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Verticals Focus on UC
Over at our sister site, bmighty, they've got an interesting white paper from Forrester Research, on how Unified Communications can help businesses. The research was sponsored by Cisco, so you need to keep that in mind when reading about the proposed solutions, but the Forrester data makes it clear that several key verticals have communications problems that UC (or something like it) should be addressing.
Over at our sister site, bmighty, they've got an interesting white paper from Forrester Research, on how Unified Communications can help businesses. The research was sponsored by Cisco, so you need to keep that in mind when reading about the proposed solutions, but the Forrester data makes it clear that several key verticals have communications problems that UC (or something like it) should be addressing.The focus on verticals is also something we're doing at VoiceCon Orlando next month, where we'll have a block of breakout sessions devoted to five major verticals: Financial, Health Care, Government, Manufacturing and Higher Education.
Forrester looked at 3 of these verticals in its study, surveying, "more than 420 key business decision-makers in retail banking, manufacturing, and education in six countries to identify areas in which their organizations experienced communications difficulties, and to quantify the extent to which these issues could be improved with UC."
In the case of the Financial vertical, Forrester respondents indicated that communications-related contacts were more vexing to their customers than the in-person banking experience. In addition, the respondents saw considerable opportunity in improving communications and online interactions with customers. Quoting from the report:
- 80% could generate more Web site sales with online collaboration with experts.
- 85% could increase customer satisfaction by reducing delays in customer response times.
- 80% could speed project completion with improved collaboration.
- 76% indicate digital merchandising at branches could offer brand differentiation.
- 76% could increase sales to customers with immediate support from banking experts.
- 89% could save time with more effective branch manager communications.
- 78% could reduce training costs with Web/video conferencing.
- 82% could increase sales activities by using e-learning for training.
- 81% could gain more productivity from remote workers with advanced business features on their mobile devices.
- 73% could improve overall employee productivity by sharing staff with call center teams.
In the case of Manufacturing, the role that communications can play is less obvious; the challenges identified by respondents were:
- Accelerating product development cycles. Manufacturing companies face constant pressure to continuously speed product innovation as measured by time to market; slow response to changing market conditions in today's hyper-competitive environment places companies at a distinct disadvantage relative to competitors.
- Managing plant safety. The health and productivity of employees requires that manufacturers maintain a safe working environment that is supportive of sound working conditions.
- Decreasing time to resolve production problems. Companies often spend as much time trying to locate individuals to address various production problems as is actually spent diagnosing and fixing the problems. This potentially adds hours to the resolution of everyday production issues.
- Meeting customer expectations. Customers expect companies to meet service level commitments for product delivery and address any quality issues or concerns with products. Delayed responses are a common cause of customer dissatisfaction.
- Managing costs. Companies face rising costs and so look for ways to contain expenses and reduce overhead. Improving worker productivity and reducing overhead are major objectives for most companies.
The technologies identified to help deal with these problems include collaboration, information portals, and systems that let managers know which employees are available when, and how best to reach them.
For the Education vertical, Forrester focused more on K-12 issues, but many of the key challenges aren't that dissimilar to higher ed, from a technical perspective. Respondents cited the following challenges:
- Providing a secure environment for learning. Improving school security is a priority for many districts that seek to ensure the safety of pupils and teachers campus wide.
- Improving communication within districts. Schools often have difficulty relaying information to staff members and teachers during emergency situations. Many modes of communication used by schools are outdated and lack full coverage.
- Outbound message notification to parents during critical situations. Schools are often hampered by not having an effective communication channel with parents during emergency situations. This often results in frustration as parents try to call into schools and are met with busy signals or no response, further complicating the situation.
- Expanding parent-teacher communication. Schools want to improve communication between parents and teachers to ensure that all messages are received.
- Developing new course delivery and training for teachers and students through distance learning. Expanding course offerings for students and content planning and inservice training for teachers are top priorities for schools. But budgets are often an obstacle to hiring new teachers and providing easy access to collaboration and in-service programs.
Many of these are challenges we've already seen schools turn to UC and related technologies to solve. Earlier this year, I blogged about the topic of emergency notification on college campuses, which became a critical issue after the Virginia Tech shootings last year. University CIOs and telecom/IT managers are in the forefront of using outbound calling/messaging technology to improve emergency notification.
The Forrester study is 58 pages, with a wealth of specifics on each of the potential communications solutions to the various challenges. One of the real benefits of UC, and one way that the vendors seem to be approaching it, is that a vertical-market approach may make more sense and be more feasible with this generation of technology than it ever was before.
As I say, this is a Cisco-funded study, so it's not going to say that you don't need technology. But I found it to be a useful way of summarizing the potential technology solutions, and the vertically-oriented approach is one that is resonating in the VoiceCon world as well. Check it out.