Mobility, Cloud, Video Hold Keys to Future of Unified Communications
What Flotek needed was an intuitive, simplified, broad UC platform that was easy to deploy and could be centrally managed. The company needed to get it up and running at 30 locations within 60 days; it was done in 50. The company leveraged ShoreTel's UC software and hardware, including Mobility and Conferencing solutions, its Communicator management software and its VPN Concentrator appliance. "That type of collaboration goes a long way in [creating] efficiencies," Seagall said. With the ShoreTel UC solution, Flotek is able to save money on roaming fees, third-party technologies, a reduced amount of copper telephone lines and space. "The footprint in these locations is even smaller than a router," he said. Services also were important, Seagall said. The ShoreTel solution is fairly easy to use, and the vendor offers a range of user training methods, from videos on YouTube to advanced user training programs, he said. ShoreTel's Roshan and Edward Wright, director of global mobility, said the company also offers user training programs that lasts as little as two to three hours.The services vendors need to offer a range from support to professional services, such as going into the customer's building and explaining how everything works, IDC's Costello said. They also need to provide services to help businesses integrate their UC technology with any existing systems already in place, as well as managed and hosted services. "Services are a really big piece to [driving adoption]," he said. So is the end user's experience, Cisco's Wiese said. The applications must be easy to use and less complex and add to what the user is trying to do. "How do we get—like it or not—to the Apple experience?" he said. "Apple set the standard for the user experience, and we need to get there." Microsoft's Mezgec agreed, saying that businesses will not get the results they're looking for if employees have to wrestle with the technology. "If it works great, then the technology disappears and people are empowered," he said. In addition, according to Seagall, having a common communications platform and making it easier for employees to collaborate enables mobile and remote workers to feel like they are part of the larger team rather than off on their own alone. That can add to the user experience and help improve productivity. The vendors said there are some steps businesses can take and questions they can ask as they look to deploy a UC solution. Mezgec said companies need to ask themselves what their needs are—mobile, telecommuters and collaboration among remote teams? Also they need to determine who is going to be collaborating—is it internal, between colleagues, or will employees also be going outside the business and collaborating with partners and customers? In addition, Flotek's Seagall urged businesses to determine what they need and to ensure that is what vendors are offering. In his case, central management of the solution was essential, and ShoreTel offered the best solution. He also said customers should check vendor references, make sure vendors have a record of doing the project on time and on budget, and avoid "hidden gotchas," like missing applications or solutions that "are not fully hardened."
"The learning curve is pretty flat," Roshan said.