How Do Mobile Users Drive VoIP Decisions in the Corporate World?

Mobile users are driving VoIP decisions in the corporate world.How hard is it to find a group of adults, ready to sit down to a meal, with no mobile devices in sight? The addictive element of a mobile device usually involves an app and can lead to less-than-collaborative human interactions. Voice over IP (VoIP) may or may not be involved, but connectivity is certainly a must.

This can happen when business professionals are in the same room, on the go, or simply trying to make a connection. The demand for instant access when on the move stems not just from a change in consumer behavior, but from a desire to be in the field where it’s easier to connect with the customer. It’s a must in today’s market and it’s driving the demand for mobile. When VoIP is involved, the capabilities reach a whole new level.

In fact, the demand for and use of mobile devices has significantly influenced VoIP and unified communications (UC) in the last few years. Mobile apps for both continue to mature, driving tighter and more seamless integration, ease of use, security, and significant convenience as users easily align their device of choice with the technology needed to accomplish their goals. To that end, the demand for cloud-based solutions continues to grow as such assimilation allows for deep integration and support with VoIP and UC.

Likewise, mobile apps and the desire for better accessibility continue to drive the choice of phone systems within the corporate environment. If a company needs nothing more than the ability to communicate via VoIP, then any VoIP system can easily handle the need. If employees are also using their mobile devices to connect to the VoIP system, the demand changes according to what these employees need. Given that they are generally field-based, including support or sales professionals, the demand may include video conferencing, web conferencing, text messaging, presence, instant messaging, email transcription, admin tasks, screen sharing, and calendar integration.

So how des this affect the way in which VoIP solutions are selected? The employees that use mobile devices for business typically aren’t in the office. They rely on their communications in the field. They also need seamless integration of mobile devices to ensure full phone extensions and access to remote applications at any time. Finally, mobile device policy dictates the use of such devices for business and personal cases.

If you’re ready to embrace these opportunities but you’re not sure where to start, look to Focal Solutions. It’s our job to help our clients evaluate their options, available solutions, and the type of VoIP that fits their needs. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Ensuring Quality of Service with VoIP

VoIPOne of the key benefits of moving to a unified communications (UC) framework is the ability to swap out old, limited PBX-based systems for the flexibility and added functionality of a VoIP system. It is important, though, when choosing a service provider for a UC solution, to make sure they are able to accommodate the Quality of Service (QoS) needs of the business and deal adequately with issues such as jitter, packet loss, and latency.

QoS

QoS is an umbrella term for a number of protocols and technologies designed to guarantee the quality of data flow over a network. Generally this involves prioritizing certain types of network traffic over others to ensure that network services such as VoIP, which are susceptible to latency, aren’t adversely affected.

Latency

Latency is the delay between when a data packet is sent and when it is received. It’s basically the time it takes for data to get from one point on the network to another. It is affected by a number of factors, including conversion from one data type to another, physical distance between the two points, the number of hops or redirects along the route, and encryption. This has some pretty obvious implications for VoIP traffic, particularly in light of its real-time requirements. Round trip latency of more than 250ms is noticeable to users, and the IUT recommends never exceeding 300ms.

Packet Loss

Packet loss occurs when a router receives more data than it can pass through at one time. This can be a frequent occurrence with VoIP traffic simply because of the volume of data generated by real-time voice communication. The effects of packet loss on a VoIP call are usually noticed as stuttering sound, a “tinny” metallic quality to the other person’s voice, or outright dropped calls. Packet loss of more than 1% is usually considered unacceptable. High latency levels tend to exacerbate packet loss.

Jitter

Jitter is a variation of latency where the timing of packet arrival at the destination is inconsistent. This doesn’t affect most types of internet traffic very much – it’s unnoticeable when loading a web page, for example – but can seriously affect VoIP calls. Generally, jitter results in delays in the conversation, similar to a “buffering” effect. Unless excessive it doesn’t hamper communication as much as the other issues discussed here, but it can be frustrating for users.

By giving VoIP traffic a higher priority level through QoS protocols such as Class of Service and Type of Service, issues such as latency and jitter are kept to a reasonable level. Policy-based network management and bandwidth reservation also help. A good cloud services provider will be able to provide the right combination of these strategies to ensure the necessary QoS.

 

Cloud-Based Unified Communications: Maximizing Deployment Strategies

Building a unified communications (UC) solution in the cloud is widely lauded as a one-time-fix-all for businesses. According to Transparency Market Research, this “as a Service” model has an impressive compound annual growth rate, logging a whopping 23%, with expectations reaching almost $38 billion by 2022. However, there’s more involved in the construction of the platform than simply adopting a cloud-based UC infrastructure.

