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September 22, 2009

The ROI of Communications Enabled Business Processes: Talking Cost-Savings with Nortel

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor


The message that many communications providers have been hitting since major banks began collapsing 12 months ago – that it’s critical in a recession to leverage technology for cost savings – is true enough.
 
Certainly, this down economy has been shining a light on technologies such as Voice over IP and unified communications.
 
But what about when the economy turns around (as it’s already showing of doing, if you believe what you hear about housing sales and unemployment figures)? Do companies involved in VoIP and UC have less leverage?
 
As regards the economy specifically, yes. But the simple truth, regardless of the marketing strategy of the day, is that it’s always important for businesses to operate efficiently.
 
And we in the media who cover communications technology are hearing whispers now about potential mergers and acquisitions involving large players in the space – which is not only a sure sign that the economy is picking up, but also a good omen for communications providers that target the enterprise.
 
That’s a major reason why many of us are interested in “Communications Enabled Business Processes” – or “CEBP” – from Nortel (News - Alert). As the term itself implies, CEBP involves leveraging a communications infrastructure in a way that it helps a business operate.
 
That sounds simple, in theory. But consider the investments that many enterprises have made in that infrastructure, often a combination of legacy and next-gen software and hardware from different vendors and service providers.
 
In the interview (printed in full below) with Tara Mahoney, the solutions leader in CEBP for Nortel, and John Bednarek, the leader in alliances and business development for communications enabled business solutions at the Canada-based company, we get a comprehensive look at CEBP, and particularly at its “Agile (News - Alert) Communications Environment” or “ACE” software.
 
Mahoney and Bednarek – who are running a free Webinar on Thursday called “Communications Enablement: Integrating Real Time Communications into Your Business Processes” – go into some detail about their solutions’ ROI for us in one case study involving HSBC.
 
Our exchange follows.
 
TMCnet: We’re hearing more and more lately – in terms such as “business process automation” – about removing human latency from business communications, so that information, and especially requests from customers, is funneled to the correct individual in an organization in a timely manner. Talk to us about the value proposition behind Communications Enabled Business Processes – or “CEBP.” Specifically, what is new and unique about CEBP?

Tara Mahoney (pictured left): CEBP is about delivering hard dollar return on investment to companies who have made substantial investments in their business and communications infrastructure. It’s about taking those investments in communications and applications and breaking down the silos that exist between them so that communications flow in an intuitive and rapid fashion.
 
What could be more obvious, for example, than automatically triggering a communication between a purchasing agent and a supplier when an inventory level drops too low? And what if there was enough intelligence in the process to recognize the best way to achieve that communication between the two parties at that particular time? CEBP is about changing the communications game so that communications flows between people rather than being contained inside artificial barriers of time, mode or application.
 
TMCnet: Give us a good, hard example of a situation businesses commonly face, where Nortel’s CEBP comes into play to save time, internal resources and retain customers. Also: What size businesses benefit most from CEBP from Nortel?

John Bednarek (pictured left): One of the most common complaints from business people today is the spiraling costs of providing mobility to their employees. The benefits of mobility are obvious but how can costs be contained? Nortel’s Mobile Cost Optimizer is a great example of a CEBP application that leverages a customer’s investments in smartphones (ie Blackberry) to reduce roaming charges.
 
High cost, outbound calls can be converted to lower cost in-bound calls that can leverage the enterprise network to convert long distance mobile calls to local access calls. Depending on the organization and the amount of mobile activity, MCO can pay back in well under 12 months. In terms of customer size, CEBP is targeted today at larger enterprises, but depending on the application, CEBP may make sense for companies that are much smaller.
 
TMCnet: Let’s talk more specifically about Nortel’s “Agile Communication Environment,” or “ACE” software. Nortel touts the product as improving business agility, lowering capital and operating expenses and yielding higher productivity. What kinds of metrics does Nortel use to substantiate those claims? Can you cite a specific case study where a Nortel client benefitted from ACE and talk about the money that client received back on its investment in the software?

JB: Our approach with customers is to give them the tools they need to understand how ACE applications can positively impact their business. We have an extensive set of ROI calculators that put customers in the drivers seat and allow them to enter the business parameter that make sense to them and to test those assumptions by changing the variables. Our work with HSBC is a great specific case study. With HSBC the challenge was to leverage their prior investments in PBX (News - Alert) and video communications by providing integration between multi-vendor communications environments.
 
This integration aspect of the solution helps to avoid the challenges and costs inherent in seeking a single vendor technology on a global scale.
 
“It’s increasingly important to be able to use the skills and talents of a corporation’s worldwide management team as a single, united resource,” Tim Cureton, group head of telecommunications at HSBC, told Nortel. “Our unified communications solution is aimed at joining-up the decision-makers within our company globally and placing the control and convenience of their personalized communications environment in their hands. Orientating voice, video and text communications around the user - and not as it was with the user around the technology – is key to operating as one HSBC and increasing our competitive advantage on a transnational scale.”
 
While specific ROI results from HSBC are confidential, we can share the fact that, in general, Nortel unified communications solutions deliver an ROI up to 178 percent; with up to 30 percent savings on mobile communications.
 
TMCnet: Does ACE software work with only Nortel’s products – such as soft switches, videoconference systems, PBXs? What has Nortel done to ensure that the software is future-proofed?

TM: A corner-stone of the Agile Communication Environment is multi-vendor interoperability. With ACE, we have built software adaptors into our SOA based architecture. With this approach we can easily and quickly develop adaptors for a wide range of PBXs, soft switches and videoconferencing systems. For example we have adaptors for Cisco (News - Alert) Call Center Manager and Tandberg videoconferencing systems, along with a number of others.
 
Our integration into business applications includes Microsoft OCS, IBM (News - Alert) Sametime, and CareFX for healthcare applications. A key part of our strategy is to ensure that customer’s can leverage their existing investments in infrastructure and applications and take these investments to the next level without having to rip and replace or re-write applications. And our aggressive drive for interoperability will continue as we add more adaptors in the future.

Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Marisa Torrieri



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