welcome to the second wave of unified communications #OBL12

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Over the last decade IP telephony (IPT) has been transformed and continues to offer tangible benefits to businesses as part of unified communications (UC) or alone. This breakout session at Orange Business Live was led by Richard Heaps, Head of Product Management, Unified Communications & Collaboration, and Eric Masseboeuf, Head of the International Voice Business Unit, and looked at how IPT technology has matured and the drivers for adopting it.

According to Heaps we are now in the second wave of UC. The first wave was primarily about cost savings. There were concerns about call quality and because the products were not fully-featured, any solution typically stitched together products from a number of different vendors.

These call quality issues have now been totally overcome, and vendors’ solutions are complete reducing the complexity of having to integrate multiple technologies. In addition, in the first wave mobility was seen as a potential future component of the solution, whereas now in the second wave it is a cornerstone of the solution.

The session outlined five customer debates surrounding IPT, UC, and Voice/SIP trunking as follows:

cost control

There is no doubt that cost control is still a key driver. Businesses want to cut voice minutes, rationalize telephone platforms and operators, and gain better visibility over their spending. This is all possible with a global IPT solution. In addition, as part of its basic voice solution Orange provides centralized voice reporting that helps businesses combat fraud and cut costs. Customers have, for example, spotted calls being made from locations where they had no offices and abnormal patterns created by equipment configured incorrectly.

dealing with complexity

Fragmented systems create complexity with problems, such as many different contracts, inconsistent quality of service (QoS) and difficulty in scaling. To avoid this, you need to take a global approach to IPT and UC and deliver the service over many different access networks, such as xDSL. To support this, Orange offers SIP trunking, as already implemented with its own value-added services, such as conferencing, delivered on top of the Orange global voice backbone.

as a service: the cloud approach to UC

Cloud services have momentum and it seems that everybody wants everything as a service. UC is no different, and Orange has more than 20 customers who have taken UC-as-a-service (UCaaS). Why do businesses want UC as a service? It offers automation, and you can provision through a single web interface. It is flexible because it is pay-as-you use so you can add and remove users as your circumstances change.

But there are different speeds of cloud adoption and in most cases Orange will have to integrate cloud services into your environment. This can also include managing legacy equipment. In addition, customization doesn’t work as well in cloud services, and for very big deployments it may make sense to have your own equipment.

the rise and rise of Microsoft Lync

The Microsoft interface continues to be very popular with businesses and the latest versions of Microsoft Lync offer a complete unified communications experience, including enterprise-class telephony. In addition the support issues around Lync have been eliminated, and Orange is certified to provide end-to-end support for customers.

end-user adoption

The vital importance of change management in unified communications must not be overlooked. For a UC deployment to be a success, you will need to involve users from the start, offer adequate training and provide decent equipment. The latter is essential if you are choosing to move away from deskphones to softphones. You will have to provide the very best headsets and webcams to make the transformation as popular as possible.

The presentation included an example of an IT manager who negotiated a very big discount on Microsoft LiveMeeting, but who suffered because he did not address user adoption adequately. He just sent out an email inviting users to use the solution. When he calculated the cost per user, he found that the cost was a staggering $10,000 per active user.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.