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1 Understanding Unified Communications The rising demand for UC and the 5 essential benefits that have businesses talking WHITE PAPER SPONSORED BY

2 Introduction Companies of all sizes are increasingly being challenged to beat tight operational schedules and meet customer demands - all while walking that tightrope of diminishing IT budgets and limited staffing resources. As much as technology has advanced in the last few decades, there are still only 24 hours in a day. That s where Unified Communications (UC) comes into play. Unified Communications (UC) communications being integrated in order to optimize business processes Businesses are discovering the appeal of a communications solution that extends the power of their business phone system far beyond dial tone. UC can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple tools and platforms, making their business more productive and helping smaller companies take advantage of features that make them appear larger and more competitive. Think of it as the Swiss Army knife of communications. But, more than being all things to all people, there are five essential benefits that are driving a healthy adoption rate of UC by businesses, today. This white paper includes an overview of Unified Communications, answering the question, What is Unified Communications? and it offers a high-level look at mission-critical features of UC driving demand by small and medium sized businesses (SMBs). What is Unified Communications? When considering the definition of Unified communications (UC), industry leaders typically describe it as communications being integrated in order to optimize business processes. This means that an organization is able to seamlessly integrate, or unify, its typical business processes with both real-time communications (such as instant messaging/chat, presence information, telephony/voip, call control, and video conferencing) and non real-time communications (such as unified messaging - integrated voic , , SMS and fax). It is often assumed that UC is a single product. UC is actually made up of a set of products that provides a consistent, unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. In its broadest sense UC can encompass all forms of communications that are exchanged via the TCP/IP network. Note: for the purpose of discussing UC as a way to replace a traditional business phone system, an analog or key system, the singular term UC solution is used. It s important to remember that any UC solution involves multiple elements within the solution. In reality, organizations are often already using the various, independent elements of a UC solution, such as VoIP (Voice over IP) or specific features like find me/follow me. Each of these elements help contribute to the efficiency of an organization. By combining a broader range of communications and features into a more complete UC solution and integrating it with other business processes, an organization is able to substantially increase its effectiveness and cost savings. These tangible benefits certainly contribute to the rise of UC solutions being adopted by organizations. Page 2 of 12

3 In fact, interest in UC strategies continues to rise. Results from the Second Annual Unified Communications Market Trends study, from CompTIA, showed that four out of five businesses perceive additional value in the proposition of Unified Communications. Large and medium sized companies and those with a higher proportion of telecommuting workers are most bullish. Similarly, 85 percent of those surveyed indicated that UC, or communications and collaboration solutions, are getting equal, if not more, dollars from annual IT budgets compared to other technology priorities. Seth Robinson, director, technology analysis, CompTIA summarized the findings: Organizations have a clear vision of what they expect to gain from unified communications - greater employee productivity, reduced costs and a means to improve customer engagement. Robinson further noted that even with UC being valued, there are still significant barriers (that) must be overcome. He cites some of the specific challenges as: being able to integrate new UC tools with existing technologies; calculating return on investment; and incorporating social networking, collaboration and video conferencing. It is anticipated that by mid-2013, according to a report from Info-Tech Research Group, 35 percent of the workforce will use personal devices for work-related tasks, and 89 percent of organizations will allow the use of personal device for . There are solutions in the marketplace today that are already successfully addressing these challenges - and at a cost that is particularly appealing to the budgets of SMBs, schools and governments, and Not for Profit organizations. Industry analyst, Frost & Sullivan, named Digium s UC solution, Switchvox, as the Best Value in Unified Communications for SMBs. The solution is based on Asterisk, the world s leading open source telecommunications platform, and is used by both Fortune 1000 companies and very small businesses. Currently, Asterisk is deployed in more than 107 countries. As noted in UC research from Frost & Sullivan: Digium designs its solutions for sophisticated functionality without complex ownership responsibilities. Switchvox is designed to be cost-effective over the lifecycle of the system, including ongoing support and maintenance costs as well as upgrades. Analysts are tracking other trends in the workplace that are prompting the increased need for UC. Especially considering that having a nimble UC solution makes integration and ease of use possible for SMBs to manage trends that were once considered to only apply to larger organizations. Specifically, the two most recent trends driving UC adoptions include: Mobility the requirement for a communications system to more seamlessly integrate a corporate office with its mobile or remote workers; and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) the need for an organization s communications system to work with employees personal devices that are being used with or in place of standard, IT-approved, corporate devices (smart phones and tablets being the most common devices). It is anticipated that by mid-2013, according to a report from Info-Tech Research Group, 35 percent of the workforce will use personal devices for work-related tasks, and 89 percent of organizations will allow the use of personal device for . For that reason, Info-Tech Research Group s analysts say that BYOD programs and the general rise in mobile device usage are driving the need for UC vendors to support a variety of devices. Page 3 of 12

