|Asia-Pacific I 2009
|IP, unified communications, collaboration and change
|Regional Vice President, Asia Pacific
Andrew Dobbins is Verizon Business’ Regional Vice President, for Sales and Services, Asia Pacific. Prior to this, Mr Dobbins was Asia Pacific Vice President of Sales for Orange Business Services. During his years at Orange, Mr Dobbins served as Director of Sales Australia and New Zealand and Director of Sales Hong Kong, eventually becoming Vice President of Sales Asia Pacific. Mr Dobbins worked earlier at Telstra.
Integrating communications into business operations and transforming how these tools are used at work are critical to business success. Unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools seamlessly integrate business communications so employees can collaborate easily and naturally. UC&C is still relatively immature. IP telephony, conferencing, IM, presence and email are all available, but few solutions effectively integrate them into a single system. To make UC&C truly work, collaborative capabilities need to be embedded into applications or Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP).
It is often said that tomorrow’s successful businesses will be those that best deal with change. The question for businesses, then, is how to accommodate change into the very fabric of their organisation to ensure they are one of tomorrow’s leaders. How can they turn today’s increasingly fast-paced business environment into a competitive advantage, not a threat? Today, successful businesses are extended enterprises uniting employees, suppliers, partners and customers within a global network. These businesses are inevitably highly complex structures where decision-making is distributed and dynamic, and they face diverse and increasing challenges, whether economic or geographic, which impact on business performance. A wide variety of IT and communications solutions are currently available to help firms become more agile and better able to cope with change. These tools are also changing rapidly to support the extended enterprise’s business needs. The extended enterprise’s IT and communications solutions must, at minimum, enable effective collaboration across a firm’s employee base. IT and communications systems must align totally with the needs of the extended business and must be integrated into the organisation’s business processes to optimise business success. The integration of communications into the fabric of business operations and the transformation of how employees use communications tools throughout their working day are the keys to tomorrow’s business success. Communications tools facilitate collaboration between geographically dispersed individuals and groups, enabling organisations to leverage their employee’s core expertise and make faster, better and more informed decisions. Firms that successfully achieve these goals will be best placed to become the leaders of tomorrow. Building success Increasingly, unified communications (UC) and collaboration, together known as UC&C, provide a platform for success. Although relatively simple in concept, UC&C is a hugely complex area that is radically different to implement compared with traditional IT and communications solutions. In short, with UC&C everything changes; UC&C implementations need to change entrenched organisational processes to align conceptual complexities with business realities. Fundamentally, firms derive competitive advantage by extending their reach to its fullest potential to more flexibly adapt, share knowledge, react faster and develop more effective supply chains than their competitors. For global enterprises, maximising the potential of infrastructure and resources across geographical and time boundaries to achieve productivity and profitability is a critical management objective. It is no surprise that the people most responsible for revenue generation within organisations are generally the most mobile: the business development of extended enterprises depends upon the timely delivery of business critical information to all, especially to valuable mobile employees. What is UC&C? In recent years, various methodologies, technologies and applications have emerged to support this aim. Business process reengineering, customer relationship management, employee relationship management and more have been adopted by organisations around the world to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations, whether internal or customer facing. UC&C takes all of this to the next level: it makes real-time communications manageable and accessible from multiple devices within the extended enterprise. It is about seamlessly and intuitively integrating business communications solutions with operational goals by enabling employees to collaborate easily and naturally. UC&C also streamlines communications tools to optimise non-real-time communications – making employees more productive by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and expertise despite different time zones and geographies. Collaboration is essential; an organisation’s key resources must work together to meet strategic business objectives. By fostering an environment where collaboration is second nature, businesses can ensure success in a 24/7 global economy. The realising possibilities of the 24/7 economy requires tools that enable employees to collaborate effectively across time zones. According to a 2006 study by Frost & Sullivan1, collaboration is a key driver of the overall performance of companies around the world. The research showed that collaboration’s impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities and five times as