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In a world where all employees use various channels of electronic communication, the ability to effectively integrate them as the so-called convergent services is increasing in importance. How to perform the integration?
In practice, convergence means connecting services and functions of different IT systems in such a way that they become one for their users. Skillful integration of voice, image and data transmission, fixed and mobile devices, and corporate users with IoT device networks can become the foundation of completely new business and revenue models.
Increasingly more companies with extensive structure, such as financial institutions or mining industry enterprises, are implementing projects aimed at integrating multiple communication channels. Due to the potential benefits, many such projects are completed quickly and following a similar scenario. The implementation is usually driven by the need of updating one of the key communications systems (email platform, videoconferencing system or other solutions).
Through an analysis of the usage of previous communications systems, such as electronic mail, IP telephony solutions, internet communicators or spot videoconferencing solutions, a whole range of inefficiencies can be found. They are both of a functional (difficulties with simultaneous use of multiple channels, e.g. telephone conversations, communicator and email) and economic (high costs of administering multiple solutions) nature. As a result of the analysis, a decision on combining the initially planned system update with the integration of communications solutions is made. Such systems are highly complementary, therefore some solutions are usually discarded, which streamlines the infrastructure. Outsourcing the development and maintenance of communications platform and moving it into the cloud (e.g. as part of UCaaS service) is more and more often becoming an additional element of projects that involve the implementation of convergent telecommunications services.
Integrating communications solutions brings many benefits. Among the most important are the savings resulting from a more streamlined infrastructure, optimization of the number of specialists involved in the maintenance of solutions and from reducing the number of licenses. However, for an efficient completion of such a project, five important actions that influence the shape of the final solution need to be taken:
When making the decision on implementing further functionalities, keep in mind the business value generated due to streamlining and integrating applications. Among the most important functionalities necessary for a productive performance of daily duties are: full integration of desktop telephones with mobile devices, implementing a single interface to access all functions within unified communication, implementing solutions that enable the introduction of call forwarding rules between business and personal mobile devices and an effective people search tool with information on their availability.
Even the most intuitive communications solution needs to be aligned with the competencies and needs of the recipients. Survey results show that convergent communications solutions should meet at least two needs: streamlining access to information (78%) and accelerating employee location tracking and contact (69%); (source: BroadSoft global survey, 2013).
The last thirty years of technology development have been full of dead ends. When planning the implementation of a new solution, make sure that you are not exposing your company to an investment with no prospects. That is why, before deciding on buying new technology solutions, always check how such systems or devices are seen by independent market analysts. It is advisable to buy solutions from the world's largest providers, who heavily invest in developing their offers and extending the relations with their business partners.
When analyzing the offers, you should consider functionality and price of the solutions as well as the capabilities of implementation partners, as it is them who will implement and maintain your solutions. Ideally, apart from implementation competencies, they should also possess the potential to adjust the systems to the individual needs of each client. That is the only way you can avoid ending up with unreliable partners, who try to pass on additional costs, for example resulting from delays in implementation or mistakes made while adapting the solutions to your needs, to their customers. This means that you need to check vendor references, implement pilot projects before going for larger endeavors and conduct meticulous analyses of internal risk factors that may impact the performance of the project.
Since the appearance of a wide range of convergent communications services in the Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) model on the market, every company that commences a channel integration project faces two alternatives: insourcing (i.e. developing systems in-house) or outsourcing? The benefits of in-house communications solutions include the possibility of using the competencies of IT department staff, who know exactly what the needs of users of the company's systems are. By choosing this option, the company can develop the system freely, according to its vision. On the other hand, among the UCaaS model's advantages are: the possibility of using mobile and fixed telephony, conference services, connections and communications equipment under a single contract that details the scope of services, scalability of the platform and charges depending on usage, without any investments needed.
The increasing popularity of remote work, along with other changes in the way daily responsibilities are fulfilled, makes the integration of various communication channels inevitable. In this situation, effective implementation of such solutions and adjusting system functionality to the specific needs of employees seem to be the major challenges.