10 Trends in Enterprise Communications & IT [Part Two]

nec-enterpirse-trends-uc-mobility-cloud-virtualizationIn part one of this series, we dug into top trends to help your business increase efficiency and reduce costs. As we dive into the rest of the list, we’ll show you how mobile apps, storage management, social media and other evolving trends can give you a competitive edge.

VI. Mobile Applications

When mobile apps first made their appearance, the offerings consisted of strictly general productivity needs and information retrieval; email, calendar, contacts and weather information for example. Fast forward a few years and driven by increased public demand developers have created advanced mobile apps with capabilities such as GPS and location-based services, banking, order tracking, and ticket purchases. Not only has this increased functionality created a rise in the popularity of mobile applications, but it has generated a shift in the desire for mobility from strictly personal to business and corporate use. According to an Appcelerator survey, 55 percent of companies ranked mobility at the top or near the top of their priorities list, and 66 percent plan employee-facing mobile applications.

 

VII. Contextual Data, Analytics and Interaction

Contextual data spans the last mile of personal and business productivity: ‘Meta-information’ accompanies voice, video, chat and text communications to provide more comprehensive context for our interactions. Analytics is increasingly delivered to users at the point of action and in context. With the improvement of performance and reduction in cost to develop and implement, IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation on nearly every action taken in the business. This change will lead to greater flexibility and agility within the workplace. For example, mobile workers are most efficient when they have immediate visibility of team member status so they can reach others in a timely manner when they need to do so. Contextually aware presence gives these employees the ability to receive information on content, tools, and services based on contextual information, such as the geographical location, personal preferences, and current activities of group members. To take it a step further integrating mobile devices with Unified Communications (UC) software allows end users to use mobile devices for collaborations and to locate other end users, whether they are on-site or off. This can be essential in healthcare where patients may require immediate assistance from medical staff or colleagues.

 

VIII. Big Data and Storage Management

As businesses of all sizes begin taking advantage of the capabilities of big data and analytics, they are also encountering the inevitable downside; complications when trying to store, protect, and manage the growing pool of data and related resources. Current methods require them to constantly configure, provision and upgrade their servers and storage devices, all the while technology enhancements put on the pressure to undergo migrations. So how can this be addressed? First, analyze the value of the data you have. Enterprises are deploying Big Data projects to leverage their current data and drive better business intelligence, product development and customer service. The surge in data will drive storage solutions to become fore flexible and scalable without the need for users to have a refined skillset in order to manage.

IX. Smart Energy

Information and Communications Technology will play an increasingly vital role in an energy efficient society, particularly given how essential it is to automatically balance energy supply and demand. Smart Buildings will achieve enhanced environmental and economic performance by producing, storing, efficiently managing and optimally controlling energy. Building energy management systems will play an increasingly vital role in these Smart Buildings. Energy waste is in turn minimized by obtaining location information for individuals to enable automatically controlling air conditioning and lighting. This is of particular interest to enterprises and data centers that will place an increasing focus on energy-saving technologies such as virtualization.

X. Social Media and Interaction

Although seen typically as a customer-facing technology only, many businesses have begun utilizing social media as an integrated element in their business process to facilitate improvement in all areas. From product testing and validation, exerting market influence, prospecting and lead generation to customer care and retention, the value of social media activities is continually increasing and expanding. The value of this activity is being quantified and routinely measured as part of the regular business process.
Companies are also reinventing their customer engagement models to more quickly and effectively respond to customer care issues via social media. Promotions are the top drivers of consumer engagement through social media, so businesses need to build new linkages between marketing and sales. Furthermore, customer support services increasingly use social media sites to share information with customers and provide more interactive support for them.

Hopefully these 10 tips have given you an idea on how you can empower your workforce without having to sacrifice additional cost or efficiency. Don’t forget to start at post 1 for the first set of tips, or to see the complete list, download the eBook.

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10 Trends in Enterprise Communications & IT

Part I

nec-enterpirse-trends-uc-mobility-cloudCompeting in today’s business environment is about meeting challenges, making decisions and innovating rapidly while using the best and most current technologies, tools and information.

Cloud services, mobile applications and virtualization are just a few components of a rapidly evolving technology foundation.  Check out this list of trends and technologies that we believe will drive productivity and provide businesses with superior customer service, a more flexible work environment and a competitive edge.

