Developing A Unified Communications Strategy: Part II

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If you are looking for ways to improve your business’s efficiency, enhance employee collaboration and increase productivity, you have probably determined that a Unified Communications (UC) solution is right for your business. In this blog post, we’ll look at last two key factors in developing an effective Unified Communications strategy: the business case and solution implementation.

The Unified Communications Business Case 

Developing the business justification for a Unified Communications solution translates features and benefits into quantitative estimates of productivity gains, improvements in customer service, revenue stream growth, and ways to reduce costs. The following are some key items to consider in quantifying the return on investment of a Unified Communications solution:

Making People More Productive 

Unified Communications technologies enable people to work faster and more efficiently. For example, the integration of voice and personal contact information through click-to-dial capability saves time looking for phone numbers and makes employees more productive. Simplified dialing plans enable faster connections between geographically dispersed locations. Presence features provide employees the ability to determine the availability of co-workers to see who is in a meeting, who could take a customer call transfer, or who is away from their desk.

Making Customers Happier 

As the Japanese saying goes, “The Customer is King,” and ensuring that customers can quickly and easily communicate with your business and vice versa is important. Consistently and efficiently handling customer interactions ensures a professional business image that leads to real competitive advantage. Unified Communications provides a business with a number of capabilities to make customer communications more effective and pain free, including automated call distribution, remote call forwarding for mobile employees, multiple line appearances, music on hold, after hours call services, and unified mailboxes for voice, fax, and e-mail messaging. Improving the quality and consistency of your customer-facing business communications improves retention, increases satisfaction, and drives growth.

Making Your Business More Mobile 

Employees who telecommute make up an increasingly larger percentage of the work force. According to a 2009 WorldatWork study, the number of Americans who worked from home or remotely at least one day per month for their employer was over 17 million in 2008, a 74% increase since 2005. Providing virtual employees seamless communications while they are on the road or working from home results in improved productivity, lowers turnover, can eliminate the need for second phone lines or mobile phones, and can provide essential operating continuity in the event of a business disaster.

Making Your Business More Profitable 

Adoption of Unified Communications technologies offers real cost-saving opportunities through the integration of voice and data networks. This convergence reduces capital and operations expense by reducing the need for multiple systems, service providers, devices, circuits, maintenance plans, tech support contracts, and programming. Leveraging the corporate data network for voice-enabled applications can also reduce long distance expenses and the costs of supporting branch office locations.

Getting There from Here: Developing the implementation roadmap 

Implementing a Unified Communications solution is a multi-stage process. Once the preliminary research is compiled and the business case for UC has been approved, it’s time to focus on implementation. The pace and scope of deployment will vary with company size and organizational complexity. Larger companies typically adopt a multi-year plan for phasing in the technology. This also provides time for large, multi-site LAN networks be assessed and prepared for handling real-time traffic streams such as voice and video. Smaller companies with simpler LAN environments can convert more rapidly to Unified Communications and thus begin realizing the benefits very quickly.

Some key checkpoints to keep in mind when implementing a UC solution are:

  • Assess your LAN and WAN readiness.All IP traffic is not created equal, and your business will need routing and switching equipment that is able to provide quality of service management for mixed voice, video, and data streams. Newer equipment can also line power your company’s IP phones over the LAN eliminating the need for separate power connections. Older LAN cabling may need to be upgraded to support the typically higher bandwidth requirements of UC solutions.
  • Plan for growth.10 calls per minute today could be 30 calls per minute two years from today. At a minimum, that means more bandwidth on the LAN and between sites in a multi-location network so make sure that your LAN/WAN network can easily scale to accommodate more users, session traffic, and/or UC applications.
  • Train, train, train.Ensure that end users receive the documentation, demos, and system aids required to make them more productive starting day one. Also make sure that the technical staff is up to speed on how the new technology works and interoperates with the rest of the network infrastructure.