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As I continue my de-mystifying of Unified Communications, I want to talk about the idea or concept of Presence. It is simple enough to explain but a bit more difficult to capture the hard dollars behind.
Presence, at the base, is the ability to determine the availability of an individual no matter your location or theirs, no matter the device each of you happens to be on and at its most grand design, regardless of if you work for different organizations or are using different applications. Chances are that you have had a "Presence" client and you didn't even realize it both at home and at work. Do you use AOL Instant Messenger? Or Microsoft Live Messenger? Or Yahoo! Messenger? Technically you have a "Presence" client right there. At a glance I can see if someone is available, busy or away. It's rudimentary in nature but you get the idea. You've had Presence but just didn't call it that!
Take this concept and expand it out a bit. You have enterprise class instant communication tools such as IBM SameTime or Microsoft Office Communicator which can not only tell you if someone is available or busy, it can give you detailed information such as why they are busy. By scrolling over their name you see their contact information, their current schedule and when they will be free. It is extremely powerful information and allows you to immediately make the decision to go to someone else for the information you needed in some cases.
Expand this concept out a bit further with me. With fully integrated Unified Communications solutions, now I can simply click on a person's name and can call their office or cellular numbers, can send them an email or even a SMS message. All of the sudden the communication challenges that I talked about a few weeks ago become fewer and farther between. Take it a step further and with a few clicks I can have a two or three person "chat" session to work on a business challenge with a great chance of successfully solving it in a shorter period of time.
The challenge of course is to understand just how much a unified Presence client can save your organization and employees both in time and money. Studies from Gartner and Forester indicate that as much as 1.5 hours per week per employee can be saved with a Presence client. That is a lot of money for the organization but it's also a lot of frustration saving for the employees as they are able to solve business challenges faster (which in turn saves the company money). 
How much an enterprise wide Presence solution can save your organization will vary but it is clear that both time and money can be saved and higher employee and customer satisfaction can be achieved with it.
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In my last post I asked the question "Why should your company unify its communications?" It's a valid question, especially given the current economic challenges globally. It is precisely this reason, however, that your company should look at ways to unify its communications platform.  I'm going to give you two high level examples of how coalescing your communications can help your organization through these challenging times. 
First, it simplifies the management of your infrastructure. With a unified communications solution, regardless of the vendor you go with on it, your organizations needs for a "telephony" staff and a "network" staff should go away. Unifying allows your organization to merge these too groups, providing more flexibility for scheduling and staffing. This also allows for your organization to simplify its training needs. No longer do you have to send (and spend) on both telephony and network training. It's effectively all-in-one by most vendors now.
Second, it breaks down communications barriers. The average SMB worker spends 3.3 hours a week working through communications barriers according to a recent report from Siemens. It is one of several things that hinders productivity, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction but is one that is addressable by UC solutions. A communication barrier, according to this report, was anything that was caused by inaccessibility or lack of full collaboration with fellow employees.
Let's do some simple math around this number shall we? Let's say you have 150 workers with an average salary of $60,000 per year. That salary breaks down to $1200 per week on a 50 week work year (everyone needs a vacation!). If you break this down further, that means that each employee costs $30 per hour to the organization based on a 40 hour work week. Multiply 30 by 3.3 and you end up with a cost of $99 per week per employee trying to fight through communication barriers. Extrapolate this out further: Let's say you have 100 employees out of your 150 who are struggling through these communication barriers. That means you organization is losing $9,900 per week in lost productivity. Over a year that adds up to a whopping $495,000 (50 week work year). Of course there are variances that your particular organization would have to take into consideration when you start determining just how much communication barriers are costing your company. The point of this exercise is to point out the obvious: it adds up very quickly! Let's say you go all out and buy a $150,000 UC solution. Using this simple math you would see your ROI in 15 weeks.
These are just two of a variety of reasons why your organization should consider unifying its communication platforms. Ultimately it will save your organization money, increase employee productivity and satisfaction as well as customer satisfaction.
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So What Exactly is Unified Communications?

February 20, 2009 1:27 AM
One of the goals that I have here at OSDUC is to clear up some of the confusion around the concepts and terms around Unified Communications.  If you look out there, you will find countless definitions of a variety of UC related topics such as Presence, Collaboration, Advanced Applications and so forth.  Equally, you will find plenty of confusion on what exactly Unified Communications is as well.  Compounding the challenge of defining these terms are the manufactures - Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and so forth - throwing out there respective definitions of these terms which inevitably have a specific product tie.  

So with that in mind, let me throw out this definition of Unified Communications for you and tell me what you think:

Unified Communications is, fundamentally, the melding together of voice, data and applications.  This melding brings together disparate systems into a unified solution that eliminates barriers between communication, information and knowledge workers.

So let's break down this definition a bit further.  The key to all of this is that you are bringing together all of your voice, data and applications into one, cohesive solution.  Gone are the barriers that cause breakdowns in communication such as multiple networks (think voice networks and separate data networks) as well as application platforms (think PCs versus Apples versus mobile devices).  This unification brings together everything into one centralized (logically speaking) solution that can be accessed anywhere, at any time, from any device.  AOTMAP said it best in a recent UC report:  "Unified Communications is, in essence, the convergence of communication networks: all data, accessible in all ways."

Now how this unification happens can take on a lot of different shapes and sizes depending on the way your organization wants to approach it.  It could be a hybrid solution leveraging existing technology within the organization.  It could be a completely new solution utilizing all new technology and products.  There are drawbacks and benefits to both approaches but keep in mind that the real goal of Unified Communications is simplifying your organziations communications needs.

So there is my definition of Unified Communications.  It's really simple if you think about it for very long.

Now the questions become why you should unify your communications and what the benefits to your organization or when you do so?

I'll take these two questions on in my next post.

In the meantime, post your thoughts on my definition.  How do you define Unified Communications?

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Welcome! Glad you here...

February 10, 2009 4:47 PM
Welcome to Oh Say Do UC!  I'm glad that you decided to stop by and hopefully you will keep coming back for more.  I thought I'd kick off this new blog here at TMC with an introduction - of me, of Spanlink Communications, and what you can expect here at OSDUC (see, already got an acronym).  That's pronounced "Oz-duck" in case you were wondering...

My name is Clinton Fitch and I'm the Unified Communications Product Manager for Spanlink Communications.  I have been involved in the Unified Communications and Contact Center industry for ten years now, starting back with Cisco Call Manager 2.0 (Yikes!) back-in-the-day.  I've been with Spanlink now for five years, starting out as System Engineer before moving into management & my current role with company.  In addition to my work in UC, I'm also a Microsoft MVP in Mobile Devices.  You can find me writing on various sites and blogs for the mobile space as well as it is my other technology passion in life.

Spanlink Communications is based in Minneapolis, MN and we are a Cisco Master Certified Unified Communications partner as well as holding several Advanced Technology certifications in UC and Contact Center.  Spanlink is 20 years old now and has been a primary Cisco partner for over ten of those years.  Spanlink is also a Microsoft Gold Certified partner as well has having a variety of relationships with other partners to meet our customer business needs.

So what can you expect out of this blog?  It's rather simple actually.  My goal is to provide iniformation on this somewhat vague "thing" that is Unified Communications.  I'm primarily going to cover technology, trends, observations and I'll pepper in real-world examples as well.  I want to give you the readers information you can use to make your own UC decisions both now and in the future.  

So again, welcome!  Be sure to bookmark us and come back often. Continue Reading...


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