Evolving voice services to enable Unified Communications: How to put the right pieces in place

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1 Evolving voice services to enable Unified Communications: How to put the right pieces in place White paper May 2010 By Sandy Gillis Associate Director, Marketing and Palma Petrilli Associate Director, Unified Communications Portfolio Management

2 Executive Summary Many organizations understand the value and benefits of a unified communications (UC) strategy, but developing an effective implementation strategy remains a challenge. Making the transition to UC requires careful planning, especially when an enterprise has invested extensively in voice communication infrastructure that continues to deliver value. The key to successfully evolving voice services as part of a larger UC vision is for organizations to gain an understanding of the strategic direction and timing that will most effectively leverage existing resources, while also establishing a migration path for the future. An evolution plan for IP telephony should take existing TDM-based infrastructure into consideration, and it should utilize a staged approach to maximize return on the existing investments. Organizations must consider many variables when evaluating IP telephony, with numerous combinations of vendors, technologies and migration approaches. In some cases, the transition to IP will offer an opportunity for an organization to evaluate managed or hosted voice services, and consider what strategic advantages remain, if any, to operating voice technologies in-house. Hybrid models are also considerations, whether that means incorporating both TDM and IP-based technologies, or utilizing hosted or managed services for only part of their network. The benefit of UC is that an organization can tailor its communication infrastructure for its workplace, culture, business requirements and goals. By extension, however, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for IP telephony and UC. Organizations must plan thoroughly and execute carefully using a well-developed roadmap that considers both short-term models for voice services infrastructure that combines traditional TDM and IP-based functionality, as well as what kind of voice services model will be optimal for the long term: on-premise, hosted, or some hybrid approach. Voice communication remains integral to how organizations function, but it has to evolve to meet changing user expectations in terms of how it is integrated with other technologies and channels. A well-defined roadmap will help organizations understand the true value of employing a staged process to evolve voice services, providing a clear picture of capital requirements and total cost of ownership within the context of unified communications strategic business benefits. 1.0 Preparing for inevitable change As organizations become increasingly mobile, global and distributed, they understand the value and benefits of a unified communications strategy. Employees and customers expect new levels of interaction, flexibility and personalized services to give them faster access to knowledge, resources and answers to their questions. However, while many organizations are eager to move forward with UC, it is critical to implement the strategy in a way that makes good business sense and delivers tangible value. Too rapid a transition will simply drive up infrastructure costs and not deliver the expected return on investment. Too long a delay, and an enterprise runs the risk of stagnant productivity and the loss of their competitive edge. 2.

3 Making the transition to unified communications requires careful planning and timing, especially when an enterprise has invested extensively in a voice communication infrastructure that continues to deliver value. 1.1 Planning the transition In preparing a unified communications strategy, it is important to keep in mind the principal role of technology within any enterprise: to enable business processes, while minimizing capital and ongoing operating costs. The success of a strategic initiative to evolve an enterprise voice infrastructure depends on establishing a comprehensive, well-structured view of the requirements, business goals and targeted return on your investments in technology, infrastructure and in human capital. The key to successfully evolving voice services is for organizations to gain an understanding of the strategic direction and timing that will most effectively leverage existing resources, while laying a migration path for the future. This white paper will help organizations prepare to transition their voice communications infrastructure for a unified communications strategy. It aims to provide a grounding in the technical and strategic options that organizations face related to IP telephony, and offer a strategic roadmap for determining not just the optimal solution, but also the optimal timing for deployment. 2.0 The challenges 2.1 Organizations in transition Despite the growing use of online communications tools, voice interaction continues to be a cornerstone application in business communications. Customers and employees continue to prefer voice communication channels by a wide margin over other channels of interaction, and demand simpler user experiences, faster service delivery and shorter response times. Globalization and distributed or mobile workforces are becoming the norm, and that increases exponentially the challenges of technology integration. Voice communication will always remain integral, but it will have to evolve to meet different user expectations in terms of how it is integrated with technologies and channels. 2.2 A changing society The shifting demographics of today s workforce are creating new expectations among employees. New-generation workers are forcing a shift to more democratization, empowerment and work-life balance. This goes hand in hand with expectations for constant connectivity and instant responses. Meeting these expectations requires a significant change in both the corporate culture and the ways in which people interact. 3.

