Delivering on the promise of Unified Communications

The most successful businesses constantly seek innovation to give themselves a competitive edge. Innovation in Information Technology (IT) can change the way an organization addresses its market, fills customer requirements, or manages its supply chain. However, the most fundamental requirement of a business is communication. Fast and effective communication between employees enable swift and effective decision making, improving the customer experience or responding to changing market conditions.

The new technology of Unified Communication (UC) is a clear example of how IT can ‘change the game’ and deliver innovation to the business. UC offers the tantalizing goal of streamlining the way that employees communicate. Voicemail, fax and email morph together into one application. Instant Messaging, presence, and voice technologies interoperate with each other and intelligently deliver calls or messages to wherever you are, on whatever device is most convenient. No ‘phone tag’. No voicemail messages. No waiting for email. Just swift business decision making. This all sounds great, but there are, of course, practical issues to consider. The most common question I hear is about how to overcome the hurdles of deployment on a budget.

Many of our competitors offer a ‘grand vision’ or fixed configurations for a UC implementation that usually entail ‘ripping and replacing’ existing equipment. Dell’s approach is more practical and cost-effective: ‘divide and conquer’ and ‘use what you have.’ We recommend that you evaluate each of the benefits of a UC implementation and plan on the deployment of only the components that make the most business sense to your organization, as you need them. You shouldn’t be guided into implementing a full UC environment unless it meets a business requirement. Both expense and complexity lay in that direction. The Dell guidelines are ‘integrate’ and ‘incremental.’ A good example would be integrating an existing voice PBX into a UC environment. Instead of requiring our customer to adopt an expensive IP-PBX, Dell would recommend installing a VoIP gateway as a cost effective way of continuing to use the existing equipment.

Dell has simplified this concept further by defining ‘soft’ modules that group together UC functionality that appear to be most beneficial for a business and can be logically deployed as a unit. We constructed the contents of the modules both as a planning guide for our customers, as well as basis for our own professional services. Once you have the correct foundation in place, you decide which module to integrate next, depending on your business need. With this approach you incrementally grow your UC deployment, keeping cost and complexity under control and never growing faster than the business need. In other words, you create your own UC deployment roadmap, only taking what you need, when you need it and making the most of existing infrastructure. Examples of some of the Dell modules are VOIP, Audio/Video conferencing, PBX integration or Core Services such as presence or IM.

UC will revolutionize and enable communications, but it can be hard to do if you try to take it all at once (like some vendors espouse). So Dell takes a much more practical approach by breaking it down in to bite-sized nuggets that you can implement over time as your IT, staff, and budget can handle it. This is another example of how Dell simplifies IT – by taking something that is really complex and costly, and breaking it down to simpler and more bite sized components.

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About the Author: Stephen Wanless