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Your Phone System Upgrade Requires a UC Strategy for ROI

For years, the phone system, key system, PBX or IP-PBX, was the center of the enterprise communications universe. That's changing because of UC: UC imposes requirements on a phone system to do more, a lot more. It must blend in with other modes of communications - IM, email, web and videoconferencing. It must become part of a workgroup or enterprise presence system. It must work with PCs and cell phones and, increasingly, it must be linked into business processes applications.

Since telephone toll rates continue to drop, it is very difficult (read: Impossible) to cost-justify a new IP-PBX solely on transport savings, especially with current economic conditions creating the demand for hard-dollar ROI and paybacks of 12 months or less. The good news is that a UC strategy can deliver those rapid ROIs and can help justify a re-defined IP-PBX investment.

My friends at UniComm Consulting, Marty Parker and Don Van Doren, tell me they are often asked to help customers analyze and then justify a new IP-PBX within the UC context. Their clients recognize the importance of UC, but often have been told to start by upgrading their existing phone system. I understand this thinking -- it took me some time to really understand that UC isn't just about a new phone system - it is about "communications integrated to optimize business processes," a definition you've seen repeatedly on our website and this newsletter, and heard in numerous VoiceCon keynote addresses at since early 2007.

The growing body of UC case studies show that a close look at the communications problems or "hot spots" usually yields one or more logical UC solutions that save money and drive hard-dollar ROI.

Here are some popular UC approaches that Marty and Don report from their customer work:

* Start with a Part: Almost always, the big UC money is found in just a few areas - mobile sales or services teams, branch offices or teleworkers, product development or supply chain eco-system. Since new IP-PBXs can interoperate with existing phone systems, sometimes the best strategy is to implement a new IP-PBX with great UC features for only a part of the business.

* Be OK with an Overlay: UC solutions often can be installed as an overlay to your current PBX, whether as a package from the IP-PBX vendor, as an integrated UC application or as an integration to a business application such as Let the UC payoff help fund the subsequent PBX upgrade.

* You're Aces with Use Cases: The communications "hot spots" analysis will enable design of use cases for the employees (and customers and partners) in each major business process area. The communications use case for a mobile sales person is far different than for a mobile hospital caregiver; the use case for product development is very different from the use case in logistics, but has similarities to marketing or HR where they design new campaigns or policies. The use cases will highlight the needs of each set of users, and will significantly and economically adjust your IP-PBX configuration.

This UC Strategy topic should be very interesting to anyone in communications or IT management. We urge you to come to VoiceCon Orlando, March 30 - April 2, where you will see all of these UC strategy themes on display in sessions and exhibits. I hope to see you there, and welcome your thoughts.