I. Unified Communications and Collaboration Reduce Latency and Drive Productivity

With organizations becoming increasingly fragmented, departments more flexible and employees more mobile, collaboration is a means of enabling them to work together in real time. Unifed Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) is a major breakthrough in enterprise communications, as it will drive productivity and increase flexibility across an organization. Latencies in all areas will be reduced as well, from development to logistics and customer response, thereby creating an informed and connected workplace. Advanced collaboration tools such as shared workspace, calendar coordination, and rich presence will support many business processes. As a result, collaboration between individuals and teams will intensify and improve in quality.

II. Mobile Connectivity is Key

In today’s fexible and fast-moving business environment, employees are never in one place for very long. Workers can be just about anywhere: at the offce, between appointments, on business travel or working from home. In many business settings, it has become more important to reach a specifc person regardless of their location. Additionally, more employees need a mobile device that supports all business telephone features and provides access to the Internet as well as business applications. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) capabilities offer communication services independent of the access technique. With FMC, employees can use smartphones anywhere in the world as an integrated extension of the company network, enabling access to the central directory and switching from a cellular network to a Wi-Fi network. In addition, personal devices can be used in conjunction with enterprise security credentials – securing enterprise information and supporting ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies.

III. Open Architectures and Standards (such as SIP) provide Greater Flexibility

Globalization of business and technologies leads to solutions being comprised of components from multiple sources. UC&C solutions should be built on an open architecture that lets organizations leverage existing technologies. SIP is the foundation for integration of media modes, network devices, and applications across a common infrastructure to deliver advanced services and applications. SIP is a core communication component, which integrates with other advanced protocols to support a multimedia architecture and supports advanced communications across any device. It also enables virtual applications to be delivered from the cloud to support conferencing, messaging, voice, and collaboration.
The move to SIP trunking is signifcant because it enables organizations to reduce costs and offer new services. SIP trunking is beginning to replace local PRI lines and route external traffic to centralized data centers, allowing enterprises to lower the operating costs of IP technology while using their existing network resources more efficiently.

IV. Beyond Virtualization

Many organizations are turning to virtualization as the solution to their IT challenges. Virtualization accelerates deployment of new capabilities without needing to acquire new hardware. A virtualized infrastructure can improve your business through the minimization of capital expenses and operating costs.
It also helps reduce application testing requirements and compatibility issues while simplifying disaster recovery and mission critical solutions. Virtualization provides components to address end-to-end scenarios, like datacenter consolidation, business continuity and virtualized desktop solutions – ultimately providing you the benefits of a lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).

V. Hybrid Clouds

There is a bright future in the midst of hybrid clouds. Cloud computing is changing the enterprise’s approach to IT and communications, with more fexible architectures and cost structures. Modular applications enable you to pay for only those applications your business needs for a specifc period of time. These on-demand services allow businesses to better manage costs. Businesses are also turning to the cloud to enable more scalable and flexible business processes. While they use public clouds for less sensitive tasks, they prefer to use private clouds for their most vital processing tasks.

Then there’s hybrid clouds, which are designed to quickly scale to a company’s needs. It makes it the ideal solution to load heavy projects, which cannot be easily handled by a company’s in-house servers. Hybrid clouds can be operated at all times, from any part of the world.

In part two, we’ll cover additional technology trends.  Download the eBook now for more details on empowering your workforce with these leading technologies.

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Enhancing Higher Education Through Video Collaboration

NEC Collaboration SolutionsThe integration of Web technology and collaboration solutions into higher education has become a popular trend within the University community. With the evolution of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consistent development of mobile technology, video collaboration, too, has become highly mobile. No longer does it require highly equipped teleconferencing suites with banks of equipment. Thanks to the advent of mobile technology, learners and instructors can videoconference with the click of a button on their smartphones, tablets, laptops or other mobile devices, no matter the location. This sharing and exchange of information is particularly beneficial in a higher education setting. With audio, video and web collaboration solutions, interruptions in class schedules for unforeseen circumstances such as weather or emergency school closings are a thing of the past.

 

§  Real-Time vs. Pre-recorded video options-With real-time (synchronous) and pre-recorded (asynchronous) options, administrators and educators have the tools they need to effectively collaborate within the community in the method of their choosing that they deem best for a particular student group. For example, pre-recorded messages may work best for a group of students who learn better in a self-paced educational setting.

