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October 7, 2009

Unified comms being left behind in business continuity

But operational efficiency benefits are on offer

By Steve Evans

Companies often ignore the importance of communications when developing business continuity plans, according to enterprise communications vendor Aastra Technologies

Hugh Scholaert, founder and group vice president of Aastra, said that companies think that providing someone with a laptop is enough. “While that may be true for some, there are tools available today that replicate everything you have on your desktop,” he told CBR, “and just the ability of an individual to be at home and be part of a contact centre and know the availability of other employees is a big plus.”

The key driver to adoption is operational efficiency, Scholaert said. “If an individual with a mobile, which is an extension of your call manager, is part of the contact centre then you can dictate the skill sets necessary to take a certain call and route it to the correct individual, you will be able to solve issues more rapidly,” he said.

Scholaert added that rethinking a business continuity strategy to include a unified communications platform not only impacts on a company’s carbon footprint, but it also reduces stress levels for employees able to work at home and during hours that suit them.

Having a dispersed workforce has an obvious impact on team building and there are still some companies that feel workers not at their desks are not working, Scholaert said. “That is a problem,” he admitted. “It’s very difficult to create a team environment when you’re working remotely and team building is at risk. But with the video conferencing technologies that are available that can be overcome. Workers can still be very productive at home.”

For many companies, however, high-end video conferencing suites are prohibitively expensive. “The price will come down,” countered Scholaert. “Once a product is out there the prices decrease and the functionality increases. When VoIP came out the quality of service was not great  but people were willing to make do because of the cost. I think the same is happening with video; you don’t expect good quality with Skype or MSN but you expect to be able to use it. Over time it will get better.”

More of a barrier to adoption could be the network infrastructure that is currently on offer in the UK, Scholaert believes. “There are issues with the infrastructure and there are many countries playing catch up regarding improving it. But we have to get there,” he said.

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As consumer demand for bandwidth-hogging applications such as on-demand TV increases, networks will have to improve. That improvement will find its way into the enterprise, Scholaert said.


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