4 What SMBs Expect To better understand the specific role of UC within any organization, but in particular that of an SMB, consider this list of must-haves for most business owners seeking a new telecommunications solution. A telephony solution must: Be reliable Accommodate current, unalterable means of operation, i.e. it should integrate with and support current software packages and workflow processes to complement or make easier, not hinder, current operations Save money in the long-term Provide seamless, worldwide unified communications throughout the company regardless of industry type, company size, and number of locations Support x-number of users currently, and be expandable in terms of company growth potential Satisfy a basic set of flexible and customizable priorities. These will vary from business to business, but some of the more popular requests include: Enable implementation of a mobile strategy than includes seamless UC using mobile devices, tablets, IM, VM, social media, followme technology, and Provide programmable call routing, call queues, and ring groups so calls can be directed to designated departments or call centers rather than bombarding a busy receptionist Accommodate a live operator during business hours, but utilizing an auto-attendant after hours and on holidays Support video conferencing and/or teleconferencing Provide reporting functionality for call efficiency Save money on long distance calling Page 4 of 12

5 While there is a succinct list of features and benefits that organizations seek from any advanced telephony solution, there is also a fear among SMBs of sacrificing the status quo for a more sophisticated UC solution. Every company, no matter what type or size of your business, is reluctant to change or lose a capability, says Dan Ribar, CIO of 1st Guard Corporation, a specialty truck insurer based out of Venice, Florida. Like many SMBs, Ribar expected everything from substantial downtime during the transition to increased training costs for both the IT department and the end users of a new system. He sums up the concerns he had while searching for a new telecommunications solution: You just expect when you turn something as centralized as your telephony system on its head, you are going to lose something, or something is going to change so drastically, you will be looking at a huge learning curve. In contrast, there is a significant upside to an organization when implementing a UC solution, and most of the common fears are unrealized when identifying the right solution. If executed properly, the primary benefits of implementing UC as a total telecommunications solution include improved efficiency, reduced costs, increased revenue, and better customer service. Page 5 of 12

6 Five essential benefits driving UC adoption by SMBs There are critical advantages that SMBs can (and should) expect when implementing the right UC solution and these five key benefits are helping drive the strong adoption rate of UC by businesses, today. Ability to do more with less - with a solution that is easily managed Incorporating mobility to connect the growing mobile and remote workforce Savings money on overall operating costs Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities Moving beyond basic functionality Keep reading to learn more about these essential benefits. Page 6 of 12

7 Ability to do more with less - with a solution that is easily managed. Particularly important to smaller businesses is the ability to implement any technology that provides enhanced functionality while also being both affordable and relatively simple to manage. As expected, smaller organizations typically have fewer or more limited resources, from budgets to staffing, and a technology, as is the case with a UC solution, is especially appealing if it enables the organization to operate as a bigger business, but without the same costs. UC is increasingly recognized as a technology that allows SMBs to take advantage of proven increases in productivity and functionality while realizing significant savings. As industry analyst, Gartner points out in its Gartner, Marketescope Report: Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony, SMB buyers require simplicity and intuitive use in their UC solutions. Simplicity requirements extend through multiple stages (or touchpoints) of the UC acquisition from initial consideration through ongoing maintenance and management of the UC environment. SMBs will favor working with providers (typically via their channel partners) that can demonstrate the solutions ease of use early on in the sales cycle. Full-featured UC functionality can be positioned, but solutions that require complex integrations will be less favored than solutions that can easily be deployed with a minimal cutover time. * *Gartner, Marketscope Report Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony, 9/15/11 Written by: Jay Lassman, Steve Blood, Geoff Johnson Digium, ShoreTel and Microsoft are positioned in the Visionaries Quadrant of Gartner, Inc. s 2011 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Telephony report.) Page 7 of 12

