Communication systems continue to evolve from legacy voice-centric heritage to enriched multi-media collaboration sessions equipped with presence, IM, video conferencing, and desktop sharing.  IP telephony (IPT) has become the new foundation of communication with between employees, and increasingly across the entire supply chain. The growth of mobility, consumer devices, teleworking, HD audio and video expectations, and multi-media communication and collaboration demands have motivated organizations to centralize and manage all forms of communications in integrated systems.155171640

Traditional IPT vendors have added increasingly sophisticated features to their core telephony platforms, while Microsoft has extended its original UC-focused OCS product into a full-fledged telephony system in Lync. Visit Info-Tech’s solution set Vendor Landscape: IP Telephony and Unified Communications to see what leading IPT/UC vendors have to offer.

Cisco, with well rounded IPT/UC solutions for the mid-market and organizations of almost any size, and both a Champion and the Trend Setter in Info Tech’s IPT/UC Vendor Landscape, has demonstrated clearly how an IPT-origin solution can enable a full range of advanced UC features, including multi-media recording and analytics, fixed mobile convergence (FMC), web and desktop video conferencing, and out-of-the-box Lync integration.  Emerging Players like Interactive Intelligence and Digium have brought affordable alternatives to the table, generating stiff competition for more established vendors when specific use cases (contact center and open source, respectively) are an important focus.

Whether employees are on their desktops in the office, at the airport on their tablets, or anywhere in between, IPT/UC vendors are increasingly able to provide full multi-media feature parity across the ever-growing breadth of devices and platforms.  Info-Tech expects this trend to continue: Avaya’s top-rated IPT/UC solutions, coupled with its acquisition and integration of Radvision’s leading video conferencing systems, and the general move toward SIP across the IPT/UC market are an indication that it may only be a matter of time before we see a number of converged IPT/UC/VC solution providers.

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Avaya Evolutions was held recently in Toronto, and was a great look into the leading UC/contact center vendor’s direction. It’s clear that Avaya recognizes social media and mobile access as defining market trends, and they’re rapidly incorporating them into product offerings. Avaya’s Social Media Manager gives customer service representatives the ability to queue, prioritize, route and escalate inbound service inquiries from social channels such as Twitter. Social customer service capabilities are becoming increasingly important given consumer affinity for social media, and social media should be embedded as a key component of any multichannel service strategy. Info-Tech’s own research has consistently found that proactive customer service via social channels is the number one value driver for organizations (even surpassing more traditional marketing and PR use cases). However, Avaya’s major competitors are not standing still. Info-Tech has also seen robust social media integration into CSM products from Salesforce.com (i.e. Service Cloud and Desk.com) and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Companies looking for social-enabled support now have a growing number of vendors to choose from! Mobile was another area of focus, with unified communications solutions like Avaya Flare providing full mobile support on smartphones and tablets. As knowledge workers are  freed from the paradigm of corporate workstations, having a robust mobile solution is quickly becoming a table stakes selection criteria for UC vendors.

Another key focus in this conference was Avaya’s acquisition of the Radvision’s Scopia Video Conferencing solution. This acquisition promises to propel Avaya’s collaboration capabilities to a higher level with immersive telepresence, video conferencing capabilities on mobile devices, and HD resolution. It is only a matter of time until we see Scopia’s anticipated integration with Avaya’s IP telephony and unified communication solutions, Aura and Flare.

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unifying the pieces

The nature of communication and collaboration is changing rapidly, and unified communications (UC) solutions can help, well, unify a variety of communication tools. We compared twelve UC solutions in our recently published, Vendor Landscape: Unified Communications. Use it to help choose the UC vendor that best fits your organization.

There has been a lot of hype about UC in the last decade, but don’t let that distract from the real improvements that have increased its usefulness. It’s no longer limited to presence and messaging; UC now includes rich communication tools like video, voice, and document sharing, all working together seamlessly (or at least with fewer and fewer seams every day). It’s more than just seeing if someone is on the phone: UC allows you to communicate in the right way at the right time, whether it’s through instant messaging on a desktop or video conferencing on a tablet.

Speaking of mobile devices, bring-your-own-device programs and the general rise in mobile device usage have driven the need for UC to support a variety of devices. Furthermore, the utility of UC is increased when communication no longer depends on being tethered to a desk phone. As the variety of supported mobile endpoints and the advanced UC features available on such endpoints both continue to grow, ever greater opportunities are available for keeping your organization connected, and enabling collaboration however, whenever, and wherever the need arises.

