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The UC Journey Begins

I was in Beijing recently for a customer conference, and was able to steal a few moments to explore the city’s Xiushui silk market. While pondering what gift to bring home to my daughter, I heard a vendor’s voice say, in perfect English, “You must spend money to save money!”

Those words stayed with me on the 14-hour flight home, as I read one headline after another on the worldwide economic crisis. As we begin a new year, many of us are thinking about how best to invest in technology to move our companies forward, to improve collaboration, productivity and business processes, but of course still being cognizant of keeping costs to a minimum. In better times, our investment rationale is based on lofty goals like achieving competitive advantage or operational improvements. But now, maybe it’s something much simpler.

Maybe — we spend money to save money.

It’s a good thought, especially at this time of universal belt-tightening. Historically in times like this, IT investments are more likely to stay on track while other business expenses get axed, precisely because we expect technology to save us money. “Technology is already deeply embedded in many mission-critical operations and remains critical to achieving further efficiency and productivity gains,” says John Gantz, an IDC (News - Alert) analyst. That’s why IDC recently forecast that, despite the downturn, “Worldwide IT spending will continue to grow in 2009, albeit at a slower pace.”1

The technologies of unified communications (UC) offer particular promise for driving efficiency and productivity. By extending existing investment and optimizing IT infrastructure, it reduces total cost of ownership by consolidating servers and multiple vendor solutions, eliminating the need to invest in and manage separate systems for email, instant messaging, voicemail and conferencing. And, it enables companies to better support a virtual workforce, allowing them to save money on physical office space and reduce travel with better video and audio conferencing and collaboration.

Taken together, companies can have more productive employees, leading to a greater return on investment. In short, spending money to make money.

Companies that are today implementing UC are engaged in nothing short of total transformation. Just as email revolutionized the way people exchange information, UC promises to dramatically alter the way people connect to each other. However, before investing in unified communications technology, it’s important to understand the benefits that correlate with the different phases of implementation. The benefits of UC are being realized on four levels:

1. Individual Productivity. Making each employee’s tasks easier and more effective.

2. Workgroup Productivity. Extending productivity improvements beyond sole contributors to workgroups through collaboration and conferencing.

3. Communications-Enabled Business Processes. Improving business processes by enhaing communications across multiple functions or the enterprise as a whole.

4. Enterprise Transformation. Engaging an external ecosystem of customers and partners — using unified communications and collaboration — to accelerate the creation of new products, services and channels

These are the four destinations along the UC journey each building on the previous one. Each of these destinations come with key considerations to evaluate and accrued benefits to recognize along the way. I’ll be detailing each of these and the associated benefits in this column in the coming months.

One compelling reason for beginning the UC journey now includes the very real possibility that your organization already has some of the infrastructure in place. You may have the licenses for using presence engines, instant messaging tools, and unified messaging applications, but you haven’t turned them on to use to the best advantage. It may be just be a matter of creating a logical plan with the right software and services to step through each of the destinations at a pace that makes the most sense for your organization. And if anyone asks you why you’re investing in technology at a time like this, you know what to tell them. IT


1 “Economic Crisis Response: Worldwide IT Spending 2008-2012 Forecast Update,” by John Gantz et al, IDC, November 2008.

Mike Sheridan is Senior Vice President, Strategy and Marketing at Aspect (News - Alert) Communications. With more than 20 years of experience in telecommunications and high-tech industries, Mike serves as a key strategist for Aspect Software, Inc., with a critical eye for identifying emerging and evolving markets and a knack for defining solutions to serve them. Aspect Software founded the contact center industry and is now the world’s largest company solely focused on unified communications for the contact center. (

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