Understanding Unified Communications - White Paper


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White Paper "Understanding Unified Communications" - reviews trends impacting SMBs and the five essential benefits of UC for businesses

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Understanding Unified Communications - White Paper

  1. 1. UnderstandingUnified CommunicationsThe rising demand for UC andthe 5 essential benefits that havebusinesses talkingW HITE PA PE RSPONSORED BY
  2. 2. Unified Communications (UC)Introduction communications being integrated in order toCompanies of all sizes are increasingly optimize business processesbeing challenged to beat tight operationalschedules and meet customer demands - allwhile walking that tightrope of diminishingIT budgets and limited staffing resources. Asmuch as technology has advanced in the lastfew decades, there are still only 24 hours in aday. That’s where Unified Communications (UC)comes into play.Businesses are discovering the appeal of acommunications solution that extends thepower of their business phone system farbeyond dial tone. UC can be a competitive What is Unified Communications?advantage for businesses that need a singlesystem to manage multiple tools and platforms, When considering the definition of Unified communications (UC),making their business more productive and industry leaders typically describe it as communications beinghelping smaller companies take advantage of integrated in order to optimize business processes. This means thatfeatures that make them appear larger and an organization is able to seamlessly integrate, or unify, its typicalmore competitive. Think of it as the Swiss Army business processes with both real-time communications (such asknife of communications. But, more than being instant messaging/chat, presence information, telephony/VoIP, callall things to all people, there are five essential control, and video conferencing) and non real-time communicationsbenefits that are driving a healthy adoption (such as unified messaging - integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax).rate of UC by businesses, today. It is often assumed that UC is a single product. UC is actually made upThis white paper includes an overview of of a set of products that provides a consistent, unified user interfaceUnified Communications, answering the and user experience across multiple devices and media types. Inquestion, “What is Unified Communications?” its broadest sense UC can encompass all forms of communicationsand it offers a high-level look at mission-critical that are exchanged via the TCP/IP network. Note: for the purpose offeatures of UC driving demand by small and discussing UC as a way to replace a traditional business phone system,medium sized businesses (SMBs). an analog or key system, the singular term “UC solution” is used. It’s important to remember that any UC solution involves multiple elements within the solution. In reality, organizations are often already using the various, independent elements of a UC solution, such as VoIP (Voice over IP) or specific features like find me/follow me. Each of these elements help contribute to the efficiency of an organization. By combining a broader range of communications and features into a more complete UC solution and integrating it with other business processes, an organization is able to substantially increase its effectiveness – and cost savings. These tangible benefits certainly contribute to the rise of UC solutions being adopted by organizations. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 2 of 12
  3. 3. In fact, interest in UC strategies continues to rise. Results from the Second Annual Unified Communications Market Trends study, from CompTIA, showed that “four out of five businesses perceive additional value in the proposition of Unified Communications. Large and medium sized companies and those with a higher proportion of telecommuting workers are most bullish.” Similarly, 85 percent of those surveyed indicated that UC, or communications and collaboration solutions, are getting equal, if not more, dollars from annual IT budgets compared to other technology priorities. Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA summarized the findings: “Organizations have a clear vision of what they expect to gain from unified communications - greater employee productivity, reduced costs and a means to improve customer engagement.” Robinson further noted that even with UC being valued, there are still “significant barriers (that) must be overcome.” He cites some of the specific challenges as: being able to integrate new UC tools with existing technologies; calculating return on investment; and incorporating social networking, collaboration and video conferencing. There are solutions in the marketplace today that are already successfully addressing these challenges - and at a cost that is particularly appealing to the budgets of SMBs, schools and governments, and Not for Profit organizations. Industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan, named Digium’s UC solution, Switchvox, as the Best Value in Unified Communications for SMBs. The solution is based on Asterisk, the world’s leading openIt is anticipated that by source telecommunications platform, and is used by both Fortune 1000 companies and verymid-2013, according to small businesses. Currently, Asterisk is deployed in more than 107 countries. As noted in UCa report from Info-Tech research from Frost & Sullivan:Research Group, 35 “Digium designs its solutions for sophisticated functionality without complexpercent of the workforce ownership responsibilities. Switchvox is designed to be cost-effective over thewill use personal lifecycle of the system, including ongoing support and maintenance costs asdevices for work-related well as upgrades.”tasks, and 89 percent of Analysts are tracking