How to Untangle Business Communications

Ed Basart

The PC revolution more than two decades ago began a cycle of constant change for the IT manager. Once PCs were connected to the Internet and the Web was born, complexity took on a whole new level of meaning. Throughout all this, the stalwart PBX remained untouched, unchanged and isolated in its Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) digital technology.

All that changed with the acceptance of IP Telephony (IPT). With IPT, the PBX is no longer a separate technology island on its own private network, but is now located on the corporate network infrastructure. This is good news as IPT delivers lower costs, business integration and productivity-boosting features. However, it also meant bad news for the IT manager who now has the additional task of acquiring and managing the IP PBX with little or no voice experience.

Hence, the era of business communications entanglement begins. IT managers are challenged with determining the best IPT solution for their organization. Oftentimes, they have to decide between multiple offerings and sometimes finding themselves 'tangled up.' Below are some scenarios/choices IT mangers often face.

Scenario 1:  The incumbent legacy TDM vendor offers a migration strategy that layers IPT for a selected part of the business on top of the upgraded legacy TDM system. The IT manager likes the idea of a lower-risk approach and buys the system. After purchase, he discovers that costs now reflect the purchase and maintenance of two systems-a TDM system and an additional IPT system. The system is surprisingly brittle due to the mixture of old and new technology, with an overall result tending toward the lowest common functional denominator of its many components-particularly the TDM components.

As a result, the IT manager is entangled in limited or no cost savings, IPT business process integration available only to the islands of IPT, and IPT functionality reduced by the glue binding IPT to the legacy TDM system.

Scenario 2: IPT as part of the IP network infrastructure. This sounds promising, as everything is going to the network these days. However, the network needs a very costly upgrade along with new certifications required for the IT staff. After installation, the IT manager discovers herself on an endless treadmill of obsolescence, network upgrades and training-just to maintain the business communications system.

Scenario 3: Bundled business communications with client/server applications in a UC suite from a desktop productivity vendor. The IT manager is highly invested in this vendor's server and desktop applications, and deploys a pilot system because he finds the software-only business communications proposition interesting. The IT manager has not yet moved to the deployment stage, as the solution is still immature.

This bundle of server applications, desktop applications and business communications applications soon entangle the IT manager. The company is forced to accept this vendor as the complete suite of unified communications (UC) applications and cannot select best-of-breed products. Even worse, now the company has to change key business processes to work around the vendor's limitations.

Scenario 4: A pure-play UC business communications system, offering UC as applications on top of and independent of the business' network infrastructure. This solution offers a complete, seamlessly integrated suite of UC applications, but can also integrate as an IPT system with third-party applications.

As noted above, there are many UC offerings to choose from and IT managers must select the one that is best suited for their company. Here are some tips to aid the IT manager in untangling business communications:

1. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO):Ask the vendor to provide a 5-10 year TCO analysis. Then have a competitor provide the same analysis. The second TCO analysis will help keep both vendors honest and produce a credible result that helps remove entanglement due to unexpected high costs.

2. Quote Growth: Ask the vendor to provide a second quote for a larger system after five years of business growth. This will root out many looming forklift upgrades, revealing the flexibility of the vendor's solution. Forklift upgrades are a very disruptive entanglement affecting both the overall business as well as the IT department.

3. Include All Features: Ensure that the vendor has quoted all required features. Surprisingly, this previews the entanglements of the many components needed for UC business communications.

4. Financial Stability. UC technologies will continue to evolve for several years, and a business must continue to improve its system. Financially stressed vendors have difficulty delivering enhancements and may prevent you from enjoying new features, or worse, require a restart and replacement of the business communications system.

For any organization, communication is a core business function and adding unnecessary complexity to the infrastructure increases business risk and costs. These videos show organizations that have cut complexity and are enjoying the productivity gains and low total cost of ownership of simple UC solutions.

 A UC system that is built for the IP age does not entangle organizations in complex business models and is successful because of its ability to provide integrated products, best-of-breed UC components and tight business process integration.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 8, 2010 6:07 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
This is a valuable document. Thanks! Reply

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