UC Systems Evolve & Thrive in Middle East

Unified communications technologies are showing widespread adoption among organisations in the Middle East, and while IP telephony has accounted for the lion’s share of UC in the past, the sector is not standing still when it comes to extending adoption to new solutions.

Tags: Alcatel-LucentFVC - First Video Communications IncorporationHuawei Technologies CompanyInteractive Intelligence Inc (www.inin.com)Optimus Technology and TelecomTelepresence
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UC Systems Evolve & Thrive in Middle East Unified communications has been typified by IP telephony in the region, but UC technology is moving far beyond simple voice-based solutions.
By  Keri Allan Published  March 21, 2013

Unified communications technologies are showing widespread adoption among organisations in the Middle East, and while IP telephony has accounted for the lion’s share of UC in the past, the sector is not standing still when it comes to extending adoption to new solutions.

Awareness of unified communications (UC) across the GCC continues to grow although manufacturers and vendors are seeing varying levels of uptake. For some interest is still slow, but the majority are seeing an improvement in uptake — for example Alcatel-Lucent has seen over 40% of customer propositions from the region include UC. “IP telephony is the starting point with a strong double digit growth in this technology in the GCC,” says Roch Muraine, director Strategic Solutions for Middle East and Africa, Alcatel-Lucent, Enterprise.

“The conferencing and document sharing tool is the next step, where we saw large enterprise customers as well as smaller businesses engaged in deployments. Finally video conferencing is an area where we see some intakes mainly driven through iPad and point-to-point PC video collaboration.”

Distributor FVC is also seeing steady growth in the UC market, with the largest adoption within private enterprises followed by education and finance. Huawei has also seen a swift uptake in mobility collaboration apps, which it believes is down to the increasing trend towards a more remote and flexible workforce spurred by the adoption of BYOD.

“The latest trends in UC are collaboration applications on smart devices which are also largely driven by the increased popularity and adoption of BYOD,” says Syed Rahman, UCC manager, Huawei Enterprise Middle East.

Many experts believe that BYOD has made UC an even stronger communications and efficiency tool for the enterprise sector: “We have seen this bring significant advantages especially in the hospitality and customer service sector where the new technologies within UC segments have increased profitability with reduced cost savings long-term,” notes Dharmendra Parmar, GM of Marketing, FVC.

“There is a clear shift toward mobile and remote workers,” continues Shaheen Haque, territory manager, Middle East and Turkey, Interactive Intelligence. “As they account for a growing portion of the total workforce, businesses will need to provide them with tools that help them stay connected and productive regardless of physical location. Businesses need to invest in UC and other technologies that enable the use of personalised services, devices, and applications.”

“The mobile revolution is opening doors in the video collaboration department,” adds Farid Faraidooni, CCO, du. “Since nearly every new smartphone, tablet and laptop has a built-in high-definition camera, employees are able to leverage video conferencing solutions much more comfortably — an essential ingredient missing from the tools in the past.“

Clearly mobility is set to play an important role in the UC space, but so is the growth of cloud. Meera Kaul, MD of Optimus Technology and Telecommunications, believes that it is the vendors who can package their UC strategy as an application that will survive.

“Voice communication can no longer afford to be a standalone system. As more and more applications start including voice communication as a part of their business applications offering, cloud-based UC will offer enterprises agility and flexibility and mobility that will increase employee productivity and in turn improve customer satisfaction taking the focus away from traditional PBX based voice traffic.

“We are seeing a full range of UC applications being offered as cloud-based services to provide organisations with scalable and affordable solutions, where they would be able to add new features and functionalities as per their requirements,” Kaul continues.

According to a recent IDC study, cost-related factors were identified as the most prominent reason for UC adoption, with 16% of respondents citing the reduced cost of communications services and nine percent referring to power, space and hardware.

While cost saving still remains the biggest attraction, there is a shift in perception in terms of how organisations value UC within their business. Eleven per cent of those interviewed saw the major advantage of UC as increasing employee efficiency and another 11% appreciated that it had enabled new business processes. Support for flexible working was also cited as a significant benefit. Today, UC is also measured against the rate of employee productivity and job satisfaction, not just cost savings.

In today’s connected world, UC has some very clear business benefits. While some can be tough to calculate, measurable areas are productivity, in terms of increased communication and collaboration, access to resources that would normally be out of reach, and time savings and costs in terms of travel.

“Business benefits can really add up,” says Wael Abdulal , collaboration sales manager, Cisco UAE. “Organisations using UC clients saved an average 32 minutes per day, per employee, those using integrated voice and web conferencing reported a 30% reduction in conferencing expenses, and mobile workers saved 55 minutes per day by using unified messaging.”

“Depending on the solution, it can clearly be proven that people can replace travel by using UC solutions. Then you can actually measure the ROI by the savings on the cost of travel, the cost of time of the key executives, and it does justify the cost,” continues Parmar.

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