What You Need to Know About Mobile Unified Communications

Unified communications once solely belonged to office desktops and laptops. While workers certainly needed a chance to communicate across departments and company locations, much of this collaboration was done at their desks. But now more and more Australian workers are using mobile devices at work, or bringing their own smartphones or tablets, spurring a need for unified communications solutions to be optimised for a mobile landscape. Enter mobile unified communications, or mobile UC. Mobile UC has started to take off thanks to the increased availability and stability of wireless networks and will no doubt evolve in 2014 and beyond. If you are in the midst of a mobility or BYOD transition or are planning one in the near future, here’s what to consider when it comes to mobile UC.

Fixed mobile convergence

The first step to mobile UC is typically fixed mobile convergence, which integrates public cellular services with private wireless networks. Control point-focussed, enterprise network fixed mobile convergence is currently used more often, and the most common implementation is mobile-to-mobile convergence, which provides the ability to transfer calls between networks to employees using dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular handsets. This method basically identifies if the user is in the office and, if so, sends the call over wireless LAN. If not, the call goes to the person’s cell phone. This approach can limit costs as organisations can choose the least expensive option for routing the call.

Mobile UC on consumer devices

True mobile UC goes beyond sending a voice call to a cell phone. Here, presence comes into play, giving the user a directory of contacts and their availability on his or her mobile device. This ability lets the user make a voice call, send an SMS or email or start a conference. UC vendors are responding to the growing trend of enterprise mobility by enabling special mobile UC software on consumer devices using voice services and data connection.

There is also such a thing as a unified communications tablet making headway in the mobile UC realm. It’s a hybrid between a smartphone and a consumer tablet that integrates with the enterprise UC environment to deliver video conferencing, instant messaging, presence and other tools. These mobile UC devices can also support voice communications unlike regular tablets.

Giving frontline staff anywhere access to information

According to the IDC, enterprise productivity in Australia will increasingly be driven by unified messaging and mobile integration with email. The ability to tap into unified communications tools on a mobile device can “increase speed of responsiveness by giving frontline staff anywhere and everywhere access to corporate applications and information that will bring touch points closer to customers,” said Raj Mudaliar, IDC Australia senior analyst for IT services, in an article last year. Even if your organisation is not ready to take the leap to mobile UC, it pays to begin looking at your strategy to see if such a solution will make business sense in the next five years. Datacom’s unified communications team can assess your current communications infrastructure and business goals to determine the best mobile UC solution for you.

What 2014 Will Bring for Unified Communications

With cloud and mobility expected to affect many spheres of enterprise technology, unified communications is one area certain to feel both forces in 2014. The market is evolving and the communications needs of today’s professionals warrant more seamless, scalable solutions. As you plan your unified communications strategy for 2014 and beyond, consider these anticipated trends to ensure you are providing the best solutions for your organisation’s needs.

The rise of Microsoft Lync

Frost & Sullivan rank Microsoft Lync as No.1 in their list of seven disruptive trends for enterprise communications in 2014. Still considered a new kid on the block in the realm of unified communications in 2013, Lync is being consumed by organisations already using SharePoint, Active Directory and Microsoft e-mail. In 2014, more and more of these organisations will migrate to Lync for voice, messaging, presence and collaboration. Audrey William, head of research, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan Australia & New Zealand, said that Lync 2013 offers close to 95 per cent PBX functionality. For those who want to procure Lync 2013 and get it up and running quickly, Datacom offers a pre-configured Lync-in-a-box product that can be installed and managed internally, managed by us or managed from the cloud.

Unified Communications as a Service

Another unified communications trend on Frost & Sullivan’s list is Unified Communications as a Service, or UCaaS. Unified Communications as a Service is what it sounds like  communications and collaboration services managed by a third-party provider and delivered over an IP network. This approach can lower both capital and operational expenditures for organisations in addition to offering greater levels of availability and scalability. Frost & Sullivan believe more organisations will take advantage of Unified Communications as a Service in 2014 as they approach end of lifecycle for legacy unified communications technologies, leading them to consider a hosted or cloud-based option for solutions such as videoconferencing. Similarly, Gartner has predicted that the shortening product lifecycles for enterprise platforms and decreased interoperability between platforms will encourage a shift to a cloud or hosted model.

