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What a Difference a Year Makes

When asked to identify their strengths during Marty Parker's tutorial session, "Comparing UC Options and Vendors --Who's Offering What?," most of the vendor panelists didn't talk about technology, but instead mentioned their ability to provide a solid ROI and TCO, as well as their ability to integrate and optimize business processes.

Each of the keynote presentators spent considerable time discussing customer examples and the payback from these implementations - with real, hard numbers, not just soft benefits. The speakers also talked about their specific capabilities and offerings in the context of the business value provided. As Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior noted, collaboration is one of the technology-driven strategies that doesn't end with the technology - it has to extend to an organization's business processes.

Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy's presentation included a demo about a cable service provider that needed to reduce costs, manage high call volumes, optimize outsourcer contracts and consolidate and centralize applications, while managing and reducing variable costs by automating routing to the appropriate outsourcer based upon contract agreements. The solution was intelligent customer routing on Avaya Aura with internal and external SIP routing, plus Avaya Voice Portal for targeted customer self service. The intelligent customer routing application provided annual savings of $11 million and payback in less than 3 weeks.

During Gurdeep Singh Pall's keynote, Microsoft customer Swisscom discussed how it used UC to shorten its sales cycle up to 20%, while increasing worker productivity by 20 minutes a day, enabling workers to focus on their core business.

In addition to giving several customer examples, Bob Piccioni, General Manager, IBM Software, discussed how IBM's Academy of Technology used UC for virtual meetings. By using web conferencing and point-to-point video, IBM was able to save $17 million in telephony costs, and $105 million in travel expenses. Piccioni noted that the real value was in being able to attain a globally integrated enterprise, using collaboration to support the company and its partners globally.

James O'Neill, CEO of Siemens Enterprise Communications, explained how Siemens deployed Openscape UC servers in its 21 North American offices for 2,000 employees including 500 teleworkers, and attained a 134% ROI payback. O'Neill said that Siemens anticipates $20 million in hard savings over the next five years and a 70% cost reduction for teleworkers, plus $17 million in indirect savings from more efficient daily communications, easier expense management and leaner support operations.

Kraft Foods is using UC to help enable the office of the future, according to Thomas Behnke, Global Network Services Manager and Architect, Kraft Foods. Working with Avaya to integrate UC with the iPhone for full UC collaboration, Kraft is saving money through reduced infrastructure costs and moving from TDM carrier services to SIP.

Why is all of this so important? It proves that the UC industry has moved beyond the "what" to the "why" and "how" - there are real users, real implementations, and more importantly, real results. While we're experiencing a challenging economy, companies are still finding value from UC, and the technology is paying for itself in most cases. The examples provided throughout VoiceCon highlighted hard dollar savings, not just the soft, intangible benefits that we know UC provides.

We've come a long way in the few short years since UC hit the scene, and the user examples presented at VoiceCon offer proof that the benefits and value of UC is real. What a difference a year makes!