future of IPC in the small and medium-sized business market
clearly depends as much on collaboration and partnership
as it does on the utility of the solutions themselves,
says Pramodh Menon, vice president, channels, Cisco
Systems (India & SAARC).
family-owned stores to hospitals to middle schools, today''s
small and medium-sized business organisations face myriad
challenges. They must improve operational efficiency,
lower costs, and increase revenue despite budget and staffing
constraints; compete in an increasingly global market
against larger companies with greater resources; and still
keep up with the rapid pace of change