Unified communications for SMEs

Avaya has launched a new set of solutions that it says will help mid-market companies to get more benefit from unified communications technology, including enhanced collaboration, video conferencing and mobility.

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Unified communications for SMEs Abou-Ltaif: Avaya has developed solutions specifically to cater to the mid-market.
By  ITP.net Staff Writer Published  April 16, 2013

Avaya has launched a new set of solutions that it says will help mid-market companies to get more benefit from unified communications technology, including enhanced collaboration, video conferencing and mobility.

The scope of unified communications has increased in recent years, to include new features such as video conferencing and collaboration, but many companies, particularly in the mid-market, have been slow to adopt solutions because of complexity and cost. That situation may be about to change however, with a major launch of mid-market focused solutions from vendor Avaya.

The company has strong presence with IP telephony at enterprise level, but has now decided to introduce solutions for the SME – for companies with up to 1,000 users. Avaya’s new IP Office range has been tailored to meet the needs of the segment, and the Middle East is set to be the first region to get access to the new solutions.

Nidal Abou-Ltaif, vice president of Middle East African and Turkey, Avaya, explained that while nearly 90% of the company’s customers in the region fall into the SME segment of 500 employees or less, the enterprise solutions that Avaya offered provided a high degree of reliability, but also came with an enterprise-level price point and degree of complexity.

“Initially we were trying to scale down our enterprise solutions to meet the requirement, and that was expensive [for the customer] so we used to subsidise it, even then, the running cost, the TCO, was expensive. Most of these companies don’t have an IT group to help them, so they need more self-sufficiency,” he said.

The new IP Office line has been developed specifically for the mid-market segment, with solutions that can typically be set up within two hours, and at a price point around 50% less than the corresponding enterprise solutions.

IP Office is intended to cater to organisations with between five and one thousand users, at a single site or multi-site up to 32 locations. A technology upgrade in August will extend that to 1,500 users. The solution includes all of the Avaya features, including telephony and video, mobility and call centre applications, networking and security. The solution is available in five IP Office editions, with additional features sets in each level.

“The days of complicated IT solutions, intended for larger enterprises, have come to an end; SMEs are busy expanding their core businesses, and need simple solutions that embrace innovation,” Abou-Ltaif added. “SMEs are constantly growing and agile — they invest in new technology because they understand that in order for their organisation to grow, they need to take informed decisions about which solutions can make them more competitive and customer-centric. The company is putting a lot of push into this, we see a lot of potential in the mid-market.”

The new solutions are intended to be not just affordable for the SME, but also to encourage more use of the different functions that IP Office offers. At present, most smaller companies are not really using integrated collaboration systems, or if they have solutions, they exist as islands rather than an integrated whole. The new solution is meant to provide easier to use features, with capabilities such as integration with Microsoft Office and Microsoft Lync, to make it easier for the end user to get the most from the system.

IP Office is based on open standards, so that it is compatible with hardware from other vendors, allowing companies to preserve any existing investment in solutions.

“Another challenge faced by SME’s is their networking and video conferencing requirements. They are looking for a time-saving, straightforward process that’s ideal for organisations that may not have dedicated IT staff. Customers don’t want to be confined in expensive video conferencing rooms to stay visually connected with their customers, peers and partners and that making video mobile and affordable to mid-size enterprises helps them stay constantly connected through their device of choice.”

Increased usage of unified communications and collaboration features can bring a range of benefits to organisations, Abou-Ltaif said, such as reductions in mobile bills, roaming bills and travel expenses, and a boost to productivity. A recent survey by Wainhouse showed that 94% of respondents believe that video conferencing allows them to improve efficiency and productivity.

The solutions have already been adopted by a number of customers in the region, and Abou-Ltaif said that the company is seeing strong demand from a number of sectors, including industrial manufacturing, real estate, construction and education.

Avaya has selected specific channel partners, and implemented a new training programme for them, to ensure proper deployment and support of the new solutions. The company is also undertaking an eight city roadshow to launch the solutions.

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