significant as the firm’s external market environment. Overall, Frost & Sullivan concluded, just over a third of a company’s performance – comprising factors like profitability, growth, productivity, product quality and customer satisfaction – is attributable to how well it collaborates. Leveraging IP networks The benefits of collaboration are widely recognised by businesses, and collaborative technologies have existed and been deployed widely for some time in applications such as audio or net conferencing, instant messaging and the like. UC&C takes this to another level because it ties together the emerging IP based communications networks that form the bedrock of tomorrow’s extended enterprises. In the past, firms had to employ separate networks to support their voice and data services. With UC&C, firms need only a single converged IP network; this eliminates the cost and effort of deploying and maintaining different types of network architectures -and eliminates technical staffing for separate network architectures Telephony, conferencing tools, instant messaging (IM), presence information and email meet common, similar, business needs; by sharing the same IP platform, all these applications can be integrated and act in an orchestrated, productivity-enriching way. Integration makes available IM and presence functionality available on common IP-enabled devices such as PCs, PDAs, smart phones and other mobile devices, without the need for expensive niche products. Get all these disparate systems and devices to work seamlessly together, and you have true UC&C. Benefits from UC&C Is UC&C just the latest in a long series of hot phrases? The answer is an emphatic no. UC&C resolves a fundamental business issue – enabling teams to work together effectively. UC&C enables globally dispersed teams to communicate as though they were in the same room. In fact, enabling efficient non-real-time communications is probably more important for most global operations, since real-time-only communications, across multiple time zones, places an additional burden on already time-strapped employees. UC&C makes firms more agile and adaptable, and responsive to changes in tomorrow’s business environment. UC&C helps firms significantly improve how employees interact and perform on an individual, team and enterprise-wide basis. Most importantly, UC&C provides a series of important advantages; when technologies work together synergistically, they can deliver many more benefits than when separately employed. With UC&C, a call or message to a mobile worker’s office voice or message system can routed immediately to the right device, in the field, in a form the user prefers, and can be acted upon without delay – not just when the worker returns to the office. UC&C also enables the tracking of collaboration on documents across time zones; a US-based employee generates a first draft, which is updated overnight by a colleague in APAC and two further contributors add comments in Europe. UC&C can ensure that all contributors, wherever they are, are working on the latest version and in the format most appropriate for their purposes. While UC&C brings many benefits, firms can also face challenges to make it happen. First, the company must convert to IP-based communications. For some, the transition will be costly and time consuming in the short term; nevertheless, this long-term investment will guarantee the high availability, robust and secure network that UC&C requires. UC&C is still relatively immature. IP-based telephony, conferencing tools, IM, presence and email are currently all available, but there are few solutions yet that integrate them all in a single system. To make UC&C truly work, these collaborative capabilities need to be embedded into applications or Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP). While communications experts can help customers plan for this transition, this aspect of UC&C is currently the biggest work in progress. CEBP will truly enable UC&C to transform business processes: we expect great progress in this over the coming months and years. For a smooth transition to UC&C firms need a clear understanding of the sort of tools and devices each member of their workforce will really need; this will avoid the purchase of unnecessary, technology. Pervasive collaboration Properly implemented, UC&C can help in three areas – for the individual, the individual’s team and the enterprise as a whole. Individuals using UC&C can accomplish more at work. UC&C will also cumulatively boost their team’s productivity. By facilitating communications between individuals their effectiveness and that of their teams boosted; this, in turn, builds more productive teams that will drive the enterprise as a whole. UC&C creates pervasive collaboration at enterprise, team and individual levels and leverages it throughout the organisation. With UC&C enterprise systems, and the chains of processes within an organisation, are linked within its communications platform. An order specialist checking a sale on the company’s sales order system, for example, need only click the screen, without searching separately for the contact details, to call the salesperson. Implementing advanced communication enabled processes has a direct result on a firm’s revenue, competitiveness and efficiency. The ability to communicate with anyone, at any time, on any device is powering a new wave of productivity and helps organisations be more agile than ever before. Processes that now take hours can be transformed to processes completed in minutes, resulting in greater productivity, customer satisfaction and the creation of new business opportunities.