A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

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1 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap Allan Sulkin President & Founder TEQConsult Group Brad Herrington Manager, Solutions Marketing Interactive Intelligence, Inc.

2 Table of Contents Executive Summary... 3 Today s Enterprise Communications System... 3 Basics of Unified Communications... 5 Justifying an IP Communications System... 5 The Unified Contact Center Solution... 8 Next Steps in Enterprise Communications... 8 A Few Planning Guidelines for a New IP Communications System Copyright Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. All rights reserved. Brand and product names referred to in this document are the trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc Interactive Way Indianapolis, Indiana Telephone/Fax Rev , version 1 Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 2 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

3 Executive Summary Planning any IT technology upgrade is never as simple as sending out an RFP and wading through the responses. It takes careful upfront planning to do it right. And when the technology issue you re addressing happens to involve your enterprise communications system, trying to understand what s currently available since the last time you did an upgrade can be a project in itself. IP communications systems, based on a soft switch design, are rapidly replacing aging digital PBXs. All-in-One solutions support traditional telephony services and unified communications tools on a single centralized server; full featured contact center services may also be available. Today s customer has the option of fully replacing their existing system or installing a co-located IP soft switch for a gradual system migration while leveraging the new technology and associated benefits. This paper provides a broad overview of information to help make an informed decision when preparing an enterprise communications system roadmap. Included is an overview of what exists in the market today, new system justification factors, what s coming, and recommended planning guidelines to help you move your communications system forward. Today s Enterprise Communications System For most of the past decade enterprise customers have been migrating their communications systems from traditional circuit switched PBXs to those based on Internet Protocol (IP) communications standards for transmission of media communications and control signaling requirements. Current generation IP communications systems continue to support traditional telephony requirements, but also offer customers a collection of more advanced communications services, i.e., Unified Communications, that leverage the IP network infrastructure to enable enhanced configuration design, station user productivity, and business process benefits. There have been several types of design options available to customers, including IP-enabled and hybrid TDM/IP, but the one of choice for most of today s customers is referred to as a soft switch based on a traditional client/server architecture topology. Current generation soft switches are efficiently designed around standards-based hardware equipment, including a centralized communications control server, IP-based endpoints (stations and trunks circuit interfaces) and media gateways that support traditional TDM endpoints (analog station and PSTN trunk interfaces). Most, if not all, of the hardware equipment is nonproprietary, unlike that used in IP-enabled or hybrid designs. Ideally, the soft switch control server would also support fully integrated Unified Communications (UC) services in addition to traditional telephony requirements. Such an All-in-One design simplifies the overall system configuration requirements and offers customers optimal communications capabilities. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 3 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

4 A defining characteristic of today s soft switch design has been the adoption of industry standards to enable compatibility between the system and third party applications, and also allow use of off-the-shelf hardware equipment. The two most prominent industry standards used by system designers in the development and evolution of IP communications system are Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). SIP is an application layer signaling protocol used to establish and control multimedia communications sessions over an IP network. It also allows for the establishment of a user s location and status, commonly referred to as presence. SOA is simply described as a collection of communications services, mostly Web-based, e.g. XML, that support the flow of data and information between discrete IT server-based systems (not necessarily focused on communications services). SOA standards are currently being used to facilitate the integration of IP communications systems with third party peripheral communications options and customer business processes to accelerate the creation of new applications and services that are centrally managed and maintained. Many customers have not yet migrated to an IP communications system solution or chose to upgrade their digital PBX to either an IP-enabled or Hybrid system design, because they wished to retain a sizable percent of their earlier communications system investment: Soft switches require replacement of virtually all hardware (common equipment and telephone instruments, excluding analog) and for this reason they were initially best-suited for Greenfield situations. The decision to fully replace an aging communications system is difficult, but one that needs to be made eventually to take full advantage of the benefits offered by standards-based soft switches (see below). During the past few years the number of customers who have opted to fully replace their old system for a soft switch design has been increasing. A viable option available to customers wishing to extend the life of their existing system is to install a co-located soft switch, to support a subset of the system subscriber base, in a networked configuration. The customer can then execute a gradual migration of users between the two systems. The soft switch system would initially support select station users and/or defined user groups that would benefit the most from the new system offerings and capabilities. It may not be an ideal situation, operating two systems, but the cost savings and performance advantages to be gained are likely to outweigh the negatives. An important soft switch design advantage is that it can be very cost effective at small port capacities with graceful growth expansion over time. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 4 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

