Selling in a Slowdown: VoIP, UC Offer Productivity Possibilities

In a struggling economy, businesses might tighten their IT spending … unless there’s a clear ROI that can help them get through the downturn. That’s the scenario offered by VoIP and unified communications.

“A recession is going to be a very good thing for VoIP,” says CEO Henry Kaestner. “One level, and this is something that might be very obvious, but any type of service that saves a business money is going to be widely adopted in a recession. But also secondarily, the efficiencies that come about because of VoIP adoption are important, whether it’s unified messaging or presence features or any number of things that will drive worker efficiencies will also result in cost savings.”

Arthur Gruen of Wilkofsky Gruen Associates, author of the Telecommunications Industry Association’s 2008 market review and forecast, adds that enough spending is already built into corporate business plans that IP communications will continue to do well. “We could see a bit of a pause in 2008 reflecting a downturn in the economy, particularly by enterprises who want to hold back or delay some of their investments,” he notes. “Nevertheless, the enterprises are focused on converting to IP, and a lot of the plans are already in place. We don’t expect them to delay that.”

IP increasingly means unified communications. Research indicates that unified communications can improve business productivity by up to 18 percent, with up to a 250 percent return on investment. Gartner Inc. sums up the positioning: “The largest single value of UC is its ability to reduce human latency in business processes,” reads a research note. “Although communication methods (such as voice or IM) can be used individually and separately, organizations should examine how bringing these methods together can increase synergies and efficiencies. To accomplish this, companies should review how individuals and groups use communications internally, then undertake pilots and trials that could lead to improved processes.”

Channel partners can make good on the UC promise by leveraging several new solutions in the market. For instance, Zeacom Inc.’s new version of the Zeacom Communications Center (ZCC) targets 2,500 desktops, or five to 500 contact center agents. It provides the tools that increase operational efficiency and deliver personalized communications services to employees in disparate locations throughout an organization, includes voice conferencing service and extends unified communications from the desktop to mobile devices.

Nortel Networks and Microsoft Corp. also just rolled out four new joint UC solutions, including the Converged Office unified communications suite, Multimedia Conferencing, and solutions for branch offices and hosted service providers. They, too, report that customer adoption for their allied products continues to accelerate, with more than 600 wins to date.

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