Any discussion of unified communications begins by looking at the struggles IT organizations face today, says Wiam Girgis, Softchoice Senior Solutions Architect.
That’s because, he notes, unified communications solutions—the integration of voice, video, mobility and presence services across endpoints, devices, and applications—are helping organizations to overcome some of today’s most significant challenges, in particular doing more with less.
“Many organizations are trying to expand their business while containing or reducing expenses,” he notes. “Many businesses have remote workers or are looking to expand customer service across multiple geographic locations, so the need for unified communications becomes more important.”
And, like compute and storage, organizations are moving communications to the cloud to seek flexibility and efficiency. Because of this, Girgis adds, “Businesses are finding appeal in solutions that take their communications far beyond the dial tone.”
This blog is part of a three-part Cisco ‘Ask an Expert’ series that looks at how hybrid IT is influencing the technology topics of the network, data center, and unified communications. We discuss with Girgis the benefits of unified communications, but also look at the challenges organizations face around successfully deploying unified communications (UC) solutions on their networks.
What are the benefits organizations are seeking from UC?
Unified communications can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple communications tools and platforms. You don’t have to be concerned with having teams separated in multiple geographic locations and what used to be a huge cost in terms of bringing them together in one room.
When executed properly, UC provides improved efficiency, reduced costs, increased revenue and, of course, better collaboration and customer service.
How can businesses execute UC successfully?
It’s very important for an organization or a system integrator deploying UC to ensure they align the business needs with the technology.
There’s sometimes a user adoption challenge when you introduce new technology. It’s why we emphasize end-user training as part of our UC deployments to make sure that the deployment is successful. It’s also why on the vendor side so much attention goes into ease of use.
From a customer perspective tools now exist to help measure, monitor, and scorecard the improvements in customer service and to ensure agents are delivering the experience the organization is trying to achieve. That’s just one example of how technology is making it easier to embrace UC.
Does UC increase strain on the network and infrastructure?
In a nutshell, it creates a lot of panic within IT.
It’s another layer on top of the network, so to make sure you have stable unified communications you need to make sure you have a stable network. You need to eliminate packet delays, make sure the LAN is built to handle high-availability requirements and other network design elements.
All the requirements that voice traffic places on the network put a lot of pressure on IT organizations. Many don’t have the all the necessary information or knowledge about UC to understand how it will affect the network or how to support it after day one.
Of course, others turn to partners like Softchoice and our Keystone Managed Services to remove that pressure by having us manage their UC solution for them so they can focus on other business needs.
Is security a consideration?
Absolutely. We see a lot of hijacking through voice. I’ve seen one instance where an external user was able to access the system and make long distance calls because the customer wasn’t looking at security as a necessary area of focus.
That’s why we focus on treating voice applications as the customer’s security domain to prevent any external hacking. That’s just one example.
Another element of security to consider is that so much of this is being done in the cloud today. We often look at security from an on-premise perspective, but the cloud technology and provider need to be secured as well.
What do organizations need to do to get UC right the first time?
It’s not just about having a stable network, of course. To be successful you need to understand the business needs, as well as how you can align UC with the experience you are trying to create for customers.
Lining up the right technology with those goals is difficult for many businesses. You can have the greatest technology ever but without knowing why or what you’re trying to do, or having a good plan for adoption, the deployment will fail.
We have a great methodology where we consult heavily before deployment, and we follow up by offering management support. We spend a lot of time understanding the business’ current state, including both the technical environment and business goals. Only armed with this analysis do we move on to deployment. Then it’s about making sure all the technology lines up with the business and supporting end-user adoption and ongoing management.
Ask an Expert Webinar
Want to learn more from Gigris about how UC can revolutionize your business communications and customer experience? Join him and other Softchoice experts for 30 minutes on January 31st and register for our Ask an Expert Series focused on UC.