 

§  Customized collaboration options- Many solutions offer features which have the ability to facilitate an experience just like being in a “real” classroom. An example is white-board collaboration, where the meeting facilitator can draw or write on the white board during presentation. Another beneficial feature of collaboration solutions is the ability to upload files for download. With this feature, faculty members have a place to house important class documents, and students can in turn access and save files they need without the need for the facilitator to print them, resulting in a decrease in printing and supply costs for the University.

 

§  Cloud Service utilization- Perhaps the most widely used example of cloud services is the provision of e-mail. Additionally, many colleges and universities also use tools such as YouTube and wikis to circulate information. Blogs may be used for remote communication within private groups such as a research team. Both stationary and mobile devices come in a variety of platform flavors, yet users of all types are able to meet in virtual video space. Regardless of the method, each of these tools facilitates collaboration and can enhance the learning environment and student experience.

 

§  Security- With file sharing comes obvious security concerns and questions, as data security can be compromised in the case where one or more universities may share a data center, or contract for services through a commercial provider. And while collaboration solution applications may not come without a level of risk, these concerns are easily addressed. Your individual situation will determine your methods of protection and whether you yield the greatest value in securing the devices where data is housed, or securing the data itself. Additionally, many solutions are equipped with the latest in security, from requiring unique PIN ID codes for meeting participants, to protecting the information shared within a meeting so it is only seen by those invited attendees. This reduces the need for external security applications at an additional cost to the University.

 

The benefits of collaboration within higher education extend to those within the higher education community as well as the information and communications technology (ICT) community. Many opportunities lie ahead for more extensive collaboration approaches. The collaboration opportunity for the two affords an invaluable exchange of knowledge and experience which can, in turn, be used to create additional infrastructures. Download the document to see how NEC’s Collaboration solutions are changing the way information is being exchanged while improving teamwork and reducing cost.

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The Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) Competitive Edge

nec-ucaas-competive-edgeUnified Communications (UC) technology is rapidly evolving, and with this change, there is an ongoing pressure for CIOs to stay current if they want to remain competitive. As technology continues to evolve, CIOs have the added pressure to update existing technology or deploy a new solution in half the time, with half the budget – and in some cases with half the resources available to them. With only one to two years to adapt before what’s “current” becomes yesterday’s technology, you certainly want to implement communications technology solutions that rapidly adapts to changes in order to provide your business with the most current communications software and applications available for your business to stay competitive and productive. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) could be the solution to address this critical business need.

UCaaS is a complete service offering that can be implemented into your IT strategy over a defined period of time. With UCaas, services are delivered from the cloud, enabling your business to quickly and easily scale communications as needed and choose your preferred deployment model, be it a private, hybrid or public cloud environment. UCaaS allows for flexibility based on your requirements, and puts you in a position to make decisions based on your business practices and specific needs – not the needs of the manufacturer. The following are just a few ways deploying UCaaS prepares you to face IT challenges that may come your way.

  • Empowers your business’ workforce

With UCaaS, businesses of all sizes can make a significant impact to their overall costs, IT efficiencies and individual productivity. Because UCaaS delivers a complete set of voice features and unified communications (UC) and collaboration applications, you can consolidate your communications staff. What implications does this have for your business? For starters, consolidating helps decrease overall spending. What’s more, you can simultaneously increase individual productivity, responsiveness and accessibility. Deploying UCaaS helps leverage the abilities of your IT staff to focus on other business issues. With UCaaS, gone are the days when your IT team ties up a majority of their time dealing with testing, scheduling and installing new software updates.

  • Enables True Collaboration

Ideally, all departments and levels in a corporation should interact with one another to collaborate toward a common goal – UCaaS helps make this possible by offering the ability for you to achieve on-demand access across any device. With a comprehensive suite of powerful UC and collaboration applications, your business will quickly and easily be able to streamline communications and information delivery. Deploying UCaas in your organization will provide a consistent user experience across multiple devices which, in turn, minimize the need for training so the user’s time can be dedicated to other tasks. The evolution of UCaaS has spanned from basic features such as Unified Messaging, Presence and IM to an ever expanding set of new capabilities. UCaaS enables your employees to tailor their communications to the specific needs of their role, plus gives total control over how, when and where they choose to be reached.

