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Unified Communications Magazine July 2007                                                                                                                Volume 1 / Number 1

 

 


Shimano Gears Up for US



By Erik Linask, Case Study

 

In an age where businesses have a growing number of traveling and off-site employees, many of them are struggling to understand how they can best make use of technology to make their changing business environment more effective. Most businesses have a large number of workers in various groups dealing with different people and different tasks - but they are all ultimately working toward the same end goal. In order to keep them all tightly connected and focused on that goal, many companies are seeking out unified communications solutions to create the most effective business process.

According to David Leach, Siemens Communications' Senior Public Consultant, Shimano, which produces high quality equipment for bicycling, fishing, and various other outdoor activities, is the perfect example. Across the globe, the Shimano is equated with top-of-theline products, and Shimano's goal was to find a way to leverage its technology to ensure it can retain its place in the market.

Shimano was looking to create tight connectivity between its customer facing staff and its back office personnel, which it ultimately concluded could be most effectively achieved through a unified communications solution. With unified communications, Shimano felt it could create a more efficient way for both internal staff and customers to connect with the most appropriate staff to resolve any issues that might arise. For companies like Shimano, unified communications enables increased levels of customer responsiveness and drives effective, real-time business processes.




Bill Crane, Shimano's IT and Telecom Director, said that, knowing its North America presence would be expanding, Shimano had been contemplating evolving its communications system for over a year. According to Crane, there was nothing wrong with the existing system from Siemens, and the company had been contemplating a new VoIP system, mostly as a novelty. However, Crane realized that the communications industry had reached the point where developers and manufacturers were slowing, or even ceasing, the development of new products for their older systems, and understood that IP was really the way to do if Shimano wanted to be ready for the future.

One of the new features, which would have been impossible with an older system, was the connectivity with Shimano's operation in Canada. In fact, Crane said connectivity with other locations was the single biggest driver of Shimano's decision to deploy a new IP-based communications system from Siemens.

"With UC, it was just a thought at the time,but it's really becoming real. We had Siemens system, which is why they looked to them again, said Crane. "We had confidence they would be able to support such a major change, like completely replacing the system with a new technology. We did look at other systems, but it came down to the comfort level we had with our relationship with Siemens."

Crane added: "We changed out all of our phones and went completely VoIP. We did it because it was convenient and we were looking to do it, but VoIP was what everybody was doing. If you wanted any future advancement in technology, you had to go with a VoIP phone system. We were looking toward the future, for a system that would last for some time and one that we would be able to add onto."

Shimano moved forward carefully and methodically.

Shimano began with Siemens' HiPath 4000 communications platform, and the Expressions unified messaging platform, the OpenScape converged communications solution, the ProCenter contact center solution, as well as both optiPoint and OpenStage endpoints. The heart of the system, the HiPath 4000, gives Shimano a unified business communications platform that is capable of connecting any combination of TDM and VoIP technologies. It has allowed Shimano the flexibility to deploy VoIP where it made sense and where the networks were ready for it, and to roll over additional sites at their convenience.

"Shimano liked the suite of products and felt it was in its best interest to buy a whole solution set from a single vendor that would address the various parts of their communications challenge," said Leach.

Now, with the new system in place, Shimano's Irvine, California North American headquarters is connected to it facilities in Canada, South Carolina, and Washington. It also ensures its mobile workforce can easily stay connected while on the road. Though the communications hub is in Irvine, other facilities have been added to the voice mail system, to the ACD facility, to the corporate directory, and to various other pieces of the Siemens solution that enable physically disparate operations to effectively operate as one. Currently, Shimano has some 250 North American staff on the OpenScape platform.

When Shimano needed to add its South Carolina and Washington operations to the system, the phones were configured by Shimano and shipped to the sites, according to Crane. "The people there just part of the system, merely as extensions configured over the Internet. We just shipped them the phones and they were off and running."

Crane explained that one of the benefits is, in fact, that Shimano can do all of its own provisioning using a simple client assistant. Each phone, he said, takes about ten minutes - and it only takes that long because most have multiple numbers and routing sequences to configure. As for user training, he said the learning curve is such that new users can easily be trained by their office neighbor.

"There are a lot of things that we do now that we would never have thought of previously," explained Crane.

In fact, he explained that, what took longer than originally expected was the OpenScape and ACD configurations - and that was because it took some getting used to the new features that were available to Shimano on the new system.

"With OpenScape, you have a new freedom, and it takes a little while to understand what you have. You sometimes first try to do things the 'old' way, and then learn there are many new possibilities," he said.

Among those new features is the presence awareness capabilities provided by OpenScape. In face, Crane said the he had never considered presence awareness as a value added feature, but when Shimano first decided to use OpenScape for its sales force, it quickly became evident that, in order to fully realize the benefits of the platform, there had be other people on the system as well. Now, Crane says, the presence capabilities have introduced a whole new experience to the Shimano team.

The presence capabilities help users not only identify the appropriate people to contact, but also provides insight into their availability and their preferred method for contact. Most communications are a blind guess, but unified communications eliminates the guesswork, creating time savings and increased responsiveness.

"It really enables a more fluid and direct business transaction," said Leach.

For Shimano, the biggest benefit since installing the new system has been the single number, single point of contact capabilities offered by OpenScape. However, from a more functional perspective, according to Crane, the greatest benefit might be knowing the opportunity exists to easily expand the system with many of the new features and products that are being developed.

"We couldn't have even approached that with our old system," he said, "So it's really the ability to move into the future."

Erik Linask is Associate Editor of INTERNET TELEPHONY, IMS Magazine, and Unified Communications.

 







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