4 Workers and consumers alike now expect a higher level of technical capabilities from enterprises, with anywhere, anytime, anyhow access to information and services, translating into more pressure to enable real-time interaction. 2.3 The technology picture With the increasing number of modes of communication, the technology landscape is changing rapidly and has become more confusing than ever. The previous iterations of PBX technologies are reaching their end of life, and the era of TDM (time division multiplexing) is coming to a close. This, combined with the rise of Voice over IP (VoIP) and IP telephony, is forcing organizations to grapple with an array of new hardware and software offerings from a wide range of vendors, many of whom are new to serving large, complex organizations. (Although the terms VoIP and IP telephony are often used interchangeably, there is an important distinction: VoIP refers only to the transport of voice using IP; IP telephony describes the more complete service, with all of the incumbent routing and management functions that derive strategic business value.) Unified communications and convergence have created considerable confusion for many IT managers. According to a February 2009 Forrester Research report, Market Overview: Sizing Unified Communications, fifty-five percent of IT decision makers said there is "confusion about the value" of unified communications for their company. In simple terms, UC involves the practice of merging all communications that facilitate realtime interaction on a single platform or though seamless integration of multiple platforms. UC then provides access via a single interface in order to enable collaboration or a business outcome in real time. Convergence is the merging or intersecting of different technologies, leading to new capabilities, functionality or experience not previously available. These tools include IP telephony, unified instant messaging, audio/video/web conferencing, presence management, , calendars/directories and mobile applications. The essential distinction between these two terms is that convergence refers specifically to the technical platform, while UC is focused on the uses/outcomes of converged and/or integrated technologies. In other words, convergence (including IP telephony) is seen as a way to achieve unified communications. However, achieving UC doesn t have to be a rip and replace proposition. In fact, organizations can achieve the same ends over time without the need to make a wholesale technology shift all at once. Moreover, making the transition to IP opens up new options for how an organization chooses to handle its voice traffic, including on-premise managed voice services or a hosted IP voice service, in which a third-party vendor manages the entire voice system off-site. 4.

5 3.0 Making the business case Whether the challenges relate to business processes, societal pressure or technology, the fact is the way we work and communicate is changing. To remain competitive, organizations need to be smarter, faster and more efficient. More importantly, they need to embrace the capabilities and potential of the new generation of workers who are already well ahead of the technology curve. If one business does not, another will and, as a result, gain a significant competitive edge. 3.1 Seeing the need While the current rate of adoption of UC is low, the need for it is growing and the evolution toward UC is inevitable for most organizations to maintain long-term competitiveness whether the transition is made today or in the future. A 2009 Forrester survey of companies implementing, upgrading or piloting UC revealed: 75% viewed increasing communication flows as an important motivation 68% wanted to save employees and decision-makers time 66% sought general cost savings (through the reduction in travel, for example) 66% wanted to improve customer support 52% wanted to make their organization more competitive In addition, Gartner estimates that as of 2010, 80% of businesses that have deployed communication-enabled business processes will obtain significant competitive and revenue differentiation. The tipping point in moving to a UC strategy for most organizations is not related to the availability of technology. The real issue is deploying the technology in a way that delivers an acceptable return on investment. In most cases capital resources are limited and existing infrastructure technology may not have had the time to deliver on its investment potential. If we accept that technology s role within the enterprise is to enable business processes, then it is imperative to understand how to address these emerging communications needs without driving up capital costs. 3.2 The business value of UC In order to understand its role in real terms, it is important to look first at the promise that UC offers. It can: Add real-time capabilities to existing communications applications and collaboration software, thereby accelerating business processes and delivering a common user experience across all modes of communication Reduce management and maintenance costs through the integration of telephony, audio conferencing, Web conferencing, videoconferencing, messaging ( and instant messaging), presence status and contact list management 5.