To ensure that their UC solution is effective, companies must examine the entire equation. UC includes a variety of technologies, and the full gamut of those interdependent systems must be analyzed before measurable results can be realized using the cloud.

Cloud-based UC offers an excellent avenue for lowering costs, but there are five key areas that businesses should consider in order to develop a comprehensive strategy. When making the transition, businesses must coordinate effective collaboration between the technologies that influence voice quality, availability, and end-user adoption. Primary considerations include:

  1. Network Planning—Extending network capabilities to the cloud means that companies need to ensure that acceptable bandwidth has been provisioned to prioritize voice traffic. Service providers can easily perform this, but if making the change in-house, personnel will need to account for the new flows, quality of service configurations, and existing service contracts.
  2. Management Considerations—There are many components involved in voice transmissions, and network stability depends on having the right tools, measurements, and visibility to ensure uncompromised service delivery. When cloud-based UC is utilized, specific monitoring software should be included as well. SMBs with limited IT staff can overcome this challenge by contracting with a qualified service provider to augment personnel and expertise.
  3. Existing Infrastructure—While creating UC in the cloud is relatively easy for new businesses, those that operate with large quantities of legacy hardware and multiple site locations should consider expert assistance to conduct a monitored, scheduled transition.
  4. End-User Acceptance—No matter how well developed, if a UC cloud solution doesn’t meet end-user needs, the cost reductions and advantages won’t have an impact on the business. Enterprises need to examine how their current users conduct day-to-day operations, and tailor UC training to address those specific needs.
  5. Security and Compliance—Transitioning UC to the cloud creates additional security and compliance concerns. Service delivery constraints for multi-national customers and industry specific data regulations combined with a myriad of telephony laws and compliance restrictions make cloud-based UC data security complex, to say the least. However, a qualified service provider should be able to navigate the realms of requirements and deliver a secure solution.

Cloud-based UC will deliver cost savings and improved efficiency. Businesses just need to view the solution as a comprehensive strategy to ensure the attainment of measurable results.

Getting the Most Out of Unified Communications

shutterstock_202503688The technology that businesses rely on has seen dramatic changes. Many businesses that used to rely on phone systems and IT teams independently have merged both. Traditional phone systems have given way to cloud-based VoIP and Unified Communications (UC), increasing efficiency in communications. IT departments are responsible for managing UC, which involves the use of the Internet, WiFi, high-speed connectivity, and more. UC has made it easier for customers and employees to communicate with companies.

 

Here are some more specific reasons why businesses should utilize this evolving technology.

Businesses Can Track Customers

UC allows companies to observe their customers’ online activity as it pertains to their business. With a rich online presence, companies can keep track of each customer to ensure services or assistance are properly received and expectations are met. UC can link customer presence information with business applications such as calendars, which makes it easier to see when customers are available for contact.

Applications Stay in Sync

Certain software-based UC solutions can work with many different apps. All connected applications can stay in sync with each other, allowing for more personalized customer interaction that helps ensure satisfaction.

Tailored Customer Communication

With UC, businesses can use applications to identify and keep track of more important customers. This can help make sure that they aren’t kept waiting.

Workforce Virtualization

Another benefit is the ability to seamlessly virtualize a company’s workforce. Customer service employees can connect with customers or each other face-to-face, and employees will also be able to work away from their desks. When employees and customers interact more quickly and directly, it can improve overall productivity.

International Business Is Easier

With UC implemented in international business operations, communicating with foreign employees or customers in different time zones is more efficient. For instance, if an employee works in a different time zone on another shift, call routing can easily redirect customers to available representatives. Customers might reach a call center or even an employee working from home.

Unified business communications means more overall efficiency and profitability. Along with streamlined business operations, companies can benefit from systems that readily adapt as the business grows. Working with the right UC service provider can also eliminate the need for in-house IT management. This can allow businesses to focus more on developing their products and services. In addition, customers will benefit from simpler and faster communication and are more likely to become repeat customers as a result.

How CIOs Can Benefit from IT Innovation

shutterstock_131515541While innovation certainly has been a large aspect of running a business for CIOs in the past, it appears as if it has become less of a focus point for them over the years. This is particularly apparent in the way CIOs handle Unified Communications and other IT businesses aspects. IT needs to do what it can to provide innovative solutions that are secure, top-quality and cost-efficient.

If IT was more involved in the business as a partner inspiring growth, CIOs could find that their businesses benefit from more innovation. There are ways for IT staff to have a bigger role in business without becoming distracted from primary IT functions.