5 Basics of Unified Communications One of the many advantages of an IP communications system is the availability of a range of features, functions, and processes collectively referred to as Unified Communications. Many customers confuse the terms IP telephony and Unified Communications (UC), thinking they are the same, though they are distinct from one another. UC offerings (described below) facilitate and enhance the traditional telephony experience, not replace it. Implementation of an IP communications system provides the necessary framework to enable and support UC solutions, beginning with a shared network infrastructure needed for communications and control signaling requirements. Many UC features and applications are enabled by SIP, particularly when customers need to interface to third party solutions from vendors such as Microsoft and IBM who are currently providing most station user desktop software applications. Current UC solutions can be segmented into several categories: personal desktop productivity tools; unified messaging; multimedia (voice, data, video) conferencing and collaboration services; Fixed Mobile Communications (FMC); and video-based communications (personal desktop and group level). Among the many personal desktop productivity tools deployed by a GUI-based UC client are: station user presence (the emerging foundation for real time communications); Instant Messaging (IM), SMS, and multi-party text chat; call screening and programmable call coverage; contact directories; and calendar integration. Unified messaging provides for centralized storage and a single point of access to and management of all message types, including voice, text, and facsimile. Multimedia conferencing and collaboration services are used to connect multiple parties for a shared communications session enhanced by the availability and exchange of information content and documents. FMC is the integration of wireline and wireless (WiFi, DECT, and carrier cellular services) communications solutions; a variety of mobile communications devices with GUI client interfaces can be used to access enterprise system functions and provide services comparable to a wired desktop terminal (telephone instrument, PC client soft phone). Justifying an IP Communications System A new IP communications system should be viewed as a business asset, not as an expense item (which many do). As a business asset it should, of course, help reduce existing communications expenses, but it will also have a long term affect on how an enterprise operates and competes in the competitive market. Basic justification factors will fall into two categories: hard cost savings and enhanced user/business productivity (both real and perceived). The following are a few of the many justification factors for implementing a current generation All-in-One soft switch IP communications system. It should be noted that many of the listed capabilities are not available with most first generation IP telephony systems customers may currently have installed without potentially costly hardware/software upgrades. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 5 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

6 Reduced hardware costs owing to: fewer common equipment hardware elements; use of nonproprietary third party hardware equipment (servers, media gateways, SIP telephone instruments); option of using of PC-based soft phones as an alternative to more expensive desktop instruments (typically accounting for a sizable percent of upfront total system costs). Support of third party hardware also provides customers with more flexible design choices. Figure 1. Comparison of hardware and network requirements when moving to a unified solution Traditional Voice Network PBX Digital Phones IP Data Network Peripheral Application Servers Unified IP IP Voice/Data Network All-in-One SIP Phones Figure 1 A single shared voice/data IP network infrastructure reduces installation costs and ongoing management/maintenance expenses (including support personnel requirements, see Figure 1 above). The plug and play nature of IP telephones on the network reduces costly and time consuming Move/Add/Change (MAC) operations. Enhanced system survivability and resiliency (reducing system disasters) based on: a limited number of points of failure compared to traditional PBXs; availability of cost efficient, fully redundant and geo-distributed communications control server options; pooled media services and gateway resources; alternate transmission signaling paths among servers, gateways and endpoints. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 6 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

