In the current economic conditions, the majority of companies are being forced to dramatically scale back their operational costs. To accomplish this goal, many executives have started to explore certain aspects of their day-to-day business that they may have once taken for granted. Cutting back on communication costs may be the most common approach for businesses to stay out of the red while not adversely affecting their service.
To develop a better understanding as to how enterprises and SMBs can cut costs by unifying their communication mediums, TMC CEO Rich Tehrani recently conducted an interview with Frank Grillo (News - Alert), EVP of Implementation, Support and Marketing at Cypress Communications, a provider of hosted VoIP and hosted unified communications solutions.
During their talk, Grillo touches on the need for fixed mobile convergence solutions, the benefits and capabilities of hosted collaboration as well as the impact that cloud-based services are having on the communications space.
Grillo also previews the session that he will be leading at ITEXPO West 2010, where he will educate IT executives on ways to reduce costs, improve business processes and create more efficient organizations with UC solutions.
What is the most significant trend in communications today? Why?
Hosted unified communications and even more specifically, hosted collaboration, is the number one trend-setting technology in my opinion. Employees once relied solely on voice telephony using a desktop phone, whereas today, PC-based phones, find-me/follow-me and simultaneous ringing are becoming more commonplace.
The economic downturn over the last year or so made most executives take a long hard look at operational costs and look for ways to not only lower these costs, but to improve efficiency and productivity. Many companies issued travel moratoriums and began instituting web-conferencing initiatives as a viable, affordable alternative to travel.
Then the paradigm shift occurred. Executives began to realize that web conferencing was not just a cost-cutting measure, but an effective, real-time tool that could vastly improve communication between employees, even if those workers were located in different time zones, in different countries. As enterprises discovered the inherent benefits of collaboration, CIOs began to deploy file sharing, desktop video, chat and real-time availability status information for their employees.
It’s been reported that enterprises are deploying advanced UC capabilities to approximately 60% of employees. In my experience at Cypress Communications, enterprises are deploying UC collaboration for about 75-80% of their employees, and that’s an increase of probably 10-15% over previous years.
And while more employees at the enterprise are engaging in collaboration, the size of the enterprise that adopts collaboration is shrinking. Five years ago, only mega firms were using collaboration tools. Today, hosted unified communications means that a 100-employee company is just as likely to implement collaboration as a 2000-employee company. The inherent scalability of hosted unified communications provides a sound business strategy and lower cost of ownership whether you’re linking remote workers to a single location or integrating globe-trotting associates with a dozen international sites.
What is the one product or service the market is most in need of?
The market most needs Fixed Mobile Convergence (News - Alert) (FMC). With FMC, the cell phone becomes an extension of the corporate communications network, allowing employees to use their cell phone as their office phone. Dialing features that the employee uses with the desktop and soft client phones can be used with the cell phone. For example, an employee in Atlanta can dial her counterpart in New York by dialing a 4-digit extension on her cell phone. Calls can be transferred from the desk phone to the cell phone – while the call is in progress – allowing for vast mobility.
FMC is especially important for law firms, financial services companies and other professional services that must meet strict compliance and regulatory policies. FMC enables the freedom of mobility and ease of use of unified accessibility – all while meeting regulatory compliance with full business continuity and back office record keeping.
With FMC, enterprises win as employees leverage cost-saving corporate dialing plans for calls instead of cell phone minutes. Enterprises and employees both win with increased accessibility for optimum productivity.
When will unified communications go mainstream?
Depending on the size of the enterprise and the vertical market, unified communications is mainstream today. For enterprises with more than 100 users or multiple corporate locations, UC is definitely mainstream. For companies with fewer than 100 employees at a single location, UC is mainstream today if the enterprise needs mobility, collaboration, conferencing or some other aspect of UC for their business model.
At Cypress Communications, we’re fond of saying that “high-value employees conducting high-value transactions” have mainstream UC requirements. When you have a lawyer working with a team of professionals scattered across the U.S., the use of conferencing, file sharing and other forms of collaboration is quite common. On the other hand, a company with 20 employees based in a single office location really doesn’t have a need for robust UC applications. When you can look across the room and see who is in their cube or shout down the hall to ask a question, you really don’t have a need for presence or chat. However, this too, is changing. Smaller companies often require mobility and like their larger counterparts, can benefit from the usage charge savings that IP brings. Over the next year or so, I believe you’ll see more of the smaller companies switching to a less robust version of UC, one with fewer bells and whistles, as they capitalize on the few applications that can provide them with the most bang for the buck.
