, however, when all the benefits, offerings and advantages of both a laptop and desktop can now be found on your choice of a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile handheld device, and easily at that. The mobilization of communication has unleashed a genuine freedom in business communications, where users demand the same capabilities on smartphones and other handhelds as they utilize on desktops and laptops. With the increase in workforce mobility, these users’ demands are being met.

Reaching Into the Fold: Mobile Unified Communications

Mobile UC initially evolved from the concept of fixed/mobile convergence (FMC). FMC integrated mobile network services, and resulted in the voice market evolution into UC systems where voice is only one of several communication modes to be integrated. This methodology ultimately replaced FMC.

Despite all of the benefits, adoption of UC is still slow, and according to Information Week, it is due to a lack of user engagement– to limited IT infrastructure– to lack of enough funds to implement the adoption. The wait for the evolution of security and management is over, and with this evolution comes to the necessary improvements for these systems to flow into a natural, trusted cultural adoption. For unification within this media to truly occur, this evolution was absolutely necessary.
Now that budgets are finally easing and seeing some room to “bend,” it’s time to consider devoting time and energy to mixing mobile devices in the UC fold. If productivity is your goal, and expanded profit margins are your intended accomplishment, the only way to deliver the full benefit of your endeavor is to liberate your immediate users with mobile unified communication. The tables have turned; earlier efforts to mobilize UC failed to gain popularity, now mobilization is almost essential. Are you ready to make your move?