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Best practices in deploying unified communications

Best practices in deploying unified communications
May 25, 2012in Solutions2012-05-252013-03-18solutionsen
Advances in communications hardware and software, coupled with improvements in network bandwidth and reliability, have given rise to new unified communications (UC) platforms that offer firms a wealth of new collaborative opportunities.According to the latest research by IDC, the unified...
best practices in deploying unified communications
Advances in communications hardware and software, coupled with improvements in network bandwidth and reliability, have given rise to new unified communications (UC) platforms that offer firms a wealth of new collaborative opportunities.
According to the latest research by IDC, the unified communications (UC) market in Europe was worth $2.6 billion in 2008 and will grow at an average growth rate of 39% to a value of $13.5 billion by 2013. Unified communications remains popular because it allows businesses to unlock productivity benefits, improve collaboration and even save costs. 
So, what is the best way to implement unified communications? David Ball, Solutions Manager for UC&C Product Management at Orange Business Services, says that consultancy can help organizations identify which approach is best for them.
"At Orange Business Services, we identify our customers' needs, from messaging to telephony, and help them with installation where appropriate. This includes looking at issues such as security, WAN, and LAN - it's all about getting from A to B with the most simple roadmap possible," he says.
Part of the consultancy exercise looks at which approach - premise, managed, hybrid or hosted - would best suit the business.  Today, more than 95% of UC is delivered using on-premise equipment, according to analyst Gartner. However, it predicts that by 2016, 50% of organizations will source their UC on a utility-subscription model.
on-premise or hosted
Typically, on-premise is the choice for businesses that want to keep ownership of their equipment and are well resourced in IT skills. This is a common approach for large financial services firms where security is at a premium, and they prefer to keep their infrastructure in-house. 
The hosted approach is more suited to businesses that want their service provider to manage the UC equipment from a centralized data center. This could be equipment dedicated to the customer, as in a typical managed service, or on shared infrastructure. The latter approach is typically known as UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) - a cloud service that can be priced on a per-use basis and scaled up or down easily. 
Another factor in this choice comes down to what technology the business is already using. If UC or UC-ready equipment is already in use, then the business can preserve its existing investment by using a hybrid solution. This is where Orange could either take over the management of that equipment or layer additional UC services on top of it.
integration questions
Once the customer has chosen which of the solutions will work best for them, the next variable to consider is how UC will be deployed in the company's infrastructure.
 "When you update, you have to understand the whole picture; it's more than just replacing legacy telephony PBXs or managing services. The underlying network is also important," says Ball. "You have to have the big picture of all the company's assets and networks: where devices could fit onto this, any bandwidth restrictions, what the implications of switching desk phones to headsets on PCs would be and any other issues that may impact the users' quality of service."
change management
In addition to integrating the UC solution into the businesses' IT infrastructure, it is vital to ensure that the users are comfortable with the transformation. User training plans and change management processes are required before transforming the entire workspace.
"We advise a staged implementation for a select group of UC users who will become UC champions," explains Ball. "It's inadvisable to do the change overnight on a rip-and-replace basis. There needs to be a co-existence period, offering users whatever they require to get used to the new systems, including keeping desk phones in place for comfort."
Phased implementations should be measured by an agreed set of success requirements before they are extended to other parts of the business and the co-existence period is phased out. These steps should help enterprises reap the benefits of UC.
the impact of UC on businesses
The positive impact that a click-to-communicate common UC environment will have on businesses will be experienced in many areas, including:
  • cost reductions
  • enhanced business competitiveness
  • increased productivity and efficiency
  • business continuity planning
  • employee retention
  • reduction in carbon footprint
  • auditing and compliance requirements
Source: The Workspace of the Future, Today! Whitepaper - Orange/Polycom/Microsoft, 2012

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