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The concept of Unified Communications integrates different media as telephony, presence, e-mail, audio and Web conferencing, video conferencing, mail, unified messaging and instant messaging based on internet protocols and web standards. The article shows the competitive advantages by quicker decision, better alignment of global spread teams and cost effectiveness. Some challenges in using this concept are shown, so that only first enterprises are using this concepts. The article shows the concrete experiences of this first users and compares them with the theoretical concept.
The market for enterprises has become global. Companies are given the option of a wider sales market, but also more competition is in place because of buyers that compare globally . The resulting global competition causes high pressure on prices and forces enterprises to differentiate and/or to reduce costs. Differentiation and cost reduction could be done by outsourcing parts of value chains or by implementing cost-saving concepts like “Just-In-Time Production”.
The fight for customers requuires much quicker reactions to customer- and market request. Offers have to be produced quicker, product lifecycles have to be shortened significantly.
Marketing has to be intensified and customer service has to be optimized.
This requirements cause changes in the way companies and their employees work and communicate. Stable hierarchical structures move to matrix organisations with dynamic project based collaborations. Stable work teams working face-to-face are shifted to virtual distributed teams, even distributed over different companies between customers and suppliers.
Invariant office opening times are not only changed by mobile workers and distributed teams over different time zones, but also by flexible working times and disappearing borders between working hours and time off. Long formalized coordination processes, for instance as “circulation letters” are replaced by time-sensitive business processes requiring reactions in real time. Complex business processes are mostly supported by business applications for Enterprise Ressource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Changes in communications technology
One of the drivers of globalization is the dramatic improvement in communications technology. 30 years ago the ways of communications in enterprises were quite limited. Beside the fixed office phone as the only real time media the asynchronous media of letters and teletype messages were used. Later in the 1980s telefax substituted teletype messages and parts of letter correspondence.
Starting with 20 hosts in 1980 the Internet, as a communications network for the exchange of data between computers, grew to 550 million hosts1. Based on this network the World-Wide-Web, as a system for creating, organizing and linking of documents, grew from the first web site in 1991 to more than 100 million web sites today.
The distribution of personal computers in the 1990s and the growth of the Internet established Email as a communications medium that substituted a big part of letter correspondence and fax: almost 50% of all employees in Germany have an email address in their working environment2. The new forms of digital communications such as Web Collaboration, Text- and Video Chat and Instant Messaging are finding the way from private usage into the office environment.
In parallel the usage of mobile devices increased exponentially with the launch of digital mobile Page 3 from 9
networks. Starting 1992 in Germany from 180 thousand mobile GSM phones it grew to 86 Million GSM and UMTS contracts in 2006 – that is more than one for each german resident3. As part of this growth mobile data communication reached a share of almost 20% in the GSM and UMTS mobile networks in 2006 .
Challenges of enterprises in communications
Because of the advances in communications technology and the business needs of the global market, users are experiencing a complex and fragmented communications environment with multiple devices and media, as shown in picture 1, around the global enterprise4.
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FIG 1: MULTIPLE COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA AND DEVICES
New communication media and devices create new challenges. A permanent availability is expected – externally for organisations regarding customers and partners and internally for employees in key positions. For each trial to reach someone, multiple connections are made and multiple messages could be left. This increases the efforts for sender and recipient of the message, as well as the discontinuity of media brings additional efforts.
A study of Insignia Research for Siemens Enterprise Communications names the top three pain points for business users: waiting for information, unwanted communications and inefficient team coordination. Each valid for at least 80% of the participants (SEN 2007).
94% find themselves waiting for information from others before they can move forward on a task. This includes leaving multiple messages on the same subject and costs more then 5h per week . 35% see a extremely or very significant impact in this issue, 38% are extremely or very frustrated with this.
91% of respondents spent an average of 3.5 hours per week on interruptions and unwanted and unscheduled communications that distracted them and therefore negatively (for 22% very or extremely ) impacted their productivity. Of these, 34% are very or extremely frustrated.
80% see inefficient team coordination, involving 3.5 hours per week with coordination obstacles that Page 4 from 9 (in 24% extremely or very significantly) impact their team's ability to move toward it's goals, make deadlines, and deliver high quality work. For 30% this is very or extremely frustrating.
The Survey was responded by 517 participants in the US, Canada and Europe. 62% of the respondents were in customer-facing sales and services roles, of mixed ages and coming from companies of all sizes.
Table 1 shows the results of the top pain points in overview.
TABLE 1: PAIN POINTS OF COMPANIES
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This challenge promises Unified Communications to solve by optimized integration of communication features into business processes.
Concept of Unified Communications
Unified Communications (UC) is the integration of different communications media and communications devices in the work flows and business processes of enterprises with the target to optimize efficiency and collaboration of people and teams - and finally to raise the productivity of the enterprise significantly.A single unique definition of UC doesn't exist, the basic UC functionalities are:
Presence: the current presence of people for different communications media is shown to potential communication partners. The so called “Federation” even enables sharing this presence information over different UC-applications, for example with customers and suppliers. The “Tag” function starts communication events when the presence status of UC-Users changes.
Click-to-Service: communications actions, e.g. like telephony, speech-, video or web conferences can be started directly inside of business- and office applications
Unified Messaging: the integration of Voice- and Email, optional also telefax and SMS
Mobility: one number service lets people been reached alternatively on their office phone, mobile phone or home phone by a single number – and shows the same number to their communications partner when actively calling
When integrated in the personal working tools of employees UC increases personal productivity and especially the productivity of teams. The integration in the business processes of a company is the next level – and should lead to even significantly higher impacts on enterprise effectiveness.
The realisation of Unified Communications requires the integration of existing and the implementation of new voice- and data infrastructure, as well as applications:
- Telephony: IP-Telephony as well as integration of mobile phones.
- Data networ k for IP communications, capable for real-time data. IT-applications:
- Groupware for Email, Web Collaboration and Calendering, Office-Applications and Workflow systems, other Client applications.
- UC Middleware for the integration of all communications functions and the aggregation and provision of presence information
UC integra]tes elements of the voice and data segment. Picture 2 shows some players of the Voice and Data market structured in the dimensions infrastructure and applications5.
- Quote paper
- Ralf Lehmann (Author), 2009, Unified Communications - Competive Advantage in a Global World, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/131376