Collaboration across systems

Employees will continue to want to use unified communications tools on their mobile devices as they did in 2012 and 2013, but there will also be a rise in collaboration tools in CRM and content management systems. Why the need if you have an overarching collaboration tool in your business? Because tools matched to specific software systems allow users to collaborate when they need to in the space in which they are working. This trend will mean big things for data management and intelligence as information from a wider range of sources can be harnessed and inputted.

12 of Our Favourite Technology Statistics from 2012

It’s been a big year for some of the technologies that Datacom offers solutions and services for, such as cloud, mobility and unified communications. And if they hold true and keep expanding, most of the facts and figures point to an exciting 2013. Here are some of our favourite statistics from the biggest tech trends of 2012.

1. Enterprise cloud increased in adoption amongst Australian enterprises from 43 per cent in 2011 to 58 per cent in 2012. (VMWare and Forrester Consulting)

2. Australia was ranked No. 2 out of 24 countries in terms of preparedness for cloud technologies. (BSA)

3. Amongst buyers of cloud, 65 per cent feel the technology has met their business aims. (Everest Group)

4. By close of 2012, more than half of workloads in enterprise data centres will be virtualised. (CloudFX)

5. By 2016, 40 per cent of workers will be mobile. (Gartner)

6. By 2014, the cloud-based mobile apps market will increase by 90 per cent. (Thinque)

7. Nearly three-quarters of companies allow BYOD in some form. (Enterasys)

8. In the past three years, 300,000 mobile apps have been developed. (Digital Buzz Blog)

9. Sixty‐one per cent of organisations that are starting a unified communications project hope to increase productivity. (IDGE Enterprise)

10. Organisations focused on reducing complexity in their unified communications deployments saved as much as $3 billion. (Aberdeen Group)

11. In the next 12 months, 75 per cent of organisations will boost their spending on managed services in Australia or keep budgets the same. (IDC)

12. Thirty-five per cent of enterprise IT costs will shift to another department’s budget instead of IT’s by 2015. (Gartner)

Add your favourite technology facts and figures in the comments.

Why More Australian Organisations are Using Managed Services

The IDC Managed Services 2012 survey released in October revealed 75 per cent of respondents plan to increase their spending on managed services in Australia or spend the same amount in the next year. Other reports indicate the top 300 companies in Australia are using some form of outsourcing to optimise their business processes.

Why are so many organisations gobbling up managed services, especially in a cooling Australian economy? Even with budgets tight, smart organisations know managed services can reduce their total cost of ownership, mitigate risk and help them incorporate new technologies into their environment more quickly and cost-effectively than they can do on their own.

Access to a greater breadth of skills and technology at a lower cost

The very basis of managed services lies in streamlining IT processes and lowering costs while allowing organisations to focus on their core business. Managed services provide “on-demand” IT skills so that special projects or non-core business functions can be taken off the internal IT department’s shoulders. This means organisations don’t have to hire additional salaried employees or pay for overhead to leverage the IT skills they need. And, if you choose the right managed services provider, these IT skills should come by way of a flexible, budget-friendly contract guided by a customised service-level agreement.

Technologies like cloud — which increased in adoption amongst Australian enterprises from 43 per cent in 2011 to 58 per cent in 2012 —, mobility and unified communications are further driving organisations to seek managed services to handle implementations and connectivity. While these new technologies and the management of them come at a cost, they are the most primed to enable cost efficiencies and improvements in service for organisations down the road. Having a managed services provider to help with the integration, network configuration and management of these solutions can ensure they work and fold into your existing infrastructure seamlessly. Managed cloud especially enables organisations to leverage the full possibilities of scale, rapid provisioning and lower capex costs while having their infrastructure handled by the provider.

