by October 6, 2009 0 comments



When in Goa work is the last thing on your mind. You simply want to unwind
leaving all your worries behind and instead drown yourself in enchanting
ambience that the place has in plenty. But how about mixing fun and business?
This is precisely what we set foot to do in Goa when we conducted a CIO round
table discussion on the benefits of adopting Unified Communications during the
first week of September, 4th and 5.th It was pouring heavens that time of the
year, a typically Konkani weather, and we were forced inside the drier confines
of Taj Vivanta at Panaji for most of the time. But rather than divulging what
all we did during our stay, let’s move straight to the 5th morning when the CIO
round table started.

UC strategies
PCQuest began the proceedings by presenting the results of a recent survey
conducted to find the key issues organizations face in communications and the
various technologies they plan to deploy in future. The respondents’ profile
varied from a good number (30%) of manufacturing companies to an equally
impressive IT/ITES (25%), Banking and Finance, Pharma and a fair sprinkling of
the remaining industry segments. The annual turnover of these ranged from more
than Rs 5,000 crores (16% organizations) at the top end to Rs 100 crores (25%)
at the lower end. A key finding here was that almost all organizations face
travel budget cuts as a result of the economic slowdown and hence are looking at
alternative means to communicate. But surprisingly, not all plan to increase
their communications budget. Here the survey points to an equal mix amongst
those who shall increase, decrease or retain it in the same shape. And even
though the satisfaction levels with the current communications equipment were
high, there were issues common to all: the difficulty to organize meetings
(video or audio) globally across branches and with customers; the difficulty in
managing multiple channels of communications, not knowing what channel to use to
reach the right person at the right time; and the ever rising costs in managing
such multiple channels. The next issue we put to vote was the technologies
already deployed to communicate amongst enterprises. Note that here we’re
excluding voice calls and SMS, being the primary means for communications. The
majority of respondents have deployed IMs as the response figure of 66% would
suggest. Very close were mobile devices (such as smartphones), VoIP, audio
conferencing, standard definition video conferencing, etc. However, still low on
deployment were Presence, HD video conferencing and UC at 4, 18 and 15%
respectively.
But the moment you turn around the question and ask what technologies they plan
to deploy in future, the response turns on its head. UC and VoIP top the list at
37 and 33% respectively. So, clearly UC seems to be the logical way ahead for
enterprises to integrate multiple channels of communications and to provide an
effective communications alternative to substitute for reduced travel.

Most delegates gave instances of how they use SMS channel to communicate
effectively with their employees, customers, partners, etc. For example,
employees are SMSed about their salary being credited to their accounts,
suppliers are kept aware about the status of various raw materials, customers
about the delivery status of their orders, and so on.

Converged communications for future
A key suggestion made during discussions was that CIOs should look at the
technology investments being made, whether they are business relevant or not. If
they are able to justify the RoI, the technology would deployment would
automatically be accelerated. Another issue was whether legacy systems would be
able to take the load of new applications. What would be the cost involved in
adding multiple apps to PBX, for instance? Moreover, will the legacy systems
even support the new-age business objectives? The switch to UC is not going to
be a one step process as it entails invoking a common platform, integration of
different apps, training end users, bringing about cultural changes, but above
all, taking a buy-in from all stakeholders concerned-management, customers,
vendors, banks, all need to be connected to a common platform.

Adeesh Sharma, PCQuest presents the results of ‘UC
Strategies’ survey, conducted by PCQuest.
Ashwani Tikoo, GM-Service Delivery, CSC on ‘Deploying UC in
an Enterprise.”
Nagi K, GM, Datacraft on ‘Future proofing your Converged
Communication Strategy

According to Gartner, UC is already a mature technology and is not just a
hype. However, as an organization you need to look into the business benefits of
investing in UC. The way you budget for your IT infrastructure is changing. As
your needs evolve you need to make modifications to stay ahead of competition.
More than the hardware or software you purchase for your communications setup,
you’re buying capabilities to let your business grow. It is no more a case of
buying a switch or a router. UC is being seen as a technology that provides
competitive advantage. You should not wait for it to evolve but be a pioneer for
others to emulate. Whatever you need for business communications should be
clearly defined in your roadmap. The focus should be more on the strategic and
operational aspects of your organization.

