Mobilizing Unified Communications
Taking FMC to the next level
By: Wayne Seifried
Dec. 12, 2008 02:15 PM
With our dynamic business environment and fluid business models, enterprise communications is becoming increasingly focused on mobility. The associates and managers who are key to supporting customers, resolving production problems, and addressing other critical business tasks can rarely be found at their desks. In spite of this, organizations are under pressure to improve productivity while remaining responsive to customer demands. Those dual goals of responsiveness and productivity have given rise to demands for more functional and effective mobile communications.
Mobility is not a "one size fits all" endeavor. Different users require different capabilities and will need different degrees of mobility. Some users roam only within the building or campus, while others might spend the majority of their time outside the office. That wide area roaming might extend across the city, the country, or around the globe. While initial mobile solutions focused solely on voice access, the development of unified communications has increased the pressure to extend those enhanced communications capabilities to mobile users as well.
In selecting a mobile solution today it is essential that organizations look for suppliers with the widest range of capabilities. That will allow enterprises to provide the feature set required by each user and to deliver those mobile capabilities in the most cost-effective fashion.
Business Goals for Mobile Unified Communications
Before embarking on a mobile product selection, it's important to get a clear understanding of the potential implementations and the business goals the solution will support. High on that list of goals would be:
Reviewing the Options
The key to a successful mobile solution will be to understand the service and mobility requirements of the various user groups and determine how to provide those capabilities in the most functional and cost-effective fashion. As we analyze mobility requirements, we will typically find a range or user profiles with different mobility and application needs. IT support, production, facilities maintenance, and security personnel may be highly mobile, but only within the facility or campus. Providing voice, email, and applications access to those users represent an excellent potential for WLAN access. That option assumes the wireless LAN has the required capacity and can support the necessary security, quality of service, and battery conservation features.
There are also users such as field sales and service who will divide their time between their office, remote offices, and customer locations. Those employees must be continuously accessible for voice, email, and data access, so a dual mode Wi-Fi/cellular solution might be the perfect fit. Fully automated solutions can detect when users are available over a WLAN, and will automatically route inbound and outbound calls via that network, eliminating unnecessary cellular charges. State-of-the-art solutions can transparently handoff a connection from the WLAN to the cellular network when the user leaves the facility.
Users who spends a large portion of their time on the road or who work in facilities that do not have a voice-capable WLAN will likely have to depend primarily on cellular connectivity for their mobility. However, that cellular service can now be integrated with the wired telephone system. Using a feature called Simultaneous Ring, the user's cell phone number can be stored in the PBX along with their office phone. When a call is received, the PBX can ring the desk phone and the cell phone simultaneously, and the user can answer the call on either. Enhanced solutions can build on that capability by providing a software client that will allow mobile users to access to presence-based directory, visual voicemail (i.e., the ability to view voice message alerts on the mobile device's display), and access to PBX-type features such as hold, conference, and transfer. In some cases, these solutions can also reduce service costs as international cellular calls can be routed over wired network facilities.
Choosing a Partner
The ability to deliver the full range of integrated capabilities will become more and more important as presence, visual voicemail, and other productivity-enhancing UC capabilities are added to the mix. Business communication requirements are clearly shifting toward mobility, and enterprise buyers will need reliable partners to deliver the full complement of services to address the full range of business mobility requirements.
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