UCStrategies Experts Discuss Progress in Unified Communications - Successes in the Marketplace

14 Jun 2010

As UC moves past "definitional arguments" to actual adoption and implementation, the UCStrategies Expert team reports on the successes seen in the marketplace.

The expert panel includes Marty Parker, Samantha Kane, Art Rosenberg, Michael Finneran, Steve Leaden, and Don Van Doren.

Marty Parker: Today I am the host of the UCStrategies.com weekly podcast. Today's topic is going to be Successes in Unified Communications...what's actually happening in the marketplace. The past several years there have been a lot of introductory conversations and points about what unified communication is, definitional arguments, but now we are starting to see the actual traction...the actual investment...the actual growth. And so, we thought we would talk amongst ourselves about where the growth is coming from and where it's going and any issues there might be in getting started. We are going to start with Samantha Kane, who has some thoughts about getting started...so Samantha on to you.

Samantha Kane: Many of our clients are still struggling as to where to start, how to plan, how not to overwhelm themselves and make it into such a big project that they can't ever finish it and see the successes and results. I would really like to just remind our audience today that on the UCStrategies site, not only do we have papers that have been written by all of my distinguished cohorts on how to start, especially from a business process point of view that Art has certainly written on, and I have myself, and Don. However, it also has some great checklists that you, Marty, and Don have put together, and even RFP instructions. I think that the best starting point for anyone who is struggling, go to the UCStrategies site and look for that. And if you need some help, phone any of us or get a hold of Jim or Blair and ask for some assistance. But it's a great starting point, so with that and our favorite topic of business process, I pass it over to you, Art.

Art Rosenberg: What I am seeing in the real world, and this is just in the last couple of weeks, as a matter of fact, is major companies starting to do things, approaching UC (with what I think is) properly. And in a way it's top down and not bottom up. It's not like, "what kind of network should I have?" I look at it from a different perspective in general. If I gave you all the technology for free and installed it, what would you do with it? If you don't know what you're going to do with it, don't even bother trying to build it. From a practical standpoint-that's the way management looks at it. And this is confirmed. I know Marty knows about this, and Don, but we all suddenly received invitations to possibly volunteer to take a job as something along the lines of Director of Unified Communications, was one title. In talking the recruiter, what he described was that they need someone first to get things organized organizationally...not just for a particular technology...not just for telephony...not for just messaging and so on...not even for devices or networks and anything like that, but someone who is going to be in charge of the whole operation, if you will, from an organizational perspective. And that to me is a good sign. Because they are saying, #1, we need someone to manage this; not an expert in the technologies necessarily, but someone who can manage the people who are the experts in the technology. And that's a good sign. So, in terms of getting organized and what do you do first, is get organized. You have someone who can be responsible, have the clout, the champion, whatever you want to call it-but someone who is going to take the responsibility that if they had the technology it would be used effectively. And obviously, it's not for all the applications that could be out there or all the technology, but an evolutionary path and that has to be managed in terms of priorities.

Marty Parker: Right. Samantha is talking about how to get the information you need to start, and Art has covered for us that more organizations are actually filling jobs and moving forward with their action plans on Unified Communications, so now let's talk about some of the people that have actually bolted it to the floor and done something with it. Michael, you were going to talk about some of the Unified Communications business process UCB work, especially in healthcare, right?

Michael Finneran: Absolutely, Marty. First I am sorry for my voice. I am a little under the weather this week, but for my money, the most exciting part about UC is UC for business productivity. And in that space, healthcare certainly does seem to be leading the way. At the moment, Steve Leaden and I are working with a major regional medical center, a teaching hospital, and we are fortunate in that in this case, the business is already committed to making better use of technology -basically to drive business transformation.

Now, certainly wireless has been a major factor in healthcare for a number of years now, generally for larger segments with things like voiceover wireless LAN, wireless medical equipment. But the healthcare community is starting to expand their focus now and look at this more broadly. Certainly, the first focus is in-hospital, wherein, either WiFi or any number of proprietary wireless systems were used for patient monitoring and other applications. Now some of these are directly communications oriented...things like basic voice communications, paging, nurse calls...the healthcare establishments now are looking at this in a much broader fashion for telemedicine. Something like WiFi is grand, as long as the patient is still within the hospital. However, the healthcare professional is now finding that it is critically important to be able to continue monitoring the patient, even when they return home. So now the focus is shifting much more from traditional WiFi and proprietary local wireless technologies to cellular, and some of the devices coming out really are amazing-certainly basic patient monitoring for blood pressure, temperature, ongoing medical diagnostics. One of the real interesting developments we are seeing now actually are smart bandages-where they can remotely monitor a bandage that gives you an assessment of how well the wound beneath it is actually healing. Also just practical things like ensuring that senior citizens are taking their drugs when they are away from the hospital. So the whole field of telemedicine-moving it out of the hospital and into the home-is becoming critical. And of course, in conjunction with that...home healthcare. Now, some of the home healthcare applications are still still sort of rudimentally - things like time tracking, dispatch providing directions to the next call. But all these wide area applications really are moving the focus of home healthcare really off the local wireless technology to reaching out to the patient when they are no longer in that healthcare facility. But again, the key that we are finding is that it really does take a business commitment. That is, the care managers in the hospital have to be focused on the idea of making use of technology to really deliver better healthcare. We are seeing it in other areas, but for my money, healthcare seems to be at the top of the list. Steve has been involved in that as well. Do you have anything to add?