8 Incorporating mobility to connect the growing mobile and remote workforce An office is just about anywhere you need it to be, today, and it is increasingly important for remote and mobile workers to access the same phone system features, whether working form a desktop or a mobile device. By implementing a UC solution, it makes it easy to stay connected to customers and prospects, from any location, from any device. It also provides flexibility in managing off-site employees, using features like presence and conferencing, and having additional monitoring capabilities. Important elements of a mobility feature in a UC solution include: fixed mobile convergence and find me/follow me call capabilities By implementing a UC solution, it makes it easy to stay connected to customers and prospects, from any location, from any device. mobile applications for iphone, Blackberry and Android having access to company directories from any device the ability to make calls from your mobile device as if it is from your office extension the capability to transfer and record calls from your mobile phone to another number or extension too. Look for UC solutions that offer this as an included basic feature; you should not have to pay extra for the capability. Page 8 of 12

9 Saving money on overall operating costs. One of the greatest benefits of implementing the right UC solution is taking advantage of the cost savings it provides. This includes both savings on the initial cost of the system, as well as savings on the long-term costs that leads to a good Return on Investment (ROI). To achieve the greatest opportunities for savings, it s important to understand how to accurately compare vendor quotes. It s easy to look at multiple quotes from UC vendors and assume that the final cost quoted includes the same parameters. But not all UC solutions are created equal, and not all UC vendors can offer the same cost savings. To get a true apples-to-apples comparison of vendor quotes, SMBs need to be aware of key differences in quotes that can add thousands of dollars to the cost of implementing UC solutions both in near-term and long-term costs, and in both hard and soft costs. For example, many vendors offer a quote for base features, but the business-critical features that an SMB needs, and the the features that make UC so useful like mobility and third-party integration, require an additional fee. Licensing fees also often drive up costs, as well as maintenance and upgrade costs, down the road. To avoid these expensive add-ons, compare across vendors for biggest savings potential on overall operating costs in these key areas: Avoid getting locked into using a specific vendor solution; check for true interoperability of the UC solution Confirm which features are included in the base cost of the system without additional fees or licenses Look for solutions with low maintenance costs, particularly when updates are software-based; always ask vendor for details about maintenance contracts and how updates are handled especially if the updates require new hardware. Calculate not only initial savings, but longterm ROI; productivity and staffing savings can add up to thousands of dollars, annually. A vendor should be able to show how to calculate these savings and provide examples of common savings from the UC solution Beyond IT budgets, consider how the savings extends across departments, in areas such as admin, sales, and marketing. Ask the vendor to provide specific case studies or customer testimonials that provide examples of each of these. Page 9 of 12

10 Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities The right UC solution should be more than a phone system, it should be a better communications system that provides improved operational efficiency. A quality UC solution allows SMBs to serve customers more effectively using features such as call queues and IVRs, for example. SMBs should be able to use a UC solution to know more about every incoming call, in order to route each call appropriately, ensuring there are no more missed calls or lack of visibility. For example, Jobbers Warehouse Supply (JPW) is a leader in the automotive aftermarket, selling engine parts to machine shops and parts stores all across the U.S. and Canada. This established SMB selected a UC solution with the intent of providing a higher level of customer service for their best customers. To do so, they needed a system that would allow them to prioritize incoming calls from their customer base. According to Tom Marks, CEO of JPW: At JPW, 80 percent of our revenues come from 20 percent of our clients, and we required a solution that would facilitate priority treatment for that reigning minority. Specifically, when a call from a priority customer comes through the switchboard, JPW wanted that call promptly routed to a select customer service representative, taking precedence over lower priority calls circulating through the system. The UC solution that JPW selected offered intuitive, user-friendly web interface that allows the operator to drag-and-drop calls while chatting online with co-workers, conferring over calls, reciprocating requests, and assigning instructions. Several phonebooks, a Salesforce panel, Google news and maps, a parking lot for on-hold calls, and access to proprietary software are also available to the administrator. Furthermore, JPW was able to get an integrated customizable database software using SugarCRM, with two inbound call queues. SugarCRM offers a fast, flexible and feature-rich customer service application. The customer service agent simply clicks a selection box next to the customer name in SugarCRM to set a preferred, general, or new customer status, which determines into which of the queues the calls are routed. General callers move into the non-priority cue and remain on hold while preferred status callers move into the priority cue and take precedence. This level of detailed and customized flexibility has helped the company exceed its original goals of managing their priority customers, and choosing the right UC solution made it possible. Page 10 of 12