Boundaryless collaboration
The latest technology trends that are bound to redefine collaboration
include: Mobility as the top priority; video conferencing; social networking;
virtualization; and SaaS and hosted solutions. Already you can see audio/video
and data collaboration happening in various forms and the concept of hosted data
centers. There are a lot of UC services that are likely to come on the hosted
platform in future. The secret behind the success of these technologies however
is going to be how they are accepted by end users. For instance, shall people
avoid travel out of will or would it be forcefully embargoed. There are certain
business imperatives that come along with a UC solution. These include: cost
reduction; increase in employee productivity; customer intimacy; competitive
differentiation and innovation. But to achieve the full benefits of a UC
solution you need to have three important pillars in place and working:
Culture-people should feel the need to adopt to the new technology; Process-an
organization’s processes have to be modified to get maximum business returns;
and of course Technology-having the best-of-breed solutions in place. The way
people work is fast changing. People work from different places, home and on the
move. Any good collaboration solution should be flexible enough in adjusting to
this new paradigm. And to have a seamless collaboration solution you should
start in steps. First begin by having intra-company collaboration. Next scale it
to include inter-company collaboration in 1-2 years time and gradually in 3+
years aim for a completely boundaryless collaboration. Taking a quick example,
consider a scenario where you have hosted solutions from Salesforce.com and
WebEx. How about extending a phone conversation to a WebEx session?

The moot point is whenever you build the architectural framework with the end
state in mind, location and mobility of employees have to be an integral part of
it.

Unification using PBX convergence
We’ve discussed the different silos of communication channels like voice,
IM, email, and audio, video and web conferencing. We’ve also seen how business
communication needs are changing and the need for anytime, anywhere
connectivity. An interesting case is that of organizations that have converged
PSTN calls with VoIP through logical partitioning of their IT infrastructure.
Such organizations need not have multiple phones on desks but the same phone can
be used to access both types of calls. This ensures mobility for employees
within a closed-user group (CUG) as they can move from branch to branch
virtually carrying their extensions around. These extensions are nothing but
unique IDs assigned to each employee within a CUG who can use them to login to
any phone, across locations. Thus, each employee has a permanent extension that
can be roamed around with. A related concept is that of desktop virtualization.
Employees can move to any workplace as per business needs and login to get their
own desktop.

The setup to demonstrate Unified Communications in an
enterprise. Shown above are Cisco VoIP phones and call manager.
Anil Chopra, PCQuest (center) moderated a panel discussion
on the risks and rewards in deploying UC.

A typical UC scenario
A large enterprise typically has a head office and several branch offices.
All employees have a PSTN phone, a mobile phone and even a VoIP phone. How do
you ensure that you reach out to a particular employee seamlessly, cutting
across these multiple channels? A UC solution can be deployed to ensure single
number reach to that employee. Calls originating from either of these channels
could be configured to terminate on the PSTN, VoIP or mobile phone of the
recipient. For instance, a call originating from a PSTN number could be
configured to be forwarded to the mobile number of the employee after a
specified number of rings on the PSTN extension. You can always configure the
equipment to indicate which calls you would like forwarded to your mobile phone
while not on desk and the ones that you would want to ignore. May we add here,
that Indian laws do not permit an interconnection between PSTN and IP networks,
so you can’t have a PSTN call terminating on a VoIP phone and vice-versa.

But you can devise an intelligent work around through the use of logical
partitioning as discussed in the previous section. In case the call originates
from a VoIP network and you’re not on your desk to receive it on a VoIP phone,
the call manager can be configured to transfer it to the PSTN network. So, to
the recipient on mobile, the call would appear to be the one coming from the
PSTN network of his office. You can also extend your smartphone to double up as
a WiFi-based VoIP phone by registering it with your call manager. Such
arrangement works with smartphones on all popular platforms: Symbian, Windows
Mobile, Blacberry, etc and is good for people always on the move.

Key observations by delegates

While evaluating
different solutions, one should look for the ones that offer a full range of
options and do not add too much of complexities on frontend or backend
infrastructure. Whether it is a traditional PBX type or IP-based
communications infrastructure, a good unified communication solution should
be capable of extending organization’s reach and should have a positive
impact on the bottom line of organization. I feel the approach to
implementation of UC should be modular, but the planning should be such as
to ensure compatibility with present and future technologies.

 Manoj Gautam, Maruti Suzuki India

It is very important to have a strategy in place before you look at
deploying UC in your organization. The designing & planning for UC
deployment should start from layer 1 & the equipment should be considered
carefully to be able to support future integration with UC solutions.

Pradeep Sharma, Quattro BPO

The analysis presented on enterprise UC is extremely useful for any
organization to further fine tune their strategy on converged
communications. There is no second thought that UC is the prime initiative
in minds of all CIOs to drive IT at the next level, especially during such
economy downturn. The sessions covered on futureproofing the strategy &
borderless collaboration clearly depict thepotential of converged
communications and the way forward.

Sandeep Tidke, Cognizant Technology Solutions

This event was very useful and informative.

Yuvaraj Balasubramani, Keane

Have a query on UC?

Please visit forums.pcquest.com and go to the Unified Communications channel.
You can download all presentations from this event and also post your queries on
UC.

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