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Unified Communications: Key to 3Cs at workplace

Unified Communications: Key to 3Cs at workplace

Connect, Communicate and Collaborate-the three Cs are the keys to an effective output from a workforce and Unified Communications makes it easy


Scene 1: Government departments both central as well as states have different set up for voice and video. For voice, the department secretary has different phones for interacting with different sets of people-internal phone for interacting with ministerial colleagues, a hotline to stay in touch with the minister and a separate phone for communicating to external agencies. Apart from this, the secretary has to use different devices for video conferencing since it is not integrated on a single device. All this creates lots of confusion and also decreases productivity of senior bureaucrats as they have to shift places to attend voice or video call.

Scene 2: During emergency, government departments need to coordinate and collaborate with multiple departments and one needs both voice call as well as video call for faster dissemination of information and also for faster response. The government departments also need to take faster decisions by routing the calls to the right decision maker for advice and suggestion. Once a decision is taken it also needs to be conveyed to the relevant authorities for its implementation. In case of any problem, the administrative authorities inform the relevant authorities so that the process gets repeated and corrective action is taken at the earliest. All this helps in providing higher satisfaction to the citizens.

Government departments in India quite often face these two situations with an impact that not only delays each process negatively affecting the service delivery quality it also leads to a loss of face for the government.

And while the delay can cause irreparable damage to the citizens putting extra pressure on the state machinery, it can also lead to cost escalation; faster dissemination of information always leads to faster implementation of a project that could invariably result in substantial cost saving by the various departments and agencies.

Connect Communicate and Collaborate - the three Cs are the key factors that play an important role for effective output from a workforce and Unified Communications makes it easy.

India being a large country, the state as well as central government departments have offices in multiple geographies and there is a need for better coordination within departments. The government departments also need to coordinate with multiple government agencies for its smooth functioning.

All this justifies the need for collaborative tools like Unified Communications (UC) as existing solutions are not helpful in communication and collaboration process. The technology also helps in breaking the silo structure of government departments and provides all forms of communication be it voice, video conferencing and data sharing-all on a single device with the touch of a button.

One Touch Solution
Experts suggest that Unified Communication can help in solving the problem of senior bureaucrats as they can start a voice call or a video call depending on their requirement. UC also helps in reducing communications cost, increasing employee productivity in government departments and driving operational efficiencies across departments.

Not to talk about the fact the new way of managing varied communication solutions can also help in increasing productivity, meeting service level agreements (SLAs) with citizens, inter and intra department coordination, and inter office coordination.

In means that an organisation can use one solution instead of multiple devices to cater to its entire communications requirements. What is more, Unified Communication is a collaborative platform and offers choice on how software applications can be deployed-onsite hosted or on-demand.

Application deployment is based on business needs, and often results in the adoption of "hybrid" deployment models that draw on the speed, ubiquity, and flexibility of cloud computing, and the security, scalability, and reliability of government departments.

Cisco Unified Communications combine all forms of business communications into a single, unified solution by improving productivity, accelerating decision making process and connecting government employees and citizens with the information and expertise they need in real time.

One can do a lot of savings by investing in unified communications since it helps in consolidating and creating centralising IT infrastructure and resources. It also provides flexibility by creating a remote and connected workforce thereby helping employees to work securely anywhere, anytime.

The company also promotes collaboration across different work spaces through a broad range of clients, applications, and devices like IP telephony-media control and IP phone solutions; rich media conferencing-Webex and Cisco Unified Meeting Place provide complete conferencing solutions.

Its voice and unified messaging solutions provide voice; email and fax message access from a single interface, and allow voice message access from a variety of devices and applications.

Also the contact center solution allows organisations to integrate its workflow applications and enable a virtual contact center, while the unified communications clients offer voice, video, instant messaging, conferencing, and presence on a single application.

Cisco also offers mobile unified communication solution that can help government departments extend benefits of UC by combining the convenience and flexibility of mobile communications.

Besides, it also enables the states create environmentally sustainable workspaces by allowing officials to collaborate online, thereby reducing travel expenses and carbon footprint.

Opportunities Galore
For streamlining processes, reducing complexity and enabling better collaboration, state governments have opted for IP Telephony solutions with state wide area networks (SWAN) whereby one IP phone is installed in each office but there is a need for increasing its penetration within offices for better coordination.

Presently, all departments in the state government have their own enquiry numbers and have their own call center set up. With government to citizen (G2C) applications being accessed through citizen service centres (CSC), state governments can now look forward to centralise its enquiry toll free numbers.

This would enable various governments to co-locate the agents with a single number service rather than using multiple numbers for all G2C services. This can act as a single window interaction point between government and citizen and lead to citizens' delight.

Government Deployments
It is interesting to note that the Indian Air Force has been one of the early adopters of the technology and has deployed unified communications across 65 locations for 65,000 users. On the security front, UC would be of great help to all police departments in the

Internationally, North Wales Police has adopted a unified video conferencing and unified messaging solution on smart phones so that officers can spend less time travelling and more in the community. This innovative way helps to keep police officers on the street as there is a general feeling that police visibility reduces crime.

On the other hand, the Government of Australia has installed TelePresence in 20 locations across the country and plans to save much more in air fares and lost working time for improving public performance. Even the US Consulates have been actively using it for their face to face meeting.

Unlike traditional Video Conferencing, Cisco TelePresence is a new, innovative solution that delivers a face-to-face experience. Paired with Webex, the TelePresence system delivers a full collaboration suite integrating video, audio, document and file sharing services.

And to make Unified Communications success, the authorities need to do a detailed planning by taking all likely scenarios within the department and laying out procedures and communicating to all government

A structured directory listing of all relevant authorities is mandatory and it needs to be updated regularly so that the collaborative process doesn't stop due to lack of data.

With increased mobile penetration in the country, the authorities should integrate UC with mobile to reap rich benefit. And lastly they have to keep on innovating as any reduction of process will help in faster response time for any emergency.

By Pravin Prashant, Editor, iGovernment.in

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