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Getting UC right; the first time, every time

Getting UC right; the first time, every time

Minhaj Zia, National Sales Manager, Unified Communications, Cisco India and SAARC

The Indian communications market has evolved drastically over the last decade and we've watched as new technology has managed to make noteworthy inroads in to the enterprise space. Slowly, but surely, businesses across the board are beginning to realize the value of technology in reducing costs, enhancing productivity, streamlining processes and improving efficiencies. Adopting the right framework seems to be the key.
Technologies like Unified Communication are the most sought after because of their ability to bring together systems, devices and applications and provide seamless communication to users wherever and whenever, on any device and any platform. A converged IP-based networked communications platform (that is, unified communications) is a growing business priority because it helps businesses achieve compelling business benefits.

Need of the hour
An increasingly mobile workforce demands the need to access information anytime and anywhere. This is changing the way information is accessed and business communications are conducted. To meet the new needs of this workforce, businesses are seeking technologies that help extend their existing investment in communications systems to provide anytime, anywhere access to critical information. Collaboration tools that create a consistent end user experience across applications, networks, and devices are being sought after.
According to Cisco's Connected World report, three of every five employees (60 percent) believed it was unnecessary to be in the office to be productive. In fact, more than nine of 10 employees in India (93 percent) said they did not need to be in the office to be productive. UC tools such as instant messaging and media rich conferencing provide these employees the flexibility to access information and exchange ideas while on the go. Devices like PDAs, Tablets, and mobile phones are enabling employees to reach out to colleagues in other teams without being physically present in the office.

Advantage UC
A unified communications framework helps to resolve a host of issues which a business has to deal with. For starters, UC enables quicker, more efficient communication among various stakeholders within and outside the organisation. Conversations that combine voice with video along with any presentation make it possible for teams across geographies to collaborate at the touch of a single button without having to move from their location. UC also helps reduce costs of travel drastically.
Technologies like Telepresence and ultra-HD video conferencing provide a near in-person experience in a virtual conference and help to avoid the need for travel. Reduced travel costs mean a leaner carbon footprint. Statistics indicate that companies using integrated voice and web conferencing tools reported a 30 percent reduction in conferencing expenses (by making integrated conferencing capabilities available in-house and on-network) and an average savings of $1,700 per month in travel costs.
Further, businesses can realize 20 to 40 percent reductions in their annual voice operating costs compared with legacy time-division multiplexing (TDM)-based networks by deploying a UC framework. In addition to the drop in phone costs, the integrated infrastructure helps meet the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce and transform the organization's operation into a more strategic, collaborative environment.

Getting UC Right
Important elements of a UC framework include IP telephony, web and video conferencing, enterprise social networking, messaging and mobile applications. For a small business, investing in all these elements to build a comprehensive solution can be a monetary challenge. Keeping this in mind, vendors are developing customized solutions that are cost-effective and easy to deploy.
Since IT budgets may be too stringent for smaller businesses to afford any kind of upfront UC deployment, many IT vendors have developed UC as a Service (UCaaS) offerings which allow them to capitalize on the benefits of UC without the upfront investment. Since these solutions are versatile and have a size-agnostic appeal even small businesses can leverage them to enhance their business function.
While adapting to a UC architecture, SMBs need to consider their future growth paths and build a UC framework that serves their employees, budgets and business goals in one go. To maximize the return on investment (ROI), SMBs need to study their workforce and understand the mobility levels that their businesses demand. This will help to identify relevant solutions, including applications and device requirements for each type of mobile workforce. Given the varied needs of their workforce, SMBs need to utilize UC in the right way to make operations efficient.
In order to keep UC investments cost-effective, businesses need to put in place a communications framework that is easy to use, optimize and maintain. Developing a concerted strategy to proactively invest in, manage and develop organizational capabilities helps to take advantage of the benefits that technologies like UC offer. While it is well established that UC can help organizations lower costs and enhance productivity, cost savings are not the only reason why SMBs should consider implementation.
SMBs embracing UC benefit from the fact that they can help their employees distribute and access information, build consensus, and reach decisions more quickly. Across a wide variety of industry verticals be it healthcare, manufacturing or retail, businesses benefit immensely from solutions that allow mobile employees to communicate quickly and efficiently. This helps them to become more agile and respond more rapidly and decisively to unforeseen changes and new business requirements.
Given that the need for a UC framework is high among SMBs, they must transition to the system now and leverage those technologies to maximize business benefits. In the long run this will give them a powerful competitive advantage to achieve and maintain market leadership.

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