6 Improve access to applications and resources through a single interface Provide anytime, anywhere access for users through their desktop and mobile devices While UC may be the end point for most, it is not necessarily the next step. But how does an enterprise know when the time is right for unified communications? IT managers need to ask if the organization needs all these benefits immediately and if not, how much they do need now, in six months, and over several years. Once the business benefits have been identified, in order to then determine the rate of change required, IT managers will need to first understand the following: What capabilities are really needed What technical options best meet these needs How these option integrate into the current infrastructure How to manage resources effectively to ensure acceptable service level agreement (SLA) levels The true return on investment How to effectively manage and grow these options 4.0 How to implement voice services as part of a UC strategy Enriching communications is a transformation requiring an effective strategy that considers the users and infrastructure, current and future business and technical needs, and overall impact and cost. This is a highly customized process that can mean many different things for many different organizations: Many organizations have existing TDM technologies and are reluctant to discard this investment. An evolution should take this infrastructure into consideration, and it should be done in a staged approach in order to maximize return on the existing investment. A number of internal issues may have to be addressed, such as diverse levels of network expertise, operational silos, and reporting structures. At the same time, UC requires that multiple groups work together seamlessly which in some cases may entail reorganizations. In some cases, the transition to IP will be an opportunity for an organization to evaluate managed or hosted voice services, and consider what strategic advantages remain, if any, to operating voice technologies in-house. A migration to IP telephony and unified communications is a significant change that will take time and must be carefully planned and executed. A first step is to evaluate and leverage existing legacy products, services and infrastructure. 6.

7 There are many elements to consider, with many combinations of vendors, technologies and migration approaches, including those that lead to hybrid models that incorporate TDM and IP technologies, or hybrid models that utilize hosted or managed services. The benefit of UC is that an organization can tailor it for its workplace, culture and business requirements and goals. By extension, however, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for IP telephony and UC. Successfully making the transition requires undertaking an evolutionary process. Organizations must plan thoroughly and execute carefully using a well-developed roadmap. 5.0 Developing a strategic roadmap A great deal of the decisions an organizations will have to make about their UC strategy will revolve around understanding an enterprise s specific business challenges and priorities. In other words, understanding in real terms how a UC strategy or portions thereof will help the business. This entails: Developing a clear path from the current communications infrastructure to a desired end state Establishing the phases and desired timing needed to enable the transformation Creating a strategy and roadmap that encompasses: An understanding of current technology infrastructure, capabilities and investment A goal with key objectives Alignment of respective business owners that will play a part in achieving business goals Identification of next steps and strategies for acting upon them Examination of ongoing management of the infrastructure An understanding of how to blend existing infrastructure into the plans Embracing the notion of pilots to encourage early adoption and evangelization of the results Partnering with suppliers that understand the challenges and can help guide the enterprise on its journey Embracing the change and encouraging employees to do the same by: Clearly communicating the strategy and showing the benefits beyond the dollar value, such as the value on the job Simplifying adoption of new solutions Encouraging early adopters, who can provide internal testimonials There are several operating models to consider as possible frameworks for both interim steps and long-term goals. 7.