7 Consolidation of multiple networked PBXs by migrating to a centralized data center system design offers numerous benefits including: fewer systems with significant hardware/software savings; easier and more manageable growth and network expansion; centralized, more efficient system administration and management; lower cost integrated voice/data network transmission services; single system image with uniform features/functions and shared application resources across multiple facilities; and greatly user mobility across the network. SIP trunk services for voice/data transmission can provide significant hard cost savings through a reduction of PSTN TDM hardware interfaces and fewer off-premises trunk circuits for local, long distance, and E911 transmission requirements. SIP trunk services also support failover services and enable local points of presence to reduce 800 service expenses. Home teleworking, using Internet or VPN leased lines connections to the centralized enterprise system, can translate into measurable enterprise real estate and overhead savings and also reduce personnel turnover and training costs. The benefit of teleworking for road warriors is anytime/anywhere connectivity to the enterprise system using a PC soft phone, Web portal interface, or mobile smartphone. Many UC features and services are designed to automate manual communications processes to reduce implementation time. UC also converges communications processes once functioning as silo-type operations. Among the many UC cost/time savings and productivity benefits are the following: Simplified and more efficient access/implementation of communications system features and functions through a GUI-based soft client screen Faster and more efficient contacts through presence management services Fewer messages and missed contacts by using presence, IM and calendar services to determine called user availability and preferred method of contact Reduced messaging management time/costs through unified messaging (single point of access for all messages) Lower cost and self-managed audio conferencing services The combination of conferencing & Web-based collaboration services for geographically distributed participants reduces travel/meeting costs and provides for measurable time savings for each user; it is also available on an adhoc basis when time is an issue. FMC supports greatly enhanced user mobility and can reduce cell phone usage costs by using dual mode handsets to handle calls made on-premises over a WLAN; and off-premises cellular calls can be handed off to the enterprise private network, particularly for international calls, to reduce usage expenses. Personal desktop video communications greatly enhances the communications experience and reduces the need for face-to-face meetings with associated travel time/cost savings. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 7 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

8 The Unified Contact Center Solution There are many benefits enterprise customers can derive from an IP-based communications system than integrates full featured contact center services, particularly if the software is co-resident on the same server supporting traditional telephony and unified communications (UC) services. Though virtually all of the above justification factors can be applied to an IP-based contact center solution there are additional benefits, as well, for implementing a unified solution. A fully unified system design with shared hardware/software elements operating over a common network infrastructure is a lower cost solution than two systems operating independently (or networked). Such a system would also support a unified systems management platform for administration, monitoring, and maintenance operations across all functions, requiring reduced personnel support at a significant cost savings to the enterprise. With a unified solution all system subscribers are available to support contact center operations, expanding its scope beyond the formalized agent group configuration. Select customer calls can be supported or individually handled by co-resident telephony system station users, who are not full-time formal contact center agents, when the need arises. These station users may be experts with unique work/knowledge skills or backup agents to handle unexpected high call volume when formal staffing is not sufficient. All call scenarios are supported by a unified MIS platform that provides detailed cradleto-grave call monitoring, reporting, and analysis of each call regardless of who participates or how it is handled across the entire enterprise unified solution. A major advantage of a SIP-based system for contact center operations is that it enables multi-modal functionality, including the ability to talk, collaborate and exchange information among call participants. UC tools are easily applied to contact centers: Presence helps agents identify status and availability of other agents or specialized experts when needed to handle a call; conferencing services facilitate connectivity among multiple call participants; mobile solutions support roaming or off-site agents not at a formal desktop; and teleworking options are ideal for supporting home agents on a full- or part-time basis. Next Steps in Enterprise Communications There are many enterprise communications innovations currently in their development stage likely to be mainstream offerings and services later this decade. Among the more prominent are Business Process Automation (BPA), enterprise social networking, and federated communications. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 8 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

