By Hein Witte, Specialised Solution Sales Manager at T-Systems in South Africa
Today’s large businesses are defined by trends like globally-distributed workforces, complex value-chains and ecosystems, and fluid collaboration between teams internally as well as outside of the company.
Think of your average work day. For most people, it’s a flurry of emails, instant messages, calendar reminders, teleconferences and online meetings. It’s said that we check our phones an average of 150 times a day.
We are constantly connected. Constantly communicating.
For many organisations, managing the costs and complexity of business communication is spiralling out of control. While employees are clamouring for the tools to be able to work anywhere and anytime, businesses are seeing escalating mobile voice and data costs – seemingly with no end in sight.
Modern Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) solutions promise to address this challenge – granting employees the tools to flexibly and remotely engage, while halting the growing costs of enterprise-wide communication.
Moving from erratic, to coordinated
Over the years we’ve layered channel upon channel. In most businesses we see a litany of communications tools being used: fixed-line phones, cellphones, IP-based calls, SMS, instant messaging, email, video-conferencing, voicemail, fax, Intranet forums, and various other collaboration and file-sharing tools.
Generally, these channels operate independently of one another. How many phone calls have you had that end up with a shift over to email, followed by a separate interaction on a company CRM system? Often, there is no integration. No way to easily shift the conversation to a different medium and retain its history; and no logs or audit trails created.
The vision of Dynamic UCC is that interactions can start on one channel, and shift effortlessly to another. This could be as simple a call starting on your cellphone and handing over to desk phone as you walk back to your office. Or it could be more sophisticated: like a field engineer attaching photos to an IM conversation as he submits a maintenance report, then captured within a procurement system as a purchase order is created by another colleague at the office.
The right approach
We advocate a 4-step process for ensuring a smooth migration to a Dynamic UCC environment:
Step 1: initial quick assessment … Start by getting a clear picture of your current communications landscape – what channels are being used, in what ways? Understand your employees’ natural tendencies and communications habits, and find out about their frustrations. Get a complete picture of how the communication tools currently fit into other enterprise systems – like CRM or ERP systems for instance. And finally, understand the total costs for each aspect of your communications infrastructure.
Step 2: Start migrating on a like-for-like-plus basis … As you begin the migration to a dynamic, IP-based UCC solution, it’s essential not to create any disturbance to individuals’ existing ways of working. The basics include ensuring that the same dial plans and contact lists apply to each employee whilst leveraging basic new features of UCC. So when dialing the same number as before, you can still reach the right individual, for example.
Step 3: Generate cost-efficiencies through extended LCR … With the basic IP configuration now complete, you can start finding the “low hanging fruit” in terms of cost extractions. With Least-Cost-Routing (LCR) you’ll ensure that all possible internal calls are run as on-network calls, only breaking out to public networks and mobile operators when necessary.
Step 4: Consolidate and Innovate … As your journey to dynamic UCC gains maturity, you can start retiring legacy infrastructure that is no longer needed. Now that you’re running UCC on a monthly pay-per use model, the total cost of ownership starts to drop. At this point you’ll also start discovering new ways to further enhance the flow of communication and collaboration within the organisation, and to integrate into other areas of your enterprise IT.
Step 4 is, in fact, a never-ending step – innovation continuum. New ways to increase efficiencies or productivity continue to surface, as the organisation moves towards a coordinated, connected and collaborative working environment.