8 5.1 Short-term models to consider Organizations that operate a TDM-based PBX or service to handle most or all of their voice capabilities often try to extend the value of these legacy environments. A common challenge faced by these organizations is that many have TDM-based systems that are approaching end-of-life within several years, and they want to determine how best to begin the transition to IP and UC. There are two primary approaches to consider: 1) TDM equipment with some IP capabilities this hybrid environment has both TDM and IP in one platform, or several mixed platforms operate across multiple locations. It integrates enhanced capabilities such as instant messaging and presence, but is otherwise makes limited progress toward a more complete UC environment 2) IP-based platforms with some TDM capabilities this hybrid environment integrates TDM capabilities into a primarily IP-based platform, with both TDM and IP coexisting. While it still leverages some investments made in TDM-based equipment, this approach offers many more capabilities and applications that bring organizations closer to a UC environment. For example, SIP Trunking provides a PSTN voice gateway through a data network, allowing voice calls to run over a single data backbone. This provides more flexibility and simplicity in managing a network, while offering a higher return on IP technology investments. An important consideration is that an IP-based infrastructure does require new skills, and it will place new demands on internal resources. Also, as applications become more integrated, the complexity of the environment grows. But organizations may be able to get more out of legacy TDM equipment, and they are likely to be much better prepared to make the full leap to IP telephony and UC. 5.2 Long-term models for IP telephony/unified communications Whenever you consult a map, it s important to know where you re going. The same holds true for developing a road map for a unified communications plan: you need to have a clear picture of what form your organization s IP telephony infrastructure will ultimately take. There are four general categories of IP telephony models, each with their unique advantages. (Please note: these descriptions are only general guidelines.) In-house deployment with Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) Implementing a full IP telephony solution across a mid- or large-sized organization is a large undertaking a rip-and-replace deployment that requires all-new IP infrastructure, right down to the handsets. Although it is an expensive endeavour with significant capital expenditures, it ultimately allows an organization to fully customize and control its communications infrastructure to leverage all the benefits of UC. Up-front set-up costs for an in-house IP telephony deployment are higher than a hosted model and long-term maintenance costs, while having the potential to be lower, can be variable and more difficult to manage. Although organizations do retain complete control and flexibility when deploying this solution in-house, every 8.

9 expansion increases complexity and may require augmenting the skill sets within the team that is managing the infrastructure. One way to lower the overall cost of ownership and improve return on investments in IP technology is to utilize SIP Trunking. This service provides organizations with a gateway to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) through an IP network, allowing voice calls whether local or long distance to run over a single data backbone. It also provides the foundation for the deployment of either on-premise or network-based UC applications. Overall, SIP Trunking typically offers many benefits for on-premise IP telephony infrastructure: Eliminates the need for multiple TDM trunking subscriptions Eliminates requirements for PSTN gateway interface devices Optimizes available infrastructure and bandwidth Provides flexibility and greater simplicity in managing the network SIP Trunking should be evaluated as part of an in-house deployment In-house deployment with managed services The enhanced capabilities of IP telephony and UC can foster greater collaboration and improved productivity, but VoIP networks can also be very complex to manage. Many organizations find that the ongoing management of VoIP services on their ICT infrastructure is beyond the capabilities of their internal support team. Outsourcing the management of voice services to a third-party service provider provides the same IP-enabled PBX, but with additional benefits, including: A platform that is managed and maintained following industry best practices to ensure security and reliability Enhanced device surveillance capabilities Extensive services around managing incidents, software and firmware releases, vendor changes, and configuration Organizations also reduce capital expenditures on software for the management of event management and workflow management, and generally improve processes. Third-party managed services also generally lowers implementation cost, as well as support costs on operational support systems, while letting internal IT staff focus on activities closer to the core business. 9.

10 5.2.3 Hosted IP environment A hosted IP environment provides all the functionality customers expect from a highend IP-enabled PBX without the need to purchase, install or maintain complex and expensive equipment. For some organizations, it presents a compelling alternative to the substantial capital and operational expenditures necessary to deploy a full IP telephony infrastructure entirely in-house. With a hosted environment, organizations get the same reliable connectivity, voice quality and IP functionalities as an on-premise PBX, but they only have to purchase new handsets and accessories. In addition, technology is kept up-to-date with no equipment upgrade costs. Hosted services provide immediate centralization of voice applications for all locations and lines deployed at any site, regardless of whether a main site is converted to IP or not. Organizations need to do less planning, design, installation and ongoing management to integrate a mix of IP and TDM systems in a hosted environment compared to a CPE-based environment Hybrid environments Large organizations with several different kinds of locations, such as a financial institution with both office towers and numerous local customer branches, face unique challenges making the transition to an all-ip voice infrastructure. On one hand, replacing and integrating all the necessary equipment would require a large capital expenditure; on the other, substantial quantities of legacy infrastructure hinders an efficient migration to a hosted IP voice service. Fortunately, it doesn t have to be one or the other. Organizations often opt for a hybrid model that mixes several kinds of communication solutions: TDM and IP-enabled environments Hosted and on-premise deployments With careful planning and keen foresight into the operational model that is likely to be most effective, organizations can smoothly transition to converged IP-based services. 5.3 What a strategic roadmap can deliver A strategic roadmap is a critical building block to evolving a communications infrastructure. It can provide the blueprint for introducing a suite of UC capabilities that allow organizations to improve productivity, streamline business processes, and enhance customer support, while managing the cost of adoption and ensuring a solid ROI. Ultimately, a strategic roadmap will allow organizations to: Improve service and customer satisfaction by providing greater access to information and support personnel 10.