other trends in the workplace that are prompting the increased needorganizations will allow for UC. Especially considering that having a nimble UC solution makes integration and easethe use of personal of use possible for SMBs to manage trends that were once considered to only apply to larger organizations. Specifically, the two most recent trends driving UC adoptions include:device for email. Mobility – the requirement for a communications system to more seamlessly integrate a corporate office with its mobile or remote workers; and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – the need for an organization’s communications system to work with employees’ personal devices that are being used with or in place of standard, IT-approved, corporate devices (smart phones and tablets being the most common devices). It is anticipated that by mid-2013, according to a report from Info-Tech Research Group, 35 percent of the workforce will use personal devices for work-related tasks, and 89 percent of organizations will allow the use of personal device for email. For that reason, Info-Tech Research Group’s analysts say that BYOD programs and the general rise in mobile device usage are driving the need for UC vendors to support a variety of devices. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 3 of 12
  4. 4. What SMBs ExpectTo better understand the specific role of UC withinany organization, but in particular that of an SMB,consider this list of “must-haves” for most businessowners seeking a new telecommunicationssolution. A telephony solution must: Be reliable Satisfy a basic set of flexible and customizable priorities. These will vary Accommodate current, unalterable means from business to business, but some of of operation, i.e. it should integrate with the more popular requests include: and support current software packages and Enable implementation of a mobile strategy workflow processes to complement or make than includes seamless UC using mobile easier, not hinder, current operations devices, tablets, IM, VM, social media, follow- me technology, and email Save money in the long-term Provide programmable call routing, call queues, and ring groups so calls can be Provide seamless, worldwide unified directed to designated departments or call communications throughout the company centers rather than bombarding a busy regardless of industry type, company size, receptionist and number of locations Accommodate a live operator during business hours, but utilizing an auto-attendant after Support x-number of users currently, and hours and on holidays be expandable in terms of company growth Support video conferencing and/or potential teleconferencing Provide reporting functionality for call efficiency Save money on long distance calling Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 4 of 12
  5. 5. While there is a succinct list of features and benefits thatorganizations seek from any advanced telephony solution, thereis also a fear among SMBs of sacrificing the status quo for a moresophisticated UC solution. “Every company, no matter what type orsize of your business, is reluctant to change or lose a capability,” saysDan Ribar, CIO of 1st Guard Corporation, a specialty truck insurerbased out of Venice, Florida.Like many SMBs, Ribar expected everything from substantialdowntime during the transition to increased training costs for boththe IT department and the end users of a new system. He sums upthe concerns he had while searching for a new telecommunicationssolution:“You just expect when you turn something as centralized as your telephony system on its head, you are going to lose something, or something is going to change so drastically, you will be looking at a huge learning curve.”In contrast, there is a significant upside to an organization whenimplementing a UC solution, and most of the common fearsare unrealized when identifying the right solution. If executedproperly, the primary benefits of implementing UC as a totaltelecommunications solution include improved efficiency, reducedcosts, increased revenue, and better customer service. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 5 of 12
  6. 6. Five essential benefits driving UC adoption by SMBsThere are critical advantages that Ability to do more with less - with a solution that isSMBs can (and should) expectwhen implementing the right easily managedUC solution – and these five keybenefits are helping drive the Incorporating mobility to connect the growingstrong adoption rate of UC by mobile and remote workforcebusinesses, today. Savings money on overall operating costs Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities Moving beyond basic functionality Keep reading to learn more about these essential benefits. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 6 of 12
  7. 7. Ability to do more with less - with a solution that is easily managed. Particularly important to smaller businesses is the ability to implement any technology that provides enhanced functionality while also being both affordable and relatively simple to manage. As expected, smaller organizations typically have fewer or more limited resources, from budgets to staffing, and a technology, as is the case with a UC solution, is especially appealing if it enables the organization to operate as a bigger business, but without the same costs. UC is increasingly recognized as a technology that allows SMBs to take advantage of proven increases in productivity and functionality while realizing significant savings. As industry analyst, Gartner points out in its Gartner, Marketescope Report: Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony,“SMB buyers require simplicity and intuitive use in their UC solutions. Simplicity requirements extendthrough multiple stages (or touchpoints) of the UC acquisition — from initial consideration throughongoing maintenance and management of the UC environment. SMBs will favor working with providers(typically via their channel partners) that can demonstrate the solutions’ ease of use early on in the salescycle. Full-featured UC functionality can be positioned, but solutions that require complex integrationswill be less favored than solutions that can easily be deployed with a minimal cutover time.”* *Gartner, Marketscope Report Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony, 9/15/11 Written by: Jay Lassman, Steve Blood, Geoff Johnson Digium, ShoreTel and Microsoft are positioned in the Visionaries Quadrant of Gartner, Inc.’s 2011 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony report.) Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 7 of 12
