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Why Unified Communications Matters

Published: April 7th, 2016 By: Dave Webb

Making the business case for moving to unified communications (UC) requires attention to detail — and a rationale that focuses as much on process as on money saved or revenue generated.


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The impetus to maintain a UC-free status quo can be compelling.  Here’s what the IT department may be up against in making a decision to move forward:

  • A traditional private branch exchange (PBX) that’s up to the task of distributing voice traffic within the campus
  • An effective email system, hosted or maintained on-site, that works most of the time
  • A mobile environment, largely (bring-your-own-device) BYOD-based, that may not be seamless but is popular with users
  • Applications that have been downloaded in a “Shadow IT” fashion to desktops
  • The hidden and unknown costs of all that infrastructure.

But IT departments can successfully fight the inertia with a business case that includes cost savings, greater productivity, increased collaboration and improved employee retention.

Show me the Money: Three tips

Cost reduction: On the maintenance side, a centralized UC environment makes upgrading and optimizing a system simpler—and arguably less expensive. Consider the costs of network moves, adds, and changes, an expensive set of activities and a frequent concern with a telephony system is based on a traditional PBX. There are numerous pro-budget opportunities when considering UC, including savings on and simplification of configuration changes that require operator-approved services, and for multi-campus operations, single exchange dialing that eliminates long-distance charges on internal calls. If individual campuses are on separate PBXs, long-distance charges alone may be enough to justify the switch.

Cost avoidance: Failure of a hardware-based PBX is expensive, not just in terms of equipment and labour, but also in terms of the cost of downtime. Properly managed, a UC environment can make failover automatic, simple and quick, and provide an inexpensive option for redundancy. There are also business continuity and disaster recovery implications: The most effective systems are those able to launch a redundant secondary system in a remote location and get organizations up and running again quickly.

Cost stability: Maintenance on hardware systems can be expensive and unpredictable. When equipment fails it often has to be replaced. In an enterprise environment with thousands of employees, budgeting for these contingencies can be a challenge, and justifying that budget to business leaders may be an outright nightmare. In a managed UC environment, developed in conjunction with a reliable service provider, there’s an element of cost certainty: the telephony and network infrastructure will cost approximately the same per seat month-to-month. There’s also the benefit of moving costs from capital expenditure (CAPEX) to operating expenditure (OPEX). This resonates with the C-suite, especially the CFO.

Accentuate the positive

All of these propositions are aimed at limiting costs. Once organizations have established that foundation, the IT champions can move ahead to focusing on the benefits—the areas of the business where it’s not just avoiding spending money, but actually introducing revenue. It may sometimes seem intangible, but most of those benefits can be quantified.

Productivity: It’s possibly the single thing in an organization that has the most metrics applied to it. How much productivity can be gained when skilled workers have access to connectivity wherever they are – including road warriors, work-from-home subject matter specialists, and customer service representatives working from home? These are quantifiable, if somewhat incremental, boosts to the bottom line.

Talent retention: New hires coming into the organization have expectations. One of the most important is work-life balance and blend. UC allows time-pressed employees to continue to be productive while, for example, their kids are at the dentist or playing soccer, or they’re helping attend to the needs of their parents, or waiting to be measured for a suit for a friend’s wedding. A company that can provide that kind of flexibility has an advantage in the talent pool over their tied-to-the-desktop competitors.

Collaboration: How much is being paid in transportation fees so disparate groups working on a single project can meet face to face? If an organization has to fly project members to a meeting in a central location, how much does that cost amount to in airfare, hotels, and drinks at the bar? In a UC environment, collaborators can not only discuss strategy over voice technology, but can share other related assets—presentation slides, email links, video face-to-face sessions involving multiple team members.

Building a case for implementing UC involves a range of factors and considerations; it is vital that organizations consider all angles to see how the UC can best enable business success and a competitive edge.