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Unified Communications Magazine May 2008
Volume 1 / Number 6
Unified Communications Magazine
Richard Grigonis

UC for Two (or More): Conferencing & Collaboration

It makes sense that Unified Communications also unifies people too, so that they can easily conference and collaborate with each other. The mantra of “conferencing and collaboration” has always been “doing less with more” – less expense and maintenance, more features (such as wideband audio, high fidelity video and screen sharing over the web) and now increasing mobility for users.

By Richard “Zippy” Grigonis

The number of conferencing and collaboration portfolios are increasingly daily and such solutions available as part of UC will undoubtedly help your business become more efficient, more productive and ultimately more profitable. That doesn’t mean that you should jump in with any platform, of course. The search for just the right collaboration tool can be a long one, and companies such as Dimension Data maintain professional services divisions that can do some requisite “hand-holding”, thus playing matchmaker between the perfect conferencing and collaboration UC subsystem and the business processes of your organization, be it a business, government or non-profit.

Spontaneous Collaboration with Spontania

Dialcom offers the Spontania platform, a scalable on-premise, software-only solution that enables many-to-many interactive voice, video, and data collaboration sessions on the common devices, such as PCs, PDAs, mobile phones, fixed phones, H.323 and SIP devices. At the heart of this system is Dialcom’s Spontania Convergence Server, which is is based on a client-server architecture and supports unlimited concurrent users with simplified, executable software upgrades. The Spontania Convergence Server integrates multiple services such as mobility, H.323, IM, etc. into one solution.

Dialcom’s President, Bob Johnson, says, “Dialcom’s growth in various places, such as Spain, has involved the application of specialized technology which started with video, then expanded to other kinds of modalities for communicating. We’ve done a lot of work with European telco providers, which relates to the delivery of more modern and better solutions to businesses. Essentially, we offer an applications program for enterprises, the Dialcom Spontania product, for PC-to-PC collaboration. We’re talking here about capabilities that extend beyond what you normally find on a PC, which is generally email, to include instant messaging, chat capabilities, VoIP, file sharing, whiteboarding, co-browsing, the ability to move data back-and-forth easily, and video to amplify the overall experience.”

“Spontania encompasses all of these different capabilities and it’s built for any user at any PC to be able to call them up at will and add, stop or change things at any time during the course of a collaboration,” says Johnson. “Thus, they can now use the proper type of contact, if you will, that suits both ends of the conversation, or all ends if the collaboration is multi-point in nature.”

“In addition to the main application we have a number of modules that enables the platform to ‘nestle in’ with what’s going on in what you’d call the traditional telephony side of things,” says Johnson, “so we can gateway into various existing solutions and extend the collaborative experience through telephony as well as over the Internet. We can also extend it to 3G devices in a wireless environment.”

“Turning from telephony to traditional conferencing for a moment,” says Johnson, “we have the ability to gateway ourselves into, as well as support and amplify, some of the big investments that people have made over the past 20 years in that old technology you can find in teleconference rooms. We thus have a light, flexible approach that can provide a great number of functions and capabilities to a user within an organization.”

“As a result of our business development done in Europe for the past five years, our platform can be easily integrated into various business processes,” says Johnson. “For example, contact centers have shown the most activity in terms of incorporating these collaborative technologies so that businesses can better engage other businesses and/or customer bases. We’ve done a lot of that in Europe with some pretty sophisticated partners. The trend is very much that the old ways of doing things, while originally effective, are being abandoned by a new generation of people who have experienced more advanced technologies and procedures.”

Collaboration on the Move

Ascendent Systems, a subsidiary of Research In Motion, provides enterprise voice mobility solutions possessing single number reachability, real-time notification and conferencing, and voice continuity. With these solutions, users can now automatically extend the identity and functionality of their business desk phone to any other device (BlackBerry, smart phones, cell phones, laptop, home phone, etc.). Ascendent Mobility sits at the core of the Ascendent Voice Mobility Suite, freeing users from their desks by giving them real-time, single number reach on any device. The suite unifies communications across heterogeneous devices (desk phone, cell phone, WiFi, and PBX devices) and networks (Traditional TDM and new IP-based PBX) so that users can answer their calls wherever happen to be in the world and on whatever device they choose.

Ascendent’s Heather Howland, Senior Manager of Marketing, says, “Most of the customers we work with are highly mobile. Each of them has a different way of using our product, but there are some commonalities. For example, they need to be able to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues even when they’re not at their desk. In healthcare, for example, often you’ll have a nurse who is visiting with a patient, and they need

“Being able to escalate from a chat
session to a voice session, and then
from a voice session to a conferencing
session, and then bring in web
conferencing and document sharing –
it’s becoming an expected capability...”

to contact a doctor. Thanks to our technology, they can take the mobile device and do an extension dial. They don’t have to figure out where the doctor is. They just dial the extension. Once they get the doctor on the phone, he or she might say, ‘We need to get a particular specialist on the phone so that we can determine the best course of action for this patient.’ Then, either the nurse or the doctor, from their mobile device, can instantly add somebody else into the call.”

“So, people can instantly collaborate using their familiar mobile devices and phone extensions,” says Howland. “That’s one way of using Ascendent Conferencing. Another way is in organizations that want to set up a weekly conference call, and instead of waiting for anyone to dial in to an 800 number, you can set up a ‘Get Me Conference’, wherein at the appropriate time for the call, your phone rings, you pick it up and then you’re automatically joined to the call. It’s that easy. The user has no ‘fixed’ number to call in, so if a disgruntled employee leaves the firm, he or she can’t call in and eavesdrop on your monthly sales meeting, or whatever. The important part is that people can collaborate wherever they are, easily.”

Tailored Just for You

Dimension Data is an IT services and solutions provider specializing in helping clients plan, build, support and manage their IT infrastructures. Over the years they’ve become a global leader in the provision and management of specialist IT infrastructure solutions. Indeed, they’ve helped over 6,000 clients worldwide achieve their business goals. Dimension Data’ expertise ranges across network integration, security, converged communications, data centers and storage, contact centre and Microsoft technologies.

Dimension Data’s Matt Slaga, Senior Integrated Collaboration Technical Architect, says, “Collaboration and conferencing go hand-in-hand. Being able to escalate from a chat session to a voice session, and then from a voice session to a conferencing session, and then bring in web conferencing and document sharing – it’s becoming an expected capability – a sort of rule of thumb. Collaboration and conferencing are becoming more casual activities.”

“We have a team we’ve put together to help identify opportunities and determine the best fit for the customer, as far as which platforms to choose, integrate or otherwise adapt. They can figure out what configuration yields the highest benefit for the customer. It’s able to assemble a combination of professional services, resale and VAR and VAD capabilities. We can identify the best platform, then customize it to whatever the customer really needs.”

Having someone look over your shoulder was never more fun than it is today.

Richard Grigonis is Executive Editor of TMC’s IP Communications Group.

Unified Communications Communications Magazine Table of Contents

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