Profiting from convergence

With the promise of reduced overheads and easily managed costs, organisations are taking the concept of convergence seriously.

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Profiting from convergence BT’s Brian Armstrong says operators cannot ignore convergence.
By  Brian Armstrong Published  September 22, 2009 Communications Middle East & Africa Logo

Understand what you've got today: Complex, multi-vendor environments are common, especially amongst global organisations whose growth is partly due to mergers and acquisitions. The first task is to fully understand your assets, contracts and existing supplier environment across your entire organisation. Having this ‘big picture' will help inform future technology and investment decisions.

Have a plan... and see it through: Upgrading an enterprise voice estate should be considered one element of a wider unified communications strategy. Many businesses continue to operate in two to three types of environments, but convergence requires networks to all talk to each other. An incomplete upgrade will see interoperability problems occur between the legacy and newer IP networks, leading to increased costs, higher cycle times, higher defects, and lower quality.

Secure the business case for collaboration: Establishing a compelling return on investment is perceived to be one of the biggest hurdles facing the adoption of converged communications.  However using proven methods and a growing databank of benchmarks and case studies, its is possible to establish what money the business can save or make with converged communications and collaboration tools.

Multiple, fragmented technologies inhibit instant collaboration: Implementing a communications-enabled architecture bridges the gap between business activities and internal and external stakeholders, increasing operating efficiency and effectiveness. By considering the realm of possibilities that improved collaboration presents beforehand, you could be doing business faster and cheaper the minute the technology is installed.

Take voice further: Decision making usually stops - or at the very least is delayed - when individuals are not available. Embedding voice into other applications and business processes reduces human latency, and improves information flow and decision making across a business. Ensure this forms part of your plan, as a sizeable return on investment will be made up through faster decision making, more effective and efficient processes, increased profitability and better customer service.

Financing the move: In the current economy the default assumption is that there is no capex.  Don't let this put you off the move to convergence. Enterprise cloud solutions and other hosted services can deliver convergence on a zero-capex, pay-per-user basis on flexible contracts that allow you to turn up and down to the needs of you business.

Prioritise quality: Retaining QoS (quality of service) for voice is essential. A key stage in any upgrade or migration project is the QoS enablement of the local area and wide area network environment. Here, mission critical applications are prioritised on an end-to-end basis, and IP telephony can be deployed. Failure to ensure that the IP network supports the types of traffic required will result in latency, jitter, loss, and low availability.

Security: The defences against phone tapping and denial of service attacks on traditional TDM systems are well established and universally practised.  The goal posts will move when you upgrade to a converged platform so you can't take security for granted as you may with a TDM system.

Look to the future: Voice is a key component of unified communications and, as such, any tactical investments in voice need to fit into a long-term strategic roadmap. The technologies deployed today need to deliver for the business in up to ten years time. Organisations are striving to become service oriented enterprises; fluid, flexible and responsive to customers. To do so, companies are investigating and adopting service oriented architectures (SOA), creating IT architectures that are aligned with their business processes.

Get a competitive edge: With a SOA resources typically move from maintenance to innovation, with no compromise on service quality. This allows organisations to get several steps ahead of the competition by increasing flexibility.

Don't stop at consolidation: Once on a single voice platform, there are several options available to organisations. The next step is to extend the network into unified communications and fixed/mobile convergence to create a fully integrated voice and data infrastructure, which can also be done with solutions and services.

Brian Armstrong is the regional manager, Middle East and Africa of BT Global Services.

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