Less risk of downtime

One recent estimate puts the cost of one hour of downtime at $660. That’s just one hour, taking expenses, overhead and employee salary into account. It doesn’t even begin to cover the lost employee productivity or revenue generation during that hour, or the time the IT department spends trying to fix the problem. Painted this way, downtime can spiral into a complete business breakdown.

Managed IT providers can monitor and maintain servers and other infrastructure, network requirements and storage devices and provide help desk support to prevent or mitigate issues like downtime. It’s not just the potential cost savings— it’s peace of mind knowing you have a continual presence that can catch issues before they have a greater impact on the business, something organisations with busy or small IT staffs can’t always guarantee.

How do you plan to use managed services in 2013?

Communications Enabled Business Processes: The Next Step in UCC

If you’ve already begun incorporating unified communications and collaboration into your organisation, employees have likely realised several benefits from an individual and team level.

These areas are where unified communications and collaboration, or UCC, get some of their quick wins — the ability to get a question quickly answered through unified messaging, for a portion of a department to get a project done quickly through collaboration tools. The next rung on the UCC ladder is where true organisational transformation begins to take shape —Communications Enabled Business Processes, or CEBP. This step on the pathway of unified communications and collaboration helps organisations optimise efficiency for business processes that rely on communications.

How UCC leads to CEBP

Communications Enabled Business Processes can leverage UCC tools to automate processes and reduce human latency. UCC tools such as presence and messaging are incorporated into the business process flow to essentially enable a quicker response and resolution to questions, problems or issues needing attention. Communications Enabled Business Processes can involve both interactions between individuals and interactions between individuals and computer systems. For the latter, unified communications tools can be integrated with systems and applications so that all options are used to get a response to an issue — whether it’s a reminder for the person designated to oversee the task or project or an escalation to someone higher in the business.

How CEBP differs

While Communications Enabled Business Processes cover the same areas as unified communications when it comes to boosting customer satisfaction, speeding up decision-making and reducing sales cycle time, they differ in one key way. To reduce communications latency and help streamline operations, Communications Enabled Business Processes are typically activated by a pre-assigned situation, such as a person failing to sign off on a project by a set date or respond to a business issue.

Companywide knowledge of the unified communications tools you plan to embed in your Communications Enabled Business Processes is essential to ensure a higher success rate. It’s also important to carefully choose the individuals who you’d like to be the “on-call” experts to rapidly respond to customer questions, deadlines or business problems as youevolve along the path of unified communications.

Where are you on your UCC journey?

Datacom Saves Cape Australia Money and Time with Unified Communications

What happens when four businesses become one?

Four disparate IT environments was the outcome for Cape Australia, which supplies maintenance and repair services for the mining and industrial sectors, when it acquired four businesses in 2007.

With operations spread out across Australia and a presence in 27 other countries, Cape Australia needed a way to integrate this tangled technology, which involved incongruent systems and modes of operation.

Consistent collaboration

Cape Australia decided to move forward with a strategy for bringing together its multiple IT environments, aptly named “One Way.” Started in 2009, the One Way project involved Datacom’s work from design through to implementation to deliver a single suite of applications to all users in all locations.

Key in the project was a Microsoft stack of unified communication and collaboration technologies to fuel better communication among Cape Australia’s employees both across the country and the world. Datacom implemented Microsoft Exchange 2010 for the email messaging service and voice mail consolidation. Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 enabled video conferencing, instant messaging and desktop sharing. For better information sharing and collaboration, Datacom brought in SharePoint Server 2010. To round out the unified communications piece of the project, Datacom replaced more than 30 branch networks with an integrated IP telephony solution with a solid voice system.

In addition to the UCC piece, Datacom implemented a new server and storage infrastructure, security solution and management tools.

An outstanding outcome

The UCC implementation quickly helped Cape Australia to save time and money in several ways. Each staff member has saved between one and two hours a day thanks to the improved productivity available through the new unified communication and collaboration tools. The video conferencing and online communication tools helped cut executive travel expenses by up to 50 per cent, while IT administration and operational costs have also been cut by half. Telecommunication costs and national call charges were reduced by 100 per cent.