9 BPA is the automation of multi-step, people-centric processes, including document management, through the leveraging of available enterprise telephony, unified communications (UC) and contact center communications technologies and practices (see figure 2 below). It should be noted that BPA services creation is facilitated by the inherent SIP/SOA foundations of an IP communications system that allow interoperability with previously siloed third party applications. The primary BPA objectives are to reduce the latency and costs associated with the flow of information and communications contacts, and increase the efficiency and productivity of individual workers. Generic business processes such as ERP, CRM, and SCM would be prime beneficiaries. Examples of UC/contact center operations that can be applied to everyday business processes include: intelligent queuing and routing to better prioritize everyday work flow; presence management to determine worker availability; workforce management to better forecast and schedule staffing conditions; recording to review communications between parties for guideline adherence and compliance; real-time monitoring of worker performance and document flow; and automation of alerts, reminders, and notifications, sometimes based on alarm or threshold conditions. Conferences can also be automatically scheduled or arranged ad-hoc through a BPA service, supported by notification and acknowledgement messages. Figure 2. Unified communications in conjunction with business process automation Paper based and people centric business processes UC with BPA Unified Desktop Fax Inbound communications We are now beginning to see the emergence of social networking services in the work environment as companies adapt and modify consumer services, e.g. Facebook, for business processes. Personal system user pages, available to enterprise applications, will identify an individual s business skills, include contacts, work calendars, workgroup and project assignments, and provide a variety of support of document management features. Communications processes and functions, such as click-to-dial, conferencing & collaboration, and messaging (IM, ) will be activated from the personal page, Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 9 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

10 with presence management playing a central role. Today s UC desktop client will eventually be embedded into a user s personal page for managing and implementing most, if not all, enterprise communications processes. It is inevitable that the role and value of the full-featured desktop telephone instrument for dialing and feature implementation will continue to diminish over time. Federated communications will be an outgrowth of federated presence management, a technology that currently allows station users to control all aspects of their communications with other users, regardless of the make or platform of the devices. A federated network will support seamless intra- and inter-company multimedia communications and associated processes across secure network boundaries, and enhance relationships between suppliers and their customers. The overall federated system could include private enterprise and public carrier networks, wireline and wireless networks, commercial and residential customers, because boundaries and functional differences will be immaterial to the communications process. For example, FMC is the federation of private enterprise communications systems and public cellular carrier networks. Individual enterprises will continue to retain control of their private network operations, though there will be centralized unifying elements governing transmission. SIP-based session management controllers located on customers premises and/or in carrier networks will have responsibility for intelligent control and routing of all network calls, based on a unified station user database with policy management rules, and SIP trunk services will be used to link all network system nodes. A Few Planning Guidelines for a New IP Communications System It is recommended that a comprehensive corporate communications strategy be defined and in place well before a customer is ready to replace their aging voice-centric communications system with a current generation All-in-One IP communications system. The communications strategy must address and serve the goals and objectives of an enterprise s overall business strategy, identifying how a new system can contribute to such things as: revenue enhancement; cost reduction; competitive positioning; market expansion; improved customer service; and Green initiatives. A new IP communications system will support hundreds of features and functions, many not currently available in the existing system being replaced. There will be a large set of features/functions common to virtually all system subscribers, but to better define the overall requirements of the new system it may be necessary to understand and identify the distinct communications needs of many different system subscriber communities, to avoid a one size fits all approach. At minimum, station user requirements should be evaluated based on an individual s role in the organization, their work functions and responsibilities, and cross-relationships with other station users. This will be especially important for an All-in-One system that supports a wide range of traditional telephony, UC, and contact center capabilities across multi-functional organizations and lines of business. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 10 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

