Converged communications, or the integration of voice, e-mail, instant messaging and a variety of other forms of communication, makes everyone reachable anywhere, at any time. Richard Garboski, president of eTechHelp, tells you how to know if your business is ready for it and how to get there.
The other day my colleague and I worked jointly on a sales
presentation for a potential new customer. Seeing I was at my desk, he
asked for my input on ROI projections. We brought another associate in
on the conversation, who added relevant statistics directly into the
presentation. We won the account, and the customer was impressed with
our knowledge of all points of her business.
What's remarkable about this exchange is that all of the
participants were miles apart - sometimes by thousands of miles. I was
traveling in Europe and my colleague, who found out about the pitch as
a last-minute opportunity, had checked to see my status online using
IM. He saw that I was "online" - and I was, using my own PC at a local
coffee shop. So he rang my office phone where the call was routed
automatically to my PC's softphone application (thanks to remote SIP
connectivity software from Ingate Systems). For my coworker, it was a
seamless connection and, despite the fact that I was nowhere near my
office, business got done.
This is the beauty of converged communications - the integration of
voice, e-mail, instant messaging and a variety of forms of
communication. They are all carried over a common IP network, delivered
to the recipients in real time using their preferred method of
communication (be it phone, e-mail, etc.
). Converged communications makes connecting with one another simple.
How can you tell if your business is ready to reap the benefits of it? Here are six surefire ways to know:
1. If you're already using VOIP or plan to
VOIP (voice over IP) is an application that allows you to put voice
and data traffic on the same IP network. Many businesses use VOIP as a
1:1 replacement for traditional wire line telephony, using it for calls
made within the company (corporate LAN). Telephony costs are reduced,
or even eliminated, as calls are placed over the Internet instead of
through the traditional telephony network.
Remote connectivity solutions make it possible for satellite
offices, remote workers, "road warriors," etc., to utilize the VOIP
capabilities of your corporate PBX from anywhere - as long as they're
connected to the Internet. With this idea of taking VOIP a step
further, beyond this LAN application, the potential for ROI is far
2. Your company's gone global
Even if your company just expanded to include satellite offices, you
need to be able to reach employees at any time, anywhere, to keep
business running smoothly. For your customers, working with your
company needs to be a seamless experience. Do they need the latest
pricing on a new product? The sales team should be only a click away
via IM or click-to-call applications. Answers can be text messaged back
to a cell phone.
3. Your employees belong to the "MSN generation"
The generation now entering the workplace is used to communicating
via IM, video, e-mail and file sharing. They--and your customers--take
for granted that these communication tools are installed in the working
environment and that their colleagues, partners and customers are
online and ready to communicate. Leverage their aptitude for converged
communications by standing out as a front-runner in information
sharing. Your business is open 24/7; your employees are available and
ready to help out by e-mail, IM, phone--whatever suits your customers
at that time.
4. You want to lower your communication costs
It's actually a cost-saving investment to install VOIP and other
forms of real-time communication. By using the Internet that is already
in place, the need for costly PRIs (Primary Rate Interfaces) and BRIs
(Basic Rate Interfaces) decreases. As long as your employees are
connected to the Internet, no matter where they are in the world, they
don't have to use their (or your) cell phones and bill back high cell
5. You're looking to improve business efficiencies
Unified communications can streamline the way your employees do
business and add value for customers and partners. Your development
team can be an "always available" presence via IM - even from across
the globe. Phone "follow me" features allow calls made to your desk to
ring your cell or at your home office. Customers can use your own VOIP
to call your company, and IM presence can facilitate the sales cycle.
6. Business gets done at home, on the road and on your cell phone
One of the key benefits with rich communication applications is
making businesses run more transparently. Business can be conducted
from anywhere in the world - regardless of time zones and locations
(i.e., remote workers). Because of this, customers have maximum access
to your staff. In addition, employees can access corporate resources
from anywhere in order to save the company money. They can leverage
expertise from colleagues in other offices or even other countries, or
use SIP to provide customers with the best service.
This same technology for remote connectivity can be used for all
clients, including PC-based softphones and IP phones connected to the
Internet. This is an advantage of the SIP protocol: to be able to
register multiple devices with the same address, i.e., phone number. A
person can then, for example, use an IP phone/softphone at their home
office and an IP-only phone in the corporate office - both registered
to the same number. One number reaches the employee in multiple