Cape Australia appreciated the best practice knowledge, trusted partnership and professionalism Datacom brought to the project, said Jason Cowie, former CIO and Executive Manager of Business Services for Cape.

“Datacom provided us with best practice knowledge for the design and implementation of the infrastructure and Microsoft technologies that we were seeking to deploy. As our trusted partner, Datacom provided continual suggestions throughout the project on possible improvements to the initial design to enhance integration and user adoption.”

Unified Communications in the Cloud – Your Key to Interconnected Mobility?

With all the potentially disparate technologies unified communications and collaboration involve, pinpointing what you should look for in your UCC solution is no easy task. Add in a Bring Your Own Device scenario, and there’s certainly something for everyone – and more for your overtasked IT department to manage. If you listen to all the voices, you’ll likely wind up with a jumble of technologies that don’t work together or across devices, which defeats the very aim of your foray into UCC.

One solution to achieving interconnectedness and mobility in unified communications is by using the cloud. Cloud lends an easier approach to implementing and integrating various UCC technologies and making them available to users both on and offsite using corporate or personal devices.

Mobility is driving unified communications adoption

The increasing presence of the mobile device in the workplace is the biggest impetus to implement unified communications and collaboration solutions, according to a survey by IDGE Enterprise. Stretching everything an employee can do at his or her desk to a mobile device is a goal for 67 per cent of those IT leaders who responded to the survey. Smartphone and mobile desktop access is already involved in 80 per cent of unified communications deployments, according to a separate poll by CDW.

At the same time, internal IT departments don’t always have the skills or knowledge to support unified communications technologies across devices. A survey by Siemens shows IT departments have problems implementing and managing new unified communications and collaboration tools in 78 per cent of organisations.

How cloud helps

Cloud brings together different unified communications technologies and components and delivers them to these different device types, with little need for extra infrastructure or physical deployments. With this approach, organisations can transform their dearth of disparate devices into a connected employee network. There’s a benefit to remote or mobile employees as well. By deploying unified communications through the cloud, these workers can get communications while they’re off the company network.

As for the management aspect, UCC delivered through a cloud provider could give organisations a window into security and access controls for different mobile devices. As new technologies get added, the organisation doesn’t need to worry about migrations or replacing old systems because cloud allows different technologies to coexist.

What are the goals you’re hoping to achieve with your UCC solution?

Datacom Transforms Wilmar Australia’s IT Environment with a Move to the Cloud

Talk about a short deadline.

In 2010, sugar, ethanol and energy producer Wilmar Australia needed to transform its entire IT environment and rebrand its technology image as part of its divestment from parent company CSR. The catch: the project needed to be done in under a year for 1,500 employees in 31 locations to meet the divestment schedule.

The project involved leveraging the latest Microsoft technology for a desktop upgradewhile outsourcing core IT functions and moving Wilmar Australia’s IT infrastructure to Infrastructure as a Service. Wilmar Australia also wanted a brand makeover; it saw itself as developing into a more engaging, dynamic organisation and wanted its technology to reflect that.

A sweet solution

A lot of IT solutions providers might’ve balked at that lofty task. Not Datacom.

 Wilmar Australia’s new vision aligned very closely with Datacom’s approach to doing business – delivering enduring performance through fresh thinking. These shared values, along with Datacom’s technology knowledge and commitment to building strong partnerships with its customers, made choosing an IT solutions provider easier for Wilmar Australia.

The eventual solution for Wilmar Australia’s IT needs was a Microsoft stack running on Datacom’s IaaS cloud. The list of tasks involved to complete the project included:

  • Migrating from Windows XP to Windows 7
  • Migrating from Office 2003 to Office 2010
  • Adding messaging with Exchange 2010
  • Establishing a new Active Directory 2008
  • Updating legacy unified communications systems using Cisco and Microsoft Lync 2010
  • Incorporating document management with SharePoint 2010
  • Establishing database management and consolidation using SQL 2010
  • Integrating with BizTalk
  • Establishing security via Threat Management Gateway
  • Creating full disaster recovery

Datacom also helped move 240 of Wilmar Australia’s servers and over 90 of their critical business applications to the cloud.

