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UC for Competitive Enterprises

o Tom S. Noda
25.09.2009 kl 18:42 |

Although the present pace of unified communications (UC) adoption in the Philippines is reportedly low and slow, technology firms continue to make advancements, having tested and proven its benefits to some popular organizations.

 

Although the present pace of unified communications (UC) adoption in the Philippines is reportedly low and slow, technology firms continue to make advancements, having tested and proven its benefits to some popular organizations.

For example, UC's power, according to Microsoft, helps a company to reduce costs on travel, communications and IT, while at the same time enabling the organization to improve on its business operations in a more sustainable way.

Data collaboration and convergence are the other terms used to describe UC. Convergence refers to achieving new IT capacities by mixing up various technologies, while collaboration refers to having an access into a single interface to achieve collaboration or real-time business results.

UC, therefore, is an innovation that binds telephony and computing for "real-time" messaging, whether email, voice, SMS (text messaging), fax, among others. The said technologies will have the capacities of real-time communication services like instant messaging or chatting, video conferencing, IP telephony, and even telepresence.

To learn more about the latest advancements on UC, Computerworld Philippines interviewed three UC vendors such as Avaya, Cisco, and Microsoft, who continue to innovate on the technology to help businesses streamline operations while cutting on technology costs and having new IT capabilities.

COST SAVER

For Avaya, UC was a natural progression of the company's telephony solutions and now offers a portfolio of UC architectures that serves as, what they call, "cost saver" in these tough economic times.

Edgar Doctolero, country director of Avaya Philippines, shares that earlier this year Avaya unveiled its breakthrough architecture on UC called the Avaya Aura. It is an evolution of Avaya's open and extensible IP communications platform.

"Avaya Aura packages new and existing functions, including communication manager, and enables SIP-based session management," he says. "Aura simplifies complex networks, reduces infrastructure costs, and connects employees at any location. It delivers voice, video, unified messaging, presence, web applications, mobile clients, and multimedia conferencing."

Doctolero claims Avaya Aura helps businesses in saving on IT costs since they can leave existing multi-vendor equipment and applications in place and bring in the benefits and simplicity of Avaya Aura's architecture to drive significant and rapid return on investment (ROI) and with the promise of greater business agility in the future.

"We've been working on to improve our UC in the last six years and our focus has been on voice solutions and applications development," Doctolero says, noting Avaya's customers for UC range from small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and even large enterprises.

"We have solutions tailored fit for organizations of all sizes across all industries, most especially if communications is an integral part of their business," he says.

Besides the enterprise, the other sectors that Avaya currently caters with its UC solution are manufacturing firms, banks, call centers, financial services particularly on insurance claims.

Doctolero says UC offers a big help when it comes to loans applications and enables faster business processes.

However, he stresses that "no IT vendor has end-to-end UC solutions," so Avaya partners with companies of different communication devices.

"Some of Avaya's handheld device partners include Blackberry, Nokia, Samsung, and Apple iPhone. We run mobile applications with these devices, involving desktop integration, collaboration, and conferencing," he explains.

The executive says the significance of UC among SMBs is that it places them in global competition against big corporations. For instance, he cited the benefits of using Avaya's IP Office solution which enables local SMBs to build their own contact center.

Doctolero shares Avaya this August is scheduled to launch in the Philippines its IP Office Software that provides a set of tools to help companies streamline operations, centralize management, and reduce total cost of ownerships (TCO) for converged networks for SMBs with multiple locations.

MOBILE POWER

Yet for companies who want to exploit on mobility, Cisco made enhancements last March on its UC system that enable mobile access ranging from improved video collaboration and extended interoperability across applications and devices such as Cisco WebEx Connect, Cisco TelePresence, Microsoft Office Communicator and the Apple iPhone.

Stephen "Tep" Misa, country manager of Cisco Philippines, reveals that for businesses, the new Cisco UC solutions streamline workflows, optimize collaboration and accelerate decision-making.

"Our differentiated architectural approach to unified communications and collaboration allows customers to integrate and interoperate with Cisco solutions, homegrown business applications and third-party products. By delivering an 'any-to-any' platform, Cisco gives customers flexibility in how they transform communication and collaboration in any workspace, whether that workspace is a mobile device, contact center environment, desktop client or Cisco Unified IP Phone," Misa explains.

The executive notes that UC targets all the market segments.

"We have been very successful in delivering unified communications from SMBs to enterprise segments and we've also done implementation on government agencies, contact centers, among others," he says.

Misa shares Insular Life, an insurance company, is one UC customer of Cisco today. The company deployed the solution in its three sites in Makati, Cebu, and Alabang.

According to Misa, Cisco's UC uses a "pervasive" reach of an intelligent network to more closely link communications with business processes. Thus, the approach enables them to build voice and other UC innovations into the network so that enhanced communication and collaboration go everywhere the network goes.

