This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine
Unified communications in the cloud, also known as hosted or on-demand UC and UCaaS, is a proven business solution that many growing enterprises continue to adopt. Modeled after successful SaaS (News - Alert) companies that have gained name-brand recognition by making the gamut of software available – from CRM to storage to a host of other business applications – UC in the cloud has evolved to provide a wide range of undeniable benefits. However, until now, one key area of UC integration has been missing: mobility.
The benefits of today’s existing UCaaS solutions are compelling as economic conditions dictate that organizations run tight ships with scarce budgets and resources. Many organizations are outsourcing non-core applications and activities, including communications and IP telephony services. IT organizations lack the in-house expertise and resources required to integrate disparate communication solutions and to keep up with maintenance and upgrades. UCaaS providers do this for them seamlessly. Additionally, organizations receive best-in-breed applications for a low monthly fee with no capital outlay while eliminating the headaches of vendor management, integration, upgrades and network challenges encountered when building in-house UC solutions.
To date, UC solutions in the cloud have provided a great way for enterprises to enhance their users’ communications and productivity. Users are better able to manage powerful applications such as presence, VoIP/telephony services, collaboration, unified messaging and voicemail through a unified interface to make certain workers do not miss important meetings, messages and ideas. Successful implementations and innovations of UC services have focused primarily on fixed employees in corporate offices – UC for the desktop.
For example, a successful full-service regional bank in the San Francisco Bay area needed a voicemail solution with 100 percent redundancy for site-to-site fail over. The bank determined that a UCaaS solution would streamline communications for all seven locations without capital expenditures and lower monthly recurring expenses. The ability to leverage technology for a predictable monthly cost gave the bank an advantage in the market, and the transition to the new service over a weekend was completely transparent to both internal and external clients.
The Missing Link – UC Mobility in the Cloud
UC in the cloud has redefined worker productivity and amplified organizations’ ability to communicate and collaborate more effectively. But what about mobile workers and road warriors? The missing link in the evolution of UC has been the true integration of mobility for today’s real-world work environment. Executives and employees work and communicate from the desk phone, laptop, and mobile phone, and from the office, on the road and from home. The growth opportunity for UC in the cloud lays in fixed mobile convergence and true UC mobility, where users can connect from anywhere, with any device, and access the same applications and features.
Organizations will unleash the full power of hosted UC when workers have true mobility to check the same voice mailbox from cell or desk phone; when they can dial a four-digit extension from a cell phone; when they can place integrated calls within the enterprise regardless of phone, device or location; and when they are able to use one phone, moving between home or office and everywhere else and enjoy the same features and applications.
It is easy to see the many areas of the company that benefit from UC mobility solutions, including sales and sales support, senior executives, IT, field engineers, home and remote workers and more. So why aren’t there a flood of solutions on the market to enable these mobile workers?
Bringing together best-of-breed enterprise UC applications with mobile and other devices through a single set of features and one interface is no easy task. Integration can be time consuming and expensive and eat up precious IT resources, not to mention the ongoing upgrade and maintenance costs. Enter the case for UC mobility in the cloud.
Recently service providers have taken on this mobility integration challenge, and organizations will begin to see offerings that incorporate fixed and mobile devices sharing the same applications and benefits of UC.
UC Mobility & Today’s Work Processes
The reality of today’s corporate environment is that most employees work in many places and from many devices. The mobile workforce has become good at checking corporate voicemail, cell phone voicemail and emailing from different devices. Yet it would be so much more convenient and efficient to check availability through presence, IM colleagues and immediately jump onto a conference call to discuss a contract or resolve a customer service issue on the spot.
UC mobility provides powerful features that previously were only available on enterprise phones and desktops:
Simple extension dialing
Employees can make enterprise calls from the wireless phone by dialing a four-digit extension, just like they do from the desk phone.
One phone number
Workers are always reachable with a single phone number that rings to both the desk phone and the wireless phone simultaneously. This streamlines the process of checking all the various voicemails and makes it easier for other individuals to reach mobile employees.
Wireless and desk phones share a single voicemail inbox using the enterprise voicemail platform for extremely simplified communications.
Employees can easily move from mobile phone to desk phone to get the most out of mobility.
Organizations stand to gain much in the way of productivity and improved communications by providing employees with intuitive FMC solutions that not only support but improve their business processes.
Faster response time
Mobile workers and executives facilitate faster, more flexible communications over the best medium. For example, an individual can configure calls to ring both the desk and mobile phones from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., then select calls to ring only to the desk or only to the mobile phone after 6 p.m.
Access to one number and one voice mailbox streamlines the former process of checking several voice mailboxes and also makes it easier to reach the desired individual. Calls are transferred seamlessly between desk phones and wireless phones.
Simpler user experience
Employees appreciate the ease of use of four-digit intra-company dialing from their wireless devices, whether in the office or on the road. Employees can continue to dial outside the enterprise using 10 digits, as they always have, which also means they won’t have to change the contact numbers on their wireless phones. Since employees use only one voicemail system and feature set, using the system is simple and easy.
Improved customer satisfaction
Customers and co-workers can reach employees with one call, and can rest assured knowing their voicemail won’t sit unheard in an office inbox while employees are on the road.
As UC mobility solutions gather steam and deployment takes place quickly, UC mobility in the cloud promises attractive ROIs that are higher than enterprise or desktop-based UC.
First, UCaaS solutions offer hard cost savings ranging from the elimination of hardware expenses, monthly recurring charges and upgrade and maintenance costs. In many cases organizations can eliminate desk phones altogether for employees who are out of the office frequently. Real estate costs can even decrease as workers are allowed to work with powerful communications tools from home or on the road. Mobility reduces those costs even further with intra-enterprise dialing and reduced telephony charges.
UCaaS solutions also contribute to business process optimization in several ways. By moving to an on-demand UC model, organizations can focus on their core competencies, complete projects faster, shorten the sales cycle, increase employees’ productivity and effectiveness, increase the availability and business continuity of communications services, improve support for mobility, and increase customer and employee satisfaction.
With UC mobility solutions available today and not as a vision in the future, companies can enjoy immediate cost savings while redefining business processes around mobility and communications.
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Edited by Jaclyn Allard