Better technology, better business

Wilmar Australia’s employees across locations are now able to leverage the latest technology to collaborate and communicate better. With the latest operating system and office and communications tools, each employee is able to complete his or her tasks and assignments with renewed efficiency and simplicity.

Brendan O’Kane, General Manager of Information Services at Wilmar Australia, says the Datacom migration has set the organisation on a course toward greater agility and innovation.

“We have given people new tools and better access to help them do their jobs more efficiently and take a lot of noise out of the business,” he says. “The IT strategy is now supporting the business.

“The solution is a much better fit to our DNA than where we came from. We needed to be able to support change and innovation in a fast-moving environment, and the Datacom cloud allows us to do that.”

A Pragmatic Approach to Video Conferencing

Video is often the missing piece in an organisation’s unified communications and collaboration programme. Yes, it involves time and money — but it can save you plenty of both in the end. The Australian government last year was able to save $12 million in travel expenses by implementing Cisco’s TelePresence solution. Other organisations can cut meeting time in halfwith a quality video conferencing solution.

Rather than viewing video as simply another task to add to the project list, frame it as an opportunity to assess your organisation’s unified communications environment and see where integration makes sense. For instance, you can link online meetings with on-demand video conferencing and have the ability to instantly add colleagues to a meeting. Together, these communications and collaboration tools can fuel better responsiveness and decision-making, faster time-to-market and greater innovation.

To start, ensure your environment can:

  • Handle the unified communications and collaboration needs of the bulk of your employees
  • Give employees easy access to communications and collaboration tools they can use with minimal training
  • Allow employees to switch from one technology to another seamlessly

To achieve the full competitive advantage video conferencing offers, work with an IT solutions provider willing to take the necessary steps, from auditing your infrastructure through testing the solution all the way to assisting in the integration. An IT solutions provider that can incorporate video conferencing into your communications plan will help your organisation avoid technological pitfalls like:

  • Constant delays and signal interruptions due to a network and infrastructure not designed to handle video conferencing
  • Consulting IT for setup assistance with every video conference
  • Compatibility issues across employees’ desktops and software —particularly for employees in satellite offices or remote locations

In Datacom’s experience, organisations that take the time to approach video and other communications tools as a solution to a business problem rather than a must-have hot technology that might not suit their aims achieve the most gains.

How do you plan to work video into your UCC programme?

Collaborating Better with Unified Communications

Who doesn’t want a simpler, faster way of getting the answers they need to get their jobs done? Leveraging the collaboration abilities available through unified communications ticks two boxes forbusiness impact: better response time and access to resources wherever they are.

Better decision-making

unified communication platform allows business units, project teams and other staff access to more resources and information in a click-to-communicate manner. Document-sharing tools and web and video let employees work as if they are in the same physical cubicle even if they are hundreds of kilometres apart. With the ability to get answers or approvals for projects faster, a more consistent flow of real-time data opens up, allowing more effective decision-making and problem-solving. Employees who can’t react in real-time have the benefit of accessing archived communications to arm themselves with the answers they need to move forward.

Improved innovation

Nearly 86 per cent of organisations with a unified communications and collaboration programme report an improvement in innovation in their workforce, according to Frost & Sullivan research. As employees complete projects at a quicker clip, new products can be developed with fewer resources and costs and go to market faster. These benefits aren’t just for employees — they can extend to how your organisation collaborates with partner vendors and customers, which, in turn, can boost sales and revenue.

Reduced meeting costs and challenges

Video collaboration tools can shave 10-per cent off travel costs and 50-per cent off meeting time, according to a Cisco study. The reduced travel price tag extends beyond costs for flights, lodging and meals. How many of your colleagues arrive at a meeting fresh-faced and ready to offer great insights and information after a six-hour flight? The ability to rock up to a video meeting five minutes before it starts means employees can put those six hours to better use.

What collaboration benefits are you looking to realise through unified communications?