11 Ensure reliable voice/data services Increase efficiency and/or productivity through real-time sharing of information and employee interaction to speed product development, extend reach to global/remote workers and empower the mobile workforce Increase employee satisfaction by providing real-time interaction and access to information Most importantly, a well-defined roadmap will help organizations understand the true value of the evolutionary process by providing a clear picture of capital requirements and total cost of ownership, and balancing those with the business benefits to provide a true ROI. 6.0 How Bell can help Bell can help organizations understand the true value of this evolutionary process. We can provide a clear picture of capital requirements and total cost of ownership, while balancing the business benefits to provide a solid, measurable return on investment. To that end, we have developed a voice evolution roadmap, a proven methodology which provides a highly effective and structured approach towards executing a long-term strategy. With our experience as a leading voice and communications integration specialist, organizations can gain an understanding of their current situation, map out a path to achieving success, and leverage our combined integration skills to deliver the end-to-end solutions they need. They can also get a clear view of how different technologies can fit into the overall communications strategy. Bell also offers an innovative and comprehensive suite of unifying communication solutions using leading industry technologies to enable a rich communications ecosystem for an enterprise s employees, clients and business partners. Our professional services include Unified Communications Roadmap, Discovery Workshop, Network Assessment, VoIP Assessment, Productivity Check and ROI Analysis, among others. We have a suite of telephony offerings as well as a selection of integrated solutions, including Converged Office, mobility and Bell Conferencing Solutions. We partner with industry leaders in voice and data communications with vendors such as Nortel, Cisco, Avaya and Microsoft. As the leading convergence integrator and solution provider we have a thorough understanding of real-time networked applications. We offer: Multiple-vendor solution support Dedicated expertise in collaboration and IP telephony More than 128 years of experience in designing, implementing and supporting large, complex multimedia communications networks Expertise in voice, data, messaging, directory, conferencing and mobility 11.

12 Leadership in security expertise, services and products, including identity and access management, secure applications, secure content, network protection and secure infrastructure The largest, most reliable IP/broadband network in Canada, transporting more than 80 percent of the country s telecommunication s traffic More than 3,000 network integration engineers and 2,000 ICT (information and communications technology) professionals A proven ability to manage critical systems About Bell Bell is a Canadian leader in converging information, communication and technology (ICT) strategies to help organizations improve business performance, speed time-to-market, and improve ROI. The foundation of our world-class ICT infrastructure is a high-powered reliable network backed by a multi-disciplinary team of experts. Our highly-skilled professionals offer diverse expertise in business process assessment, as well as solution design and deployment across a wide range of industries. Bell solutions and services can be customized to meet industry-specific needs and the business demands of today and the future. About the authors Sandy Gillis is an Associate Director, Marketing, with Bell. He is a senior communications professional with more than 19 years of experience in marketing and development. He has worked with many industry leaders in IT and communications. His extensive experience in the design and planning of IT, data and voice networking solutions provides valuable insight into the interaction and collaboration challenges facing today s organizations. He is an avid user of collaboration tools. Palma Petrilli is an Associate Director, Unified Communications Portfolio Management, with Bell. As leader of the Unified Communications portfolio and strategy for Bell, Palma works with many industry-leading organizations and internal product management teams to help define the company s UC strategy, roadmap and overall marketing plan. She has held leading positions in the IT and telecommunications industries for more than 10 years. Learn more Bell understands voice communications better than anyone. If you are ready to upgrade your voice infrastructure, call your Bell representative today or request that a Bell representative contact you. You can also visit bell.ca/enterprise for more information. 12.

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