By Vishy Gopalakrishnan, AVP, Product Marketing Management, Unified Communications & Collaboration, AT&T
Asia Pacific companies of all sizes are already using unified communications (UC) to enhance productivity and innovation by making it easier for staff to collaborate. But why aren’t more businesses in the region adopting UC or making full use of the UC solutions and services they already have?
IT executives tell me that a clearer understanding of what UC is and what it can do is needed in Asia Pacific. Here then is my definition of UC: multiple communication and collaboration tools unified behind a single user interface that is accessible on multiple fixed and mobile devices.
To get up to speed on UC technology, there are three realities to keep in mind.
- Your business needs will shape your UC solution (and evolve it).
If you have communication and collaboration tools – voice calling, email and instant messaging, for example – you have already laid the groundwork for a UC solution. The next step is to select the combination of tools you need and add new features such as mobility and presence. It’s important to base your decisions on your business needs and merge your UC with the tools and business processes you use every day.Inevitably, what you need your UC to do will change over time and a reliable, scalable web conferencing solution that offers a selection of meeting solutions can best suit your business needs. For example, we are now seeing the highly mobile Asian workforce wanting to use web conferencing solutions to keep in touch via mobile devices. Therefore, AT&T provides a rich array of global audio capabilities, in conjunction with high-definition (HD) video and in-depth WebEx® web conferencing features. Attendees can join conferences smoothly with local, in-country phone numbers in more than 150 countries, helping improve performance and reliability and helping reduce meeting related costs.
- Your UC solution may include multiple vendors (that are not exactly ‘unified’).
UC is not a single technology, application or service. Your UC solution may include multiple IT vendors, UC tools providers, mobile carriers and operating systems. Managing a multi-vendor environment can be difficult, especially across borders in Asia Pacific, where vastly different technologies, standards and regulatory regimes will be encountered. This is made more challenging because it can be challenging to recruit staff in Asia Pacific with the skills to manage secure UC infrastructure in house.
Disparate unified communications (UC) systems have made seamless collaboration problematic in the past. AT&T UC Federation now allows suppliers, partners and customers to communicate in real time across different supported platforms.
- Your UC solution can save you money (when it’s done right).
UC can help you simplify your infrastructure and make the best of existing equipment. With the tools and solutions that are right for your people and business environment, you’ll also benefit from improved access to information, streamlined processes and reduced meeting related travel expenses.
The case for cloud UC
Embracing these realities today means looking seriously at UC as a managed service via the cloud. Cloud UC offers many advantages over traditional premise-based UC.
In the cloud, you can mesh your office and mobile environments, providing UC functionality and a high level of security across diverse devices, platforms and networks. You also can rapidly scale up and out across Asia Pacific and the world.
With a managed UC, you get a single point of responsibility for a full range of multi-vendor UC solutions and solutions. This can greatly simplify network management and make it easier to keep up to date with the latest upgrades and releases.
Furthermore, you can often exchange a capital investment for an operating expense. Cloud UC may not require an up-front investment and lets you use the equipment and applications you already have. Plus, many UC services allow you to pay per seat based on your requirements, and include maintenance, support and upgrade costs in the service fee. This makes it easier for IT executives to make the business case for UC as they can more readily calculate the expected return-on-investment. For example, one multinational recently deployed a UC service to integrate IP telephony and audio conferencing in the cloud. It tremendously reduced its Asia Pacific communications costs while avoiding capital investment and enhancing quality for users.
With a managed cloud UC service, you are also free to focus on making the solution work for you, rather than making the technologies work together. The most successful Asia-wide UC deployments I have seen had three things in common:
- A clear business objective that the UC was addressing;
- The buy-in and support of the senior executive team; and
- Staff training on how to use UC to make the workday more efficient and enjoyable.
Cloud UC is bringing clarity to the subject of unified communications and is fast emerging as the future of UC in the enterprise.