"Because Cisco integrates intelligence throughout the network, unified communications are more secure, more reliable, and easier to manage," he claims.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and other social media tools, Misa says Cisco recently decided to keep up the pace of innovation and raise the level to an even broader set of tools which they simply termed as collaboration.

"The Cisco Collaboration portfolio is a solution of network infrastructure, communications devices and software that helps to create a seamless, highly secure collaborative workspace experience, ranging from text chat to UC, to WebEx to TelePresence," Misa says.

UNIFIED PLATFORM

Meanwhile, in response to the global financial downturn, Microsoft developed its Unified Communications Suite targeted at organizations whose main objective is to reduce the operating costs of travel, telecommunications, and IT, while enabling them to improve their business outcomes.

"Organizations nowadays are looking at how they can minimize and control operational costs without sacrificing their competitive advantage," says Marivi Abueg, product manager for Information Worker, Microsoft Philippines.

"At Microsoft, we believe that our UC solution is a platform that is truly unified. By this, we mean that the platform we are offering allows seamless integration with applications like Office, Outlook, Sharepoint, CRM and many others."

Abueg says because of the connection of Microsoft's UC solution to the mentioned applications, users are able to do tasks efficiently and effectively which in turn transforms and improves the way people do business, like making a call right out of an email inbox or from a Sharepoint site.

Among the actual users of Microsoft's UC suite are AXA Tech, BMW, Care1st Health Plan, CG35, City of Bellevue, Shell, Volvo, and many others.

Locally, LBC Express, a popular courier and money remittance firm in the Philippines, is currently in the process of implementing Microsoft's UC platform into their IT infrastructure.

LBC's move, Abueg says, was brought about by the need of the organization to cultivate employee productivity as well as improve their communication system across all branches of their company.

"LBC Express wanted a technology that can not only bridge the gap in terms of their communication system across branches, but also provide them an easier way to handle and exchange data," she says. "With the company's move to expand their branches overseas, solutions must not only fix the problem, it should also give them the capacity to develop better ways to serve their customers better."

With the help of Microsoft's partner First Data Corp., LBC Express initiated the implementation of the UC Suite to its IT infrastructure earlier this year.

Microsoft's UC offering is a "UC-client-software-suite" which includes email, instant messaging, presence, unified messaging, audio & video conferencing, as well as collaboration services.

The key products of Microsoft's UC platform include the Exchange/Outlook for e-mail & UM, Office Communications Server (OCS), and LiveMeeting for conferencing and collaboration.

"Earlier this year, we have successfully released the second version of Office Communications Server. And by the end of the year, we will ship Exchange 2010, our next release of our e-mail server," Abueg says, adding Microsoft also offers its UC solution as a service through the Microsoft Online.

UC IN THE FUTURE

Despite the many benefits of UC, the Philippine UC market remains relatively small compared to other Asia-Pacific countries, according to research firm IDC Philippines.

IDC tells Computerworld Philippines that the economic crisis has caused spending in UC to slow down, and this will likely continue throughout 2009.

Although recovery is expected in 2010, IDC believes spending in UC will see good growth on that time as there has been a significant increase in telecommuting among enterprises recently, which means that many companies will be placing more value on having the ability to collaborate and enhance productivity with minimum traveling required.

IDC says among the local sectors that will benefit from UC adoption in the future are healthcare, IT and IT services, and most especially telco companies who are currently on top in the adoption rate.

Yet IDC says they see interests from a wide range of verticals, including hospitality services, utilities and manufacturing to adopt UC in one to two years time.

"Rather than committing to full implementations, I think companies will be looking to transition to UC in project-sized steps. And, as we move in to more cost-conscious times, both large enterprises and SMBs alike will be looking to recognize an ROI over a period of 12-18 months," Doctolero says.

He adds Avaya also expects an increase adoption of UC across the region as more businesses revisit their IT strategy and opt for solutions that lower their cost of doing business.

"As a report by independent market analyst Datamonitor found out, economic issues are set to drive, rather than inhibit, growth in unified communications," notes Doctolero.

As for Cisco, Misa says innovation will take the company forward to the point where high-end video technologies such as TelePresence will become affordable enough for the home and every device will be connected into the Internet of things. "This is the future."

Microsoft expresses the same positive sentiments. "The UC solutions will be able to transform businesses in the same way e-mail changed the business landscape in the 1990s. Also, as the UC industry moves from costly and incompatible PBX/IP PBX to easy-to-use and cost-effective, we believe the innovations on this transformative solution will allow for simplified and better user interfaces, deeper integration into workflow processes and more flexible deployment options," says Abueg.

Keywords: Networking  
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