Steve Leaden: We're finding that in addition to this particular to one, to Art's point that I think you made earlier as well, I think the organization needs a visionary CIO or CTO aligned with the senior management for their buy-in for moving the business forward in terms of how UC can be a business function. I think that's the first driver. The second driver is that we see consistently as we're doing needs assessment now, so the healthcare one is one for example; we're working with a manufacturing company in the south as the second example; we are working with a major not-for-profit in the northeast as the third example; we're in procurement cycles on all three, and on all three through their needs assessments and questions, and interviews with senior management...everybody is very excited about wanting to do something in some order with UC, whether it be IM, chat presence, or document sharing or video conferencing, personal, or even on-group. Everybody really wants to, potentially at least, deploy these particular technologies. Now obviously, there has to be an ROI around all of these. We're finding that we're typically doing these days and we have done it actually now in the last five out of five procurements is that we have included UC in the specification and we've actually introduced it as an option for the customer and when the customer has basically seen the price point delta for all that they can get to help change the organization at large, it's a very, very compelling story.

So, in the end really now it has to do with how we've employed it into the culture, because we need basic cultural shifts to get everybody into an always-on kind of format, which I think is where the market has been headed for a long time. I could go on and on Marty, but we're seeing it deployed, but we're seeing the acceptance rate in terms of changing the organization at large, it has to be driven from the top down and that's when we're seeing it accepted amongst the users. But typically, if we do a test bed at the executive management level, it definitely gains more acceptance.

Marty Parker: Thank you very much for those updates. Don, I think you have some comments on building this into an RFP and I know you've seen some of these cases, so perhaps you want to talk about it.

Don Van Doren: I think one of the places that we've seen this is at a healthcare instituation ourselves. Real interesting. We were actually brought in, the organization felt that the direction that they had to go was to replace their existing telephone system and they were about to spend, I don't know six million dollars or so doing that, and a lot of phone changeouts. What we showed them, and what they came to understand, was that there were really better ways to spend a lot of that investment. So, rather than putting it into upgrading the phone system just to provide some additional next generation view of the same old technology that they had had before, they really shifted their whole focus and started instead, deploying that into a variety of other kinds of UC-enabled applications. Everything from locator services for both equipment and also caregivers, getting ready for communications enabling some of the clinical and business applications that they had within the hospital organization. So, the point is that I think we've really seen a shift in some of our clients at least, where they are starting to understand, how do we take what they thought was a pretty straight forward investment and really turn it into something much more productive, both for cost improvement, but also for improvements in quality of care?

Marty Parker: Pam, what have you seen in these channels?

Pam Avila: Well, it's been very interesting watching the change in the channel over the last couple of years, but specifically what we're seeing is those companies that have figured out how to get themselves started in UC, those that have chosen a focus, are actually seeing phenomenal growth over the last couple of years, even with the economy struggling. While other companies were shrinking or staying steady, companies like Enabling Technologies were actually growing and hiring new people and it came from the fact that - and this goes back to what Michael was just talking about in healthcare - those channel partners that have found an area within Unified Communications to focus on to either develop a specific expertise or knowledge about a specific industry - those are doing much better than the general channel. Focus has become so important, and when Michael was describing all of the different ways that the healthcare industry was making use of Unified Communications now, it became so apparent that for a channel partner they absolutely have to understand the business that they are talking to and how that business-that industry-would make use of the technology. So, focus has become extremely important. Those that have actually gone out and found other partners within the industry to develop relationships with are also seeing a lot of success. Dimension Data is a great one that is doing a lot and reaching out to other partners. So, overall we're really seeing that the channel is beginning to come into its own with Unified Communications.

Marty Parker: Great Pam, thanks for that. So just to build on that, yes, I agree that we're seeing that kind of growth and the UC segment is growing in the mid double digits. Some of that growth, I will comment, is coming from outside of traditional telephony. We certainly see the growth in desktops, with instant messaging, presence and click to communicate with Microsoft and IBM, between them claiming maybe two hundred million desktops now equipped with click to communicate. It doesn't look like a PBX, but you can still talk on it and you can still share things on it and still send video on it. So, it sounds like communications to me. When those get built into business processes as many of my peers have said, Michael, Steve and Don, and others have said - when they are built into business processes then you see the real benefit and the real bottom line cash affect or top line growth affect. The evidence of that is showing up in UC case studies. So I will just remind our listeners that we have links to the vendor case study sites on which there are some eight hundred plus case studies about Unified Communication at this point. I would say probably two-thirds of them are still UCU - user productivity, but a third of them are in the UCB business process category. So, we are seeing some really good evidence that the growth is occurring and that the benefits are being realized. But Samantha had a question...

Samantha Kane: We're obviously at a stage in our client engagements where we're building, planning, and in some cases starting to adopt. However, for the group...for the folks that have finished assisting clients with engagements...are they asking for validation of the success or are you providing them with a schedule and testing to demonstrate the success of the UC?

Marty Parker: As to how are companies finding out how much benefit they've achieved, is that right, Samantha?

Samantha Kane: That's right, Marty. How can you measure it? How can you validate the success?

Marty Parker: Right...and the evidence that we see from case studies is actually by monitoring some specific business metric. For example, more sales calls being made per day or per week by the sales force, more customer facing time from retail financial brokers; shorter time to resolution in healthcare because the physicians can find the assigned nurse by using an enhanced presence capability; shorter time for customer responses and better customer satisfaction. An old case study...this was two years old and not recent - but Global Crossing showed where they were actually able to improve customer service and reduce the staffing ratio per ticket by about 70%. Their business grew at the same time, so it wasn't like they had to release a lot of people from the help desk, but they were able to actually bring the size of the help desk down somewhat by assigning people to other areas, while still delivering improved service levels and growing the business. So, I think my answer, Samantha, is that most people are doing it by tracking some specific set of metrics - a very small set - but a specific set. Not unlike what some people do to manage their call centers. With that, Samantha, if you think that's a good answer, great...if not, then we will come back to it in a future Podcast. Thanks, everyone, for your contributions and we invite everyone to listen to us again next week.


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