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November 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 11
Inside Networking

Accelerating Business through Unified Communications

How many cases do you know of, in which a patient in a hospital knows they will be discharged on a particular day, as do the ward nursing staff, but the actual discharge takes place only after hours of sitting around and waiting? The problem is that the doctors required to authorize the discharge are often hard to reach.

This has changed for Orlando Regional Healthcare, which has deployed a communications-enabled Patient Discharge application that has shortened discharge times by 4 hours. This is an excellent example of how accelerating communications can improve costs, quality of care, patient safety and efficiency.

You don’t work in healthcare?

How about faster transaction completion, resulting in increased transaction volume and/or reduced transaction costs, primarily in the areas of sales support, manufacturing, and delivery/logistics? Or improved support for corporate tasks, by embedding communications within applications required for corporate functions, such as expediting approvals? Or automated notification, for example, to reduce inventory and expedite shortfall handling? Or shortened sales cycles and increased revenues by providing better connectivity to field/sales folks?

Communications enabling business processes can accelerate ‘time to X’ — time to decision, to revenue, to service, to support, to product, in 2 ways. Users should be able initiate UC sessions directly from the business applications they use; and business processes should be able to be accelerated by directly initiating UC sessions (e.g. notifications) without human intervention (e.g. triggered by some event).

There are three important principles you can follow:

Open Ecosystems: Communications-enabled applications can only become mainstream if they can leverage a large ecosystem of software developers and use well-established software development tools and frameworks. The answer therefore lies in making communications services available to business applications through Web Services and Service-oriented Architecture (SOA). SOA is an architectural style designed to add flexibility to application development.

Network and Vendor-Agnostic: The capabilities made available to applications (e.g. check presence, notify, locate, call, bandwidth request) must be independent of the underlying communications technologies and the vendors involved. Vertically-integrated single vendor network-centric approaches just don’t wash, as they will present bottlenecks to application innovation.

Cross-Domain: In many cases, the value to the business will be greatest if communications enablement can cross domains, defined traditionally as carrier-enterprise, wired-wireless, public-private, and enterprise-partner.

Accelerating the business through SOA-enabled, open, cross-domain communications-enabled applications will deliver increased business agility, accuracy, service velocity and business productivity. IT

Tony Rybczynski is Director of Strategic Enterprise Technologies at Nortel.

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