Here are some steps CIOs can take to encourage innovation with IT.

1. Develop Business Impact Strategies

Businesses can inspire more innovation if a group gets together to discuss how each branch of the business can get involved. In many cases, a simple solution can positively affect ROI, and IT might be responsible for that solution.

Business leaders can come together to look at all aspects of business operations to determine where improvements can be made. This will generate criteria that will be helpful for both IT personnel and unit teams to follow. Each team involved in looking at business impact should ideally have no more than two or three people to offer ideas and suggest which projects are worth continuing.

2. Have IT Go into the Field

This step involves a small team of IT staff members with a business mindset, and a few representatives from the business side, such as members of sales and operations teams. Together, they can take a closer look at the issues employees are facing by asking questions and listening for feedback that might be helpful. The goal here is to figure out what might be decreasing productivity or resulting in unneeded expenses.

It may take a couple of weeks to gather all of the information needed and to come up with a solution. IT solutions to issues that are discovered might include developing customized applications, opening access to specific tools, and adding VoIP, or other communications elements.

3. Meet to Focus on Innovative Solutions

At this phase in the process, IT and a business unit team meets to discuss what each has managed to find, and determines which efforts can ultimately improve business operations and decrease unnecessary spending. Innovative ideas will be needed to help ensure success. A scatter chart displaying results of solutions as they relate to business impact and ease of implementation might be helpful in this situation.

4. Develop Technology Prototypes

Here is where IT will actually develop the technology solutions, which can take one or two months. A schedule that keeps IT professionals aware of the length of a project should be created. Prototypes developed should include aspects such as the user interface, and should project how the solution will affect ROI and business operations. IT staff will also want to determine if new technology might be beneficial, performing research to do so.

5. Build the Prototype

Once approved, the prototype project can finally be built. This step won’t involve the customer as much because they have already reviewed all of the expenses, risks, and technological options involved. Building the prototype won’t take long, and development of the prototype might actually introduce IT professionals to new technological innovations.

6. Repeat the Process for Future Innovations

After the above steps have been completed, they can be used again within another project.

Maximize Unified Communications Adoption with Training

shutterstock_189620384Unified Communications (UC) offers increased efficiencies in employee interactions and collaboration. While many UC tools offer significant benefits, an incomplete deployment process can result in UC tools going unused.

A properly executed training program can increase user adoption of UC. To get the most out of UC, companies should consider employee user needs and habits, and provide targeted training before, during, and after UC tools are in place. The steps below can aid user adoption to help ensure the success of UC deployments.

 

Step 1 – Consider Preferences

Gather end-user input throughout the entire process. Absent end-user input, companies may deploy tools that look good on paper, but aren’t practical for employees. Employees are unlikely to adopt tools they don’t find useful, resulting in a wasted investment.

Step 2 – Assess Needs

Research indicates that video conferencing and social collaboration tools are being widely deployed but usage rates are low. Employees also indicate they are only likely to use half the features of any communications tool. Taking these preferences and usage patterns into account can ensure that the tools most likely to be used are chosen at the outset.

Step 3 – Prioritize Training

While many companies invest considerable time and money into deploying Unified Communications technology, many neglect to provide sufficient training. To get the most out of the investment, companies should implement a program that demonstrates the benefits of these tools, and conduct employee training on how to use the tools effectively.

Step 4 – Understand Users

The most important step to encouraging user adoption of any new tool is to accept that most users will not be enthusiastic about switching from something familiar and trusted to something new and unknown. The change to new technology is about changing user behavior. This takes time.

The Lazy User Model of Solution Selection, known as LUM, theorizes that when presented with different solutions, users will choose the one that requires the least amount of effort to satisfy a particular need. Sometimes, this means employees will not willingly choose to migrate to a new communications tool. Simply training employees on how to use the tool is not enough. Administrators should also explain how the tools will increase productivity and ultimately make employees’ lives easier.

Step 5 – Diversify Training

There are many different ways to provide information and training to maximize adoption and usage of new tools. Implementing and offering just one type of training may limit who benefits. Diversifying training methods increases the possibility of connecting with the highest number of employees and departments.

Step 6 – Monitor Usage

In the deployment and training phase of any new technology implementation, it is useful to set adoption goals and then quantify employee usage. This information allows administrators to change or introduce new types of training that can help increase adoption and usage. Implementing training that is responsive to employee needs and concerns is crucial to the successful implementation of any new tool.

Soliciting user feedback, then following through with policies that capitalize on the positives of the implementation, while changing policies that aren’t working is important. Companies should gather feedback before, during, and after deployment, in order to make appropriate changes in training to ensure UC deployment success.