  8. 8. Incorporating mobility to connect the growing mobile and remote workforce An office is just about anywhere you need it to be, today, and it is increasingly important for remote and mobile workers to access the same phone system features, whether working form a desktop or a mobile device. By implementing a UC solution, it makes it easy to stay connected to customers and prospects, from any location, from any device. It also provides flexibility in managing off-site employees, using features like presence and conferencing, and having additional monitoring capabilities. Important elements of a mobility feature in a UC solution include: fixed mobile convergence and find me/follow me call capabilities mobile applications for iPhone, Blackberry and AndroidBy implementing a UC having access to company directories from any devicesolution, it makes it easy the ability to make calls from your mobile deviceto stay connected to as if it is from your office extensioncustomers and prospects, the capability to transfer and record calls from your mobile phone to another number or extension too.from any location, fromany device. Look for UC solutions that offer this as an included basic feature; you should not have to pay extra for the capability. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 8 of 12
  9. 9. Saving money on overall operating costs.One of the greatest benefits of implementing the right UC Avoid getting locked into using asolution is taking advantage of the cost savings it provides. This specific vendor solution; check for trueincludes both savings on the initial cost of the system, as well interoperability of the UC solutionas savings on the long-term costs that leads to a good Return Confirm which features are included in the base coston Investment (ROI). To achieve the greatest opportunities for of the system without additional fees or licensessavings, it’s important to understand how to accurately comparevendor quotes. It’s easy to look at multiple quotes from UC Look for solutions with low maintenance costs,vendors and assume that the final cost quoted includes the particularly when updates are software-based;same parameters. But not all UC solutions are created equal, always ask vendor for details about maintenanceand not all UC vendors can offer the same cost savings. contracts and how updates are handled – especially if the updates require new hardware.To get a true “apples-to-apples” comparison of vendor quotes,SMBs need to be aware of key differences in quotes that Calculate not only initial savings, but long-can add thousands of dollars to the cost of implementing term ROI; productivity and staffing savingsUC solutions – both in near-term and long-term costs, and in can add up to thousands of dollars, annually.both hard and soft costs. For example, many vendors offer A vendor should be able to show how toa quote for base features, but the business-critical features calculate these savings and provide examplesthat an SMB needs, and the the features that make UC so of common savings from the UC solutionuseful – like mobility and third-party integration, require an Beyond IT budgets, consider how the savingsadditional fee. Licensing fees also often drive up costs, as well extends across departments, in areas such as admin,as maintenance and upgrade costs, down the road. To avoid sales, and marketing. Ask the vendor to providethese expensive add-ons, compare across vendors for biggest specific case studies or customer testimonialssavings potential on overall operating costs in these key areas: that provide examples of each of these. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 9 of 12
  10. 10. Gaining uplift in customer service capabilitiesThe right UC solution should be more than a phone Specifically, when a call from a priority customer comessystem, it should be a better communications system through the switchboard, JPW wanted that call promptlythat provides improved operational efficiency. A routed to a select customer service representative, takingquality UC solution allows SMBs to serve customers precedence over lower priority calls circulating throughmore effectively using features such as call queues the system. The UC solution that JPW selected offeredand IVRs, for example. SMBs should be able to use a intuitive, user-friendly web interface that allows theUC solution to know more about every incoming call, operator to drag-and-drop calls while chatting onlinein order to route each call appropriately, ensuring with co-workers, conferring over calls, reciprocatingthere are no more missed calls or lack of visibility. requests, and assigning instructions. Several phonebooks, a Salesforce panel, Google news and maps, a “parkingFor example, Jobbers Warehouse Supply (JPW) is a leader lot” for on-hold calls, and access to proprietaryin the automotive aftermarket, selling engine parts to software are also available to the administrator.machine shops and parts stores all across the U.S. andCanada. This established SMB selected a UC solution with Furthermore, JPW was able to get an integratedthe intent of providing a higher level of customer service customizable