Opinion: Taking a fresh look at UC

Joe Mayhew, CTO at Calyx Managed Services With the new financial year only a few months in, we are seeing mid-sized firms battling in an uncertain economy to streamline operations to make further efficiency savings and remain competitive.

Joe Mayhew, CTO at Calyx Managed Services

With the new financial year only a few months in, we are seeing mid-sized firms battling in an uncertain economy to streamline operations to make further efficiency savings and remain competitive. As their core operations come under the microscope again, senior managers are looking once more at UC (Unified Communications) platforms. Due to long-term and previously unseen benefits, one much-criticised technology platform has a surprising potential to deliver cost savings while enabling greater productivity from existing staff.

In the current tough climate, where organisations are striving to maintain market share and drive savings, resellers can use this unprecedented opportunity to create a strong case for UC. A simple change of sales tack can focus end users' minds on the 'down the line' operational benefits from UC that they were never convinced by before. When planning their 2011 sales strategies, resellers should not be afraid to move away from emphasising the 'wow factor' technical benefits of UC and focus on its business sustainability advantages to fall in line with the financial concerns of today's senior executives'.

A quick review of UC's cost and operational benefits might surprise someone who was put off by its apparent complexity several years ago. Companies that 'unify' voice and data communications find that it not only removes expensive desk phones and so delivering instant cost savings, but it also prevents the duplication of call charges when staff make calls via their own mobile contracts. Recent research highlights that between 40-60 per cent of mobile phone usage takes place in the workplace. From a reseller perspective, this is a key sales opportunity, identifying annual cost savings for their end user customers through switching to UC.

The renewed appeal of this much-derided platform is partly being driven by the emergence of specialist integrators. These experts are able to offer UC in a changing market for company communications to reduce costs and simplify firms' operations. These benefits include the potential to transform operations and office space. UC removes traditional office layouts based on expensive deskphones and office facilities, and ensures organisations consolidate buildings and functions. This could make the critical difference for private and public organisations that want to reduce their office locations or property estate to save money.

For years, UC has been perceived as too complicated to adopt. However, attitudes are changing as companies are forced to transform operations in today's tough trading conditions. Unified communications platforms offer fixed mobile convergence that provides office and remote staff single DDI telephony, voicemail and presence indication for improved flexibility and working efficiency.

Understanding and highlighting financial benefits provides a more powerful way to engage with the customer, demonstrating an involvement with current business issues. Despite today's harsh economy, resellers could develop new revenue streams in a still-recovering market by taking a fresh look at UC, to help end user organisations combine their IT and communications to achieve more efficient operations and reduce costs. UC also offers complex organisations the capability to not only personalise the integrated solution, but to automate processes which would normally involve a huge amount of personal intervention.

There are many examples whereby the implementation of a comprehensive and sophisticated UC solution has not only resulted in major cost savings, efficiencies and visibility, but has also contributed significantly to service level improvements and perceived customer benefits.

Many previous arguments for UC focused too strongly on functionality alone. Resellers should identify that a change of tack can support a strong case for UC by focusing on cost efficiencies and long-term operational benefits that the platform can offer. In addition, UC is now easier and cheaper for organisations to adopt and resellers should begin to capitalise on increasing change in attitude. This is where the latest UC platforms can help, in providing end-to-end communications and producing collaboration. Building a UC strategy could well be the best decision that senior management and CIOs make this financial year.

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