Deciding on a UC solution can be tricky. Many IP telephony vendors offer UC as part of their telephony product, or as an add-on (we believe IPT and UC will be largely merged in the near future). Other UC solutions are installed “over the top” on existing IP telephony deployments. Use our vendor landscape to help decide which features are crucial, which deployment method makes the most sense, and which vendors can meet all your needs at the lowest possible price. 

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Unified CommunicationsWith the shift to IP communications, more organizations are identifying opportunities to enhance collaboration with UC.

However, IT leaders who are helping the organization develop its UC strategy are bombarded with mixed and conflicting messages from vendors.

This solution set will bring focus to the key UC opportunities and challenges that you must consider and help you find the path to success.

Our Advice

  • IT best understands the technologies involved, but UC is fundamentally a business opportunity. Successful implementers involve key business stakeholders early in planning.
  • Listen to your users – if you don’t understand the real communications barriers and bottlenecks facing business users, you won’t be prepared to devise and deliver a better solution.
  • Successfully communicate the long term opportunities and benefits of a UC strategy that tightly integrates business communications with key applications and processes.
  • Align IT and business resources towards common goals of more efficient communications, increased distributed team collaboration, and reduced business travel.

Related Research

1. Communicate the UC opportunity.

Set a common understanding of UC vision and objectives.

2. Identify potential challenges.

Mitigate key risks associated with an ambitious UC strategy.

3. Move the UC initiative forward.

Gain the executive and user buy-in required to get to the next step.

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Telecommunication expenses represent one of the largest IT operational budget categories for most enterprises – IT leaders are constantly pressed to optimize expenditure in this area.

Due to a lack of expertise and guidance, IT units commonly overlook some basic telecom expense management practices. Pursuing even a subset of these key activities will deliver tangible cost savings for enterprises.

Telecom Expense Management (TEM) encompasses a range of practices that aim to reduce and streamline telecom costs – more specifically, telecom expenses relating to voice, wireless and data. Despite the opportunity to cut telecom costs by ~10% or more, TEM is often overlooked because:

  • Managing telecom expense is not considered a priority for many organizations.
  • IT departments at many organizations are resource-constrained.
  • Long-term telecom contracts limit enterprise flexibility to change service features.
  • Telecom service needs are often not a part of organizational planning and provision.

Telecommunications represents 14% of the IT operational budget on average, yet almost half of organizations have a very informal approach to Telecom Expense Management.

A closer investigation of voice, data and wireless usage may reveal that the organization is incurring major hidden costs due to over-provisioned connectivity, carrier billing errors, and monthly overages.

Have You Overlooked Telecom Costs?

Companies overlook telecom costs because of resource limitations, uncoordinated planning, and contractual issues:

  1. Basic service levels are being met. There won’t be enough pressure from the business to make changes to existing service if telephony & data service levels are being met.
  2. Resource constraints in IT. IT departments usually do not have enough time, resources and trained personnel to commit to detailed analysis of ongoing telecom expenses.
  3. Long-term telecom service contracts. Many telecommunications services are provided through long-term contracts. Organizations have less flexibility when it comes to cost cutting measures.
  4. Minimal provision and planning. During high growth periods or acquisitions, not much focus is placed on future IT plans. Companies end up being serviced by multiple vendors and/or receive overlapping services.

Telecom Spending

Telecom Expense Management continues to be a key area for cost optimization:

  • The industry is very fragmented and crowded, driving pricing to go down while client satisfaction is being improved
  • Organizations of all sizes can benefit from using TEM applications or outsourcing TEM to capable third parties
  • TEM outsourcing refers to engaging third parties to manage telecom expenses on an on-going basis, or to consulting a firm in order to establish TEM practice within the organization

Telecom Expense Management services include:

  • Disaster recovery
  • Inventory management
  • Contract optimization
  • Invoice management and audit
  • Wireless TEM

Additionally, some outsourcers provide on-going outsourcing and TEM consulting engagements.

Where do I Start?

Here’s how to get started with optimizing your telecom spending:

  1. Collect & assemble key materials, including telecom invoices, customer service records & contracts
  2. Perform an inventory of current voice & data services at each site to identify surplus connectivity
  3. Complete an accurate inventory & consider reducing – or outright eliminating – any underutilized telecom services

Once you’ve got a proper telecom inventory, be sure to review your monthly invoices to identify billing error and other areas of variance. A remarkably high number of telecom invoices contain errors – failing to identify these mistakes and challenge service providers is a missed savings opportunity. Be sure to verify charges and usage, identify patterns in calling activities and ensure that there is actual activity on all mobile devices.

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