  • Eases Budget and Management Concerns

We’d all like to reduce, and if possible, eliminate hardware costs altogether but still receive all the features and benefits of our applications, right? Gartner predicts that by 2015, 35% of technology spending won’t be controlled by IT but by the business. So, with that in mind, remember the following about UCaas: (1) Since UCaas is consistently upgraded, there is no need to budget, purchase, and install hardware upgrades, so critical IT resources can be dedicated to other projects that help your business to compete better in the market. (2) With UCaaS, you have upfront clear per-user costs, which simplify the service you offer your organization. You decide what you need and when. For example, you can purchase communications as an Operating Expense (OPEX) for a fraction of the upfront costs that you’d incur in a traditional Capital Expense (CAPEX) model – simply choose the solution(s) that best suit your needs at limited or no upfront cost (3) UCaas is also offered at consistent and predictable costs, which reduces the headache of searching for additional budget to fund costly projects.

 

  • Offers flexible UC options

With UCaaS, standard UC features (with varying functionality) are offered on a per-seat basis. This means that the monthly seat cost includes system requirements needed to for you to leverage the functions of your UC system. Just because UCaaS consists of a standard set of offerings, you can still implement an offering that doesn’t require all users to be at the same level. For example, a phone in a public area for general use shouldn’t cost the same as the applications delivered to your CEO. The flexibility to customize these options, along with the ability to add on additional features to meet specific needs, ensures that you’re delivering a service that’s valued by the organization.

Check out the CIO.com webinar to learn more about how implementing UCaaS can help your business successfully overcome technology challenges without risking your ability to stay competitive.

BYOD: Expanding to Hospitality

nec-hospitality-byodBring Your Own Device (BYOD) is making its way into every enterprise: from hospitals to higher education to corporations. So it’s no surprise that the demand by consumers for BYOD functionality is becoming prevalent in the hospitality industry as well. Guest’s personal devices are becoming faster, smarter and more personalized than ever before. The benefits derived from the plethora of applications and capabilities supported by these devices have become nearly essential to today’s business and leisure traveler. The increase in guest’s use of their own devices, however, has resulted in a disconnect between the hotel property and portions of the guest experience, primarily in voice communications. For example, telephone calls to hotel guests from staff or other guests, if gone unanswered, typically revert to a guest personal voicemail box. As a result, guests hanging out by the pool, restaurant or bar, or working in the conference center do not get the phone call and may go a long time before discovering that someone is trying to reach them. Therein lies the disconnect.

In an attempt to improve the guest experience in the current environment, hotel companies are solving this dilemma by bridging the gap between the guest’s personal voice device and their own internal voice communication system. Since many guests typically prefer their own device and its personalized user interface, ringtones, contacts and functions, hotels can now easily make the guest’s device their primary extension during their stay at the hotel. Incoming calls to guests from within or outside of the hotel would ring on the personal mobile phone. A real advantage of this is that the guest does not have to be in their room to speak with the caller. The call will reach the guest anywhere on property as long as they have a cellular signal. For this simple but beneficial feature, guests provide their name and email address to the front desk agent of the hotel during the check-in process.

The benefits in implementing mobile technologies stack up for both hospitality managers and guests. By accommodating the guests’ device, you enhance guest engagement and improve customer satisfaction, which in turn can increase customer spending and revenue. The benefits certainly don’t stop there, mobile technology implementation can also accelerate guest traffic, give you a venue to promote sales of goods and services if you desire, and customer satisfaction surveys where you can gather feedback relative to the guest’s experience.

How can I use BYOD to enhance my guests’ experience?

The average consumer has access to advanced technology in their home, and has the same expectations when they travel. With this, hotels are under a lot of pressure to keep up with, and even exceed, the customer’s expectations. So what services can you offer your guests from their personal device?

  • In-room dining ordering
  • In-hotel restaurant listing and reservations
  • Pre-arrival requests
  • Mobile Payment options
  • In-room environmental controls – lights, drapes, thermostat, TV, etc.
  • Express check-out
  • Hotel Area maps

……just to name a few

According to Pew Research, more than half of all mobile phone users rely on their portable device to search for information on hotels. With mobility, you can get everything you want, where you want, plus gain positive benefits in revenue, guest experience and marketing. With the steadily increasing volume of mobile network users, what better time for a hospitality business to embrace the guest BYOD trend and get them more connected to your business than ever before.

Check out our case studies to see how NEC has helped hotels around the world recover missed revenue opportunities, increase customer service, and enhance the overall guest experience.

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