What to Buy for Your Unified Communications Plan

What to Buy for Your Unified Communications Plan

11/12/2014 2 Comments

Unified Communications can be acquired in a variety of ways. In almost all cases, UC solutions are layered solutions that combine or "consume" the functions of the multiple applications and communications platforms or servers to provide the optimal functionality for your users (UC-U) or business processes (UC-B). Of course, this is consistent with the architectural concepts of SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) and/or Web 2.0 (using Web Services in a variety of forms). In other words, generally you should not have to buy a new PBX or a new E-mail or IM platform to deploy UC solutions. 

A two-hour video recording is available of two UCStrategies.com Experts, Don Van Doren and Marty Parker, reviewing the top three UC implemenation options and a list of top suppliers in each of the three categories, as presented at InterOp Las Vegas 2010.  Use this time index for easy navigation of the video. 

Your approach to UC should depend on your business requirements and appplications. Here are some examples of business requirements that would drive towards specific UC deployments based on four (4) general types, described later on this page:

  • New PBX Purchase: Perhaps you need to buy an IP PBX due to obsolescence of your existing PBX or due to business growth or relocations; in this case, you can likely use Telecom-Based UC solution elements (below) to meet your UC application requirements. 
  • Cutting Expenses: Perhaps you need to cut travel, overtime, office space, telecom or cellular bills, etc.; in this case, using Extend Desktop types of UC solutions (below) for most users or for targeted workgroups will have the most impact (e.g. conferencing and desktop sharing tools to cut travel or enable tele-workers). 
  • Improving Productivity: Perhaps you must do business with fewer employees. Again, you will likley deploy Extend Desktop types of UC Productivity tools based on your business software packages (Exchange, Notes, Office, collaboration tools (SharePoint, Quickr, WebEx Connect, etc.), using presence to avoid wasted communications and new collaborative tools to speed up the work. 
  • Supporting Mobility: Perhaps you need to support your mobile personnel while cutting expenses for cellular minutes and territory transit time; in this case, you can select one of the Mobility-Based UC packages (below) available from wireless device makers (e.g. RIM), from IP PBX providers, or from the desktop software producers.  
  • Revising Your Value Chain: Perhaps your business is trying to make major improvements in throughput, customer responsiveness, logistics efficiency, new product time-to-market, or sales cycle time-to-revenue; in these cases, you will likely use Application-Based UC (below) to integrate communications into the application software packages and device/PC portals that your personnel use in doing their jobs. 

Based on all of these examples, which are supported by actual results as reported in the Case Study Library, we find four (4) major categories of UC deployments, as shown below.  These four types were reviewed at VoiceCon San Francisco 2008, "Architectural Options for Unified Communications" (download presentation or audio track).  

Each of the four (4) architectural options are shown here as a schematic diagram.  You can review potential suppliers for each option on the UC Suppliers page. The elements that are changed, upgraded or added to the typical IT/Telecom infrastructure are show as green boxes. 

Telecom-Based UC: Adds presence (possibly with IM) and UC clients to existing voice and video communications, often with mobility options and features; links to desktop and value-chain applications to deliver the required UC solutions.

Telecom-Based UC Schematic

  Per the illustration, this option will:

  • Add presence to voice, video
  • Link to e-mail, info resources, and desktop clients
  • Include one or more mobility option(s)
 You would choose this option:
  • If your operation has high number of voice calls
  • If your operation has many field, retail or branch personnel
  • If your business is not driven by software applications
    or has few collaborative or document-intensive processes
Possible process / job examples for this option include:
  • Retail stores or retail services
  • Retail financial services and brokers
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Field sales, local gov’t.

 

Extend Desktop UC: Adds voice and video to existing Presence, IM, text and web communications, often with mobility options and features: links to value chain applications and possibly PBX assets to deliver the required UC solutions. 

Extend Desktop UC Schematic

Per the illustration, this option will: 

  • Add voice, video to existing tools*
  • Enable desktop features on wireless devices
  • Add conferencing or collaborative workspace tools*

            * Either via desktop provider’s offers or via PBX integration

You would choose this option:
  • If your operation is based on e-mail and related tools
  • If your operation has many collaborative or document-intensive jobs
  • If your business is centered on knowledge sharing
Possible process / job examples for this option include:
  • Finance (investment bankers)
  • Professional services (consultants)
  • HQ/staff, marketing, development
  • State / national government

 

 Mobility-Based UC: Adds network interface, call/signalling control module and application software to existing infrastructure to deliver required UC solutions.