database software using SugarCRM, withfor their best customers. To do so, they needed a system two inbound call queues. SugarCRM offers a fast, flexiblethat would allow them to prioritize incoming calls from and feature-rich customer service application. Thetheir customer base. According to Tom Marks, CEO of JPW: customer service agent simply clicks a selection box next to the customer name in SugarCRM to set a “preferred”, “At JPW, 80 percent of our “general”, or “new customer” status, which determines into which of the queues the calls are routed. General revenues come from 20 callers move into the non-priority cue and remain on percent of our clients, and we hold while preferred status callers move into the priority cue and take precedence. This level of detailed and required a solution that would customized flexibility has helped the company exceed facilitate priority treatment its original goals of managing their priority customers, and choosing the right UC solution made it possible. for that reigning minority.” Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 10 of 12
  11. 11. Moving beyond basic functionalityToo often, SMBs evaluate new technologies As an example, Pathways is an Ohio-based organization thatbased on whether or not the system can meet manages a community crisis hotline. Due to the critical naturethe organization’s current needs - in reference to of their services, they required customization to the UC solutionboth basic features included with the technology they selected. Fortunately, they chose a solution that was flexibleand in reference to the current size and structure enough to meet their needs (without additional costs) and wereof the business. That type of decision can cost an able to easily add a Google Maps Application ProgrammingSMB thousands of dollars in future upgrade costs Interface (API) so that from the moment a call comes into thewhen choosing a business phone system. When crisis center, the system can search a database to identify theconsidering “future expansion,” that term may location of the caller, even if they are calling from a cellularnot mean something as extensive as expanding phone. In the event that the person calling needs emergencyphysical locations; it could be as simple as assistance, or the counselor feels the need for police backup, theadding or moving an employee. The right UC mapping feature pinpoints the cellular signal so they can findsolution allows SMBs to opt for a flexible system them. From a landline, the call is cross-referenced with phonethat provides extended functionality and that number, address, and area code to identify the location. Googlewill grow with the business. When evaluating Maps uses GPS to locate pings from cellular phone towers.UC solutions, consider systems that can: According to Mark Bregy, Pathways MIS & Facility Manager: Easily accommodate future growth/ “The work we do in mental health at Pathways operations needs of the business, is very important to the community. A difficult without an additional, heavy but compassionate business, and obviously investment down the road communications are essential to doing it well.” Systems that include detailed reporting Pathways team members can also use their UC solution to identify options that provide business- calls and which extensions they are routed to; record calls for critical information about business quality purposes; watch for excessive callers and how they are operations and customer needs being handled; and customize reports for training purposes. Ability to integrate with third-party These are all features included with their system, at no additional business applications, such as CRM, charge. The system’s the additional reporting functionality has for a better user experience proven to be a useful tool in providing a detailed view into whether or not their business communications is successfully supporting the organization’s operational requirements. Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 11 of 12
  12. 12. Conclusion The adoption of UC solutions by SMBs is being driven by far more than a current trend in the marketplace. UC is a business communications solution that meets critical business needs for organizations of all sizes. As illustrated in the examples in this white paper, UC can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple tools and platforms. UC allows businesses to be more productive, enhance customer service capabilities, and offer substantial near- and long-term cost savings. Digium’s Powerful UC Solution In an effort to provide a similar solution accessible to everyone, Digium offers Switchvox — a full Unified Communications (UC) solution, built on the power of Asterisk. Switchvox is a business phone system specifically developed for small and mid-sized businesses and organizations that want the power of the open source Asterisk solution, but without the need for custom development skills for installation. The advanced features, ease-of-use, and simple out-of-the-box setup make Switchvox an ideal solution for organizations with limited technical staff. A full-featured UC solution, fueled by the innovation of open source technology and open standards, Switchvox allows users to integrate their phone system with their existing networks and get all of the advanced features they need at a price they can afford. Most importantly, by using Asterisk open source software as the foundation for Switchvox, Digium is able to provide a communications system with superior capabilities for a fraction of the cost of proprietary systems. We’re changing the way the world communicates. Again. Switchvox UC Solution: Digium Headquarters:Copyright © 2012 Digium, Inc. All rights reserved. Digium, Asterisk, and Switchvox are trademarks of Digium, Inc.All other trademarks are property of their respective owners. Version 1.0 / 14 June 2012 Page 12 of 12