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Unified Communications: Making The Business Case

Companies should consider the business value of speeding up transactions when evaluating UC solutions, suggested a panel at Enterprise Connect.

Unified Communications and IP telephony can help speed business processes and save money for companies, according to a presentation at the Enterprise Connect conference in Orlando, Fla. Robin Gareiss, senior founding partner at Nemertes Research, lead a discussion about "Making the Business Case for IP Telephony and Unified Communications" based on survey data and her work coaching clients on soliciting and evaluating vendor proposals.

"Talk to business units and find some transactions that have some measurable value, then figure out the business value of speeding up those transactions," she said. Often this is a matter of showing how faster access to expertise within the organization can help close sales or answer customer questions without endless rounds of phone tag.

Unified Communications has the potential to speed up those processes by making it easier to locate someone, using presence detection, and contact them in the most efficient way -- for example, by using an instant message rather than calling if you see the person is on the phone. The "find me, follow me" functionality in these systems can also make it possible to have one phone number to call, regardless of whether the person is in the office or travelling. Gareiss suggested building a business case for UC around questions like: What would it be worth to our company if we didn't have to make so many follow-up calls and answer these questions the first time?

At the beginning of the project, it's important to carefully gather current cost and productivity metrics "because otherwise it's really difficult to document success," Gareiss said.

One enterprise client reported saving five minutes per meeting on average after implementing Web conferencing, which translates to potential annual savings of $3,700 per user -- assuming, of course, that employees put the time they save to productive use.

Unified Communications networks that combine voice, video, mobile phone integration, and other data and multimedia services were a major topic of discussion at Enterprise Connect. However, Gareiss said the actual use of these technologies is still fairly limited, with only 6% of survey respondents saying they had UC fully deployed. Another 27% reported having limited UC deployment and the rest were either just starting to think about it or in the early stages of planning.

She advises those organizations that move ahead with UC to double the amount of time allotted in their implementation plans, as it generally turns out to be more complicated than anyone expects.

Although cloud-based VoIP and UC products are gaining more attention, they typically aren't the best choices for large enterprises, Gareiss said.

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