Who will win the smartphone wars? Tablet wars?
The real issue here is not a smartphone or tablet war, but rather a fight over who will have platform dominance. Which of the smartphone operating systems will reign supreme? Of the short list of developing companies, Google (News - Alert) Android and Apple iOS are really going head-to-head over who will create the most powerful network of developers, users and mobile devices. If you look at just the phone market, Google Android appears to be the winner because of the numerous wireless vendors and dozens of phones that support Android. But add in Apple’s (News - Alert) other iOS devices, the iPad and iPod Touch, and Apple suddenly appears to have the most control. Hands down, Apple generates the most revenue, it has the most apps and it has the most downloads. Where Apple builds its own devices in its attempt to control the market, Google is giving Android away for free, flooding the market in its attempt for control. In my opinion, the short-term winner is definitely Apple, but this battle is far from over. In a year, Google is probably going to be the dominant market player, and in five or ten years, it could be anyone, and to me, that is what keeps it all interesting.
Has social media changed how you communicate with customers?
Social media hasn’t really dramatically changed how we communicate with our customers. Our customers are CIOs at small and mid-sized enterprises and for the most part, they aren’t logging in to their Twitter or Facebook (News - Alert) accounts in order to talk to us. While we have a social media presence, most of our customers prefer to call us directly, email or communicate via the Cypress customer portal.
Nearly every phone manufacturer is now incorporating support for wideband codecs. Will we finally see widespread HD voice deployments in 2011?
I think that 2011 is still early for HD voice. In addition to the obvious carrier enhancements that still need to occur, business UC users are not pushing for HD voice. Sure, it has the “cool” factor, but given the economic climate, it really comes down to what exactly does the enterprise need to improve the bottom line. CIOs are having a tough time justifying an ROI for HD voice when there are so many other, easier ways to make enterprise improvements.
What are your thoughts on the viability of mobile video chat or conferencing?
I’m starting to see some demand at the user level, but the real question is when will the cellular provider networks be able to support it? But users are definitely ready for it.
Some have suggested wireless networking will soon replace wired networks in the enterprise. Do you agree? Why or why not?
In smaller companies that have less demanding requirements, wireless networking may replace wired networks. However, wireless networking still has too many bandwidth and reliability issues for most enterprises.
What impact has the growth of cloud-based services had on your business?
Since our entire business model is based on cloud-based communications or unified communications as a service, I’d have to say that cloud-based communications has had an enormous impact on our business. We continue to see significant interest in the hosted model and have recently announced some large UC services deployments. We’re expecting to continue to see tremendous growth in cloud-based communications.
You are speaking at ITEXPO West 2010. What is your session about?
My session is called, “Unified Communications and the Virtualized Enterprise: More Functionality, Reduced Spend.” IT executives who are looking to unified communications as a way to reduce costs, improve business processes, as well as create a more efficient organization are increasingly turning to cloud-based communications or unified communications as a service (UCaaS). UCaaS is a logical first step in migrating to cloud services, having recently emerged as the newest way for IT to maintain communication service levels and deliver business value while reducing expenses. The educational session will outline a path to virtualization, starting with UCaaS or Unified Communications as a Service as the first step in a logical migration path, showing attendees how they can leverage cloud services and unified communications as a service to decrease their overall IT spend while benefitting from technology that can help their enterprise get maximum rewards.
What will attendees take away from your session?
Attendees will learn how they can leverage cloud services and unified communications as a service to decrease their overall IT spend while still getting advanced communications and collaboration that can improve the organization’s bottom line. Critical capabilities will be reviewed as well as the best implementation path for success.
Please make a bold technology prediction for 2011.
Despite all the hype surrounding new technologies, ROI will still be king. I think we’ll continue to see modest economic improvement. Consequently, CIOs will spend only on technologies that have demonstrable cost savings, like hosted unified communications. Not only will more enterprises go with hosted unified communications for its ease of management and cost savings, but we’ll see very large enterprises turn to hosted UC, even when they have the ability to allocate resources to do it themselves.
To find out more about Frank Grillo and Cypress Communications, visit the company at ITEXPO West 2010. To be held Oct. 4 to 6 in Los Angeles, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Don’t wait. Register now.
Beecher Tuttle is a Web Editor for TMCnet. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Beecher Tuttle