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Business Communication Tools for Tough Times

Collaborate, Communicate and Thrive

These days, making the best use of your IT budget is more than a business priority—it's an imperative. Just ask Liamar Young, president of TNL Enterprises, a Cisco Select Certified Partner that specializes in helping small businesses upgrade their communications technology.

"Small businesses in particular have to do more with less, without compromising the ability to deliver quality products and services to their customers," she says.

Be Productive, Wherever You Are

Young says unified communications and Web 2.0 collaboration tools can help your employees be more productive right from their desktops, simply, easily, and cost-effectively. "Small businesses can effectively collaborate between communications devices. It could be any device, such as office phones, cell phones, laptops, desktops, printers, faxes, video peripherals, and more, wherever the user is," she explains.

"Effectively, that means you can conduct business any time, from anywhere, on virtually any device."

Increase Efficiency Across the Board

Davin Garcia, IT manager for Innovative Technology Solutions, Inc. (ITSI), an award-winning design-build firm based in Walnut Creek, California, recommended that ITSI switch to a unified communications solution a few years ago.

"Our unified communications solution has enabled our employees to be much more efficient, much more available, and much more responsive to our customers," he explains.

Sales staff can now check voicemail messages via email, have calls automatically transferred to their cell phones from their work extensions, and make calls remotely from anywhere in the world.

Garcia estimates his company has invested approximately $15,000 in the system, but says the return on investment has made the expenditure well worth it.

"The productivity gains have absolutely positively affected our company's bottom line," he says.

Simplify IT Management

For an IT manager, a unified communications solution offers numerous other benefits, says Garcia:

  • Ease of installation: Garcia says that he and two others got his company's solution up and running overnight. "It took about two weeks to prepare, but once we were ready to deploy, we were able to set employees up in a matter of hours."
  • Ease of use: "Employees began using the solution immediately, with virtually no trouble," Garcia says, thanks to the intuitive user interface and easy-to-comprehend documentation.
  • Ease of administration: From an IT perspective, "the interface, which is form-based, is easy to manage and configure. We haven't had any issues at all."

Take Your Meetings to the Web

Raquel Lazar-Paley, the executive director of ConsciousWoman.org, took another approach to expanding the reach of her organization, which offers interactive workshops and seminars on women's and children's health to industry professionals and other interested parties.

Originally, says Lazar-Paley, "My plan was to grab some of the best speakers and thinkers in the women's health world and drag them across the country to do live seminars."

But after attending a seminar offered as an online interactive webcast, Lazar-Paley rethought her approach.

"This was a fabulous way to reach people all over the globe, rather than presenting the information in a conference room to a small audience," she says.

Lazar-Paley did her homework and selected Cisco WebEx as her online presentation platform. Ease of adoption was an important consideration. "Ninety percent of our participants have participated in an interactive webcast before. We're introducing them to this type of learning."

Finding a User-Friendly Solution

Traci Soward, senior marketing manager for WebEx, says it's important that conferencing software be easy to use right from the beginning. If it's too complicated, or too "tech heavy," employees won't use it.

To help ensure your company gets the most out of an investment in conferencing software, look for a platform that offers

  • Online tutorials and support
  • An intuitive user interface
  • Easy integration with other common business tools, such as Microsoft Outlook, accounting, human resources, and other key applications

Ultimately, the purpose of all of your communication tools is to help your business run better, faster, and more efficiently, says Young. Making the investment today can help ensure your business thrives tomorrow.

Next Steps

Cisco offers several unified communications solutions tailored specifically to small businesses, and Cisco WebEx conferencing software is available on a 30-day trial basis, letting you try before you buy.

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Tips to Success

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