11 Replacing an existing communications system is always a traumatic event for the majority of customers, because many system subscribers are averse to change. Even swapping out a desktop telephone instrument is difficult to accept for many users. For this reason it will be necessary to inform, educate and gain the support of the many stakeholder groups at the beginning of the planning process to secure a new system. To facilitate the process it is recommended that a task force collect detailed stakeholder input regarding what they would like to see available in their next communications system. Identifying current communications issues that can be addressed, corrected or improved by a new communications system will help gain stakeholder support and facilitate the migration process. An incremental implementation approach across the enterprise network is recommended for purposes of manageability and to avoid too much change at once. For example, a flash-cut conversion of a multiple system network into a single virtual system design operating out of a data center should be avoided. Customers with large networks should plan on having a mix of old and new communications system platforms for a few years, gradually migrating on a site-by-site basis according to a well defined time line. Location upgrades/replacements should be prioritized based on communications needs, not system age. At some locations it may be feasible to have co-existing old system and new system solutions as cited earlier in this paper. At a local level, group trials for new applications and capabilities, phasing in a few at a time such as presence/im, should be conducted before made available to the entire system subscriber base. Sufficient training services and help desk support must be provided to cover feature operations and system interfaces (desktop telephones instruments, soft phones, mobile clients). Personal one-on-one training may be mandated at the executive level and small group training for system specialists, such as attendants, system administrators, and contact center personnel is also often necessary. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 11 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

12 TEQConsult Group TEQConsult Group TEQConsult Group is a globally recognized and respected management consultant practice that focuses on the telecommunications industry, specializing in enterprise communications systems and applications. TEQConsult Group's principle clients include major global manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors of customer premises communications systems and products, and Fortune 500-type end user organizations and large public institutions. Many of TEQConsult Group's clients have used its services on a continuing basis since its founding almost a quarter century ago based on the high degree of satisfaction for services rendered. Interactive Intelligence, Inc. Interactive Intelligence Inc. (Nasdaq: ININ) is a global provider of unified business communications solutions for contact center automation, enterprise IP telephony, and business process automation. The company has developed an all-in-one IP communications software suite that s scalable and standards-based, offering single-platform architecture with inherent multichannel processing to deliver comprehensive applications minus the cost and complexity introduced by multipoint products. Founded in 1994 and backed by more than 3,500 customers worldwide, Interactive Intelligence is an experienced leader delivering a comprehensive solution-set composed of premise-based and on-demand Communications as a Service (CaaS) offerings, including software, hardware, consulting, support, education and implementation. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 12 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

13 The Authors Allan Sulkin, founder and president of TEQConsult Group, has 30 years telecommunications market experience. He is widely recognized within the industry as the leading enterprise communications market/product analyst and an expert on communications system design and associated applications. He is the author of the highly praised textbook PBX Systems for IP Telephony (McGraw Hill) and for more than 20 years has been a Contributing Editor to Business Communications Review magazine and its current online version at He also has written many articles for other influential industry publications. Allan has been a program director and annually featured speaker at the leading enterprise communications industry conference/exhibition VoiceCon since its founding in 1991; his annual RFP IP Telephony System workshop and market update/review session are conference highlights. He has developed and presented numerous public and private training courses covering PBXs, IP telephony systems, and contact centers designed for end-user and vendor education. Allan was a member of the board of directors for the Enterprise Communications Association (ECA) and personally researched/edited its annual industry market review. He holds the following university degrees: B.S, Engineering Science, NJIT; M.S., Electrical Engineering, Rutgers; MBA, Rutgers. Brad Herrington is a Senior Manager in the Solutions Marketing Group at Interactive Intelligence, Inc., where he is responsible for the product direction and marketing strategy of the company s suite of products for the contact center, enterprise IP telephony and business process automation. Solutions Marketing is also the outward facing delivery team for webinar, seminar, analyst and media presentations, and for product and best practices demonstrations to prospects and end customers. Brad s experience includes more than 20 years in the contact center and telephony industry, including the past 11 years with Interactive Intelligence, where he has focused on both the traditional and IP telephony markets. Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. 13 A Customer IP Communications System Roadmap

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