11 Moving beyond basic functionality Too often, SMBs evaluate new technologies based on whether or not the system can meet the organization s current needs - in reference to both basic features included with the technology and in reference to the current size and structure of the business. That type of decision can cost an SMB thousands of dollars in future upgrade costs when choosing a business phone system. When considering future expansion, that term may not mean something as extensive as expanding physical locations; it could be as simple as adding or moving an employee. The right UC solution allows SMBs to opt for a flexible system that provides extended functionality and that will grow with the business. When evaluating UC solutions, consider systems that can: As an example, Pathways is an Ohio-based organization that manages a community crisis hotline. Due to the critical nature of their services, they required customization to the UC solution they selected. Fortunately, they chose a solution that was flexible enough to meet their needs (without additional costs) and were able to easily add a Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) so that from the moment a call comes into the crisis center, the system can search a database to identify the location of the caller, even if they are calling from a cellular phone. In the event that the person calling needs emergency assistance, or the counselor feels the need for police backup, the mapping feature pinpoints the cellular signal so they can find them. From a landline, the call is cross-referenced with phone number, address, and area code to identify the location. Google Maps uses GPS to locate pings from cellular phone towers. According to Mark Bregy, Pathways MIS & Facility Manager: Easily accommodate future growth/ operations needs of the business, without an additional, heavy investment down the road Systems that include detailed reporting options that provide businesscritical information about business operations and customer needs Ability to integrate with third-party business applications, such as CRM, for a better user experience The work we do in mental health at Pathways is very important to the community. A difficult but compassionate business, and obviously communications are essential to doing it well. Pathways team members can also use their UC solution to identify calls and which extensions they are routed to; record calls for quality purposes; watch for excessive callers and how they are being handled; and customize reports for training purposes. These are all features included with their system, at no additional charge. The system s the additional reporting functionality has proven to be a useful tool in providing a detailed view into whether or not their business communications is successfully supporting the organization s operational requirements. Page 11 of 12

12 Conclusion The adoption of UC solutions by SMBs is being driven by far more than a current trend in the marketplace. UC is a business communications solution that meets critical business needs for organizations of all sizes. As illustrated in the examples in this white paper, UC can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple tools and platforms. UC allows businesses to be more productive, enhance customer service capabilities, and offer substantial near- and long-term cost savings. Digium s Powerful UC Solution In an effort to provide a similar solution accessible to everyone, Digium offers Switchvox a full Unified Communications (UC) solution, built on the power of Asterisk. Switchvox is a business phone system specifically developed for small and mid-sized businesses and organizations that want the power of the open source Asterisk solution, but without the need for custom development skills for installation. The advanced features, ease-of-use, and simple out-of-the-box setup make Switchvox an ideal solution for organizations with limited technical staff. A full-featured UC solution, fueled by the innovation of open source technology and open standards, Switchvox allows users to integrate their phone system with their existing networks and get all of the advanced features they need at a price they can afford. Most importantly, by using Asterisk open source software as the foundation for Switchvox, Digium is able to provide a communications system with superior capabilities for a fraction of the cost of proprietary systems. We re changing the way the world communicates. Again. Switchvox UC Solution: Digium Headquarters: Page 12 of 12

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