Mobility-Based UC Schematic

Per the illustration, this option will:

  • Manage calls to mobile persons via the Mobility Server
  • Use the Wireless Device as an enterprise end-point
  • Possibly make the Wireless Device the only telephony end-point
  • Possibly eliminate the desk phone
  • Use the PBX for dial plan & gateway
  • Usually applies to only to specific jobs/processes
You would choose this option:
  • If your operation centers on a mobile workforce
  • If your people are core to process or transaction completion
Possible process / job examples for this option include:
  • Manufacturing and distribution roles such as logistics
  • Insurance field personnel
  • Transportation
  • Some Government roles
  • Health care, both clinical and administrative roles
  • Professional services – for mobile resources

 

Application-Based UC: Embeds or links to communications modules to provide fully integrated portal environment for the specific job or role to deliver the required UC solutions.

Application-Based UC Schematic

Per the illustration, this option will:

  • Place communication links in job-based application portals
  • Place application links in desktop communication clients
  • Utilize communication services or PBXs or VoIP Systems
You would choose this option:
  • If your operation is primarily driven by software applications
  • If your people mostly work on transactions, logistics
  • If your business is focused on supply chain management
Possible process / job examples for this option are:
  • Manufacturing and Distribution roles with ERP, SCP, PRM applications
  • Insurance claims management
  • Retail financial services (brokers, insurance agents, etc.)
  • Logistics or Transportation roles in any industry 

 

More guidance on "What to Buy" for the eight (8) UC Applications is available in the UC RFP section.

 

   UC Resources Section             To add content or links to UC Resources contact:
Organized and Managed by         mparker@UCStrategies.com
   UniComm Logo             Text (c) 2014 M. F. Parker. Content (c) as indicated.

 

2 Responses to "What to Buy for Your Unified Communications Plan" - Add Yours

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Dan Aronson 7/9/2009 11:03:55 AM

When are you so called "experts" going to realize that almost every business that is large enough to make an investment in UC still uses fax, and therefore start adding FoIP to your product mixes and fancy diagrams? There isn't one Fortune 500 company that does NOT have a mission critical business application that uses fax -- not voice, not email, not IM, not video conferencing, not presence or collaboration. Tell me, oh wise one, how would you advise these organizations to integrate fax communications into their networks? With fax machines, whose average op-ex is over $3K per year? And how are these archaic devices connected to UC systems? - With POTS lines that are stupidly expensive? - ATA's that don't work? - FXS ports? VG devices? - Legacy fax servers running on dedicated servers with dedicated circuits? You need to wake up and read the 2008 Gartner report that concluded that fax is not about to disappear despite the introduction of these newer communication technologies that you gurus love to feature. You know; the ones that are nearly impossible to create a hard-dollar ROI for. Meanwhile, implementing a Fax-over-IP server will almost always render a hard-dollar ROI of less than one year! As long as you continue to ignore fax as part of a UC strategy, you are leading your readers down a path that will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in cap-ex and op-ex over the next several years. That would be more than enough to get any alleged UC Consultant fired, and I sure wouldn’t want to be looking for a job in this economy -- would you?
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Marty 7/18/2009 8:19:51 AM

Hi, Dan,
Great post. Thanks for reviewing the diagrams, the intention of which is to show how UC is added to existing systems (including their fax components), rather than to entirely replace the existing communications systems (which is usually not justified).
There are actually a dozen or so "applications" that don't show up in these diagrams, including attendant consoles, management systems, monitoring systems, IVR systems, call centers, E-911 systems, paging systems, door access/spark free phones, etc., etc.
If I convert your comments and critiques into an action plan, it would be a good thing to consider for those companies that have a fax component of their call center or other business processes. Mangement of faxes to individual DID numbers got pretty well solved in the 90's with fax in voice mail and then unified messaging, which capture the incoming fax in a server and supported outbound fax created at the desktop, thus eliminating the need for personal or nearby fax machines for casual faxes.
In summary, I agree with you and Gartner that fax will be here for some time for specific business processes, and that it will remain a factor for enterprise communications system design. That it is not shown in these diagrams is not a contradiction. So far, the users of our UC RFPs (see http://www.ucstrategies.com/unified-communications-rfp-and-rfi-toolkits.aspx) have been satisfied, so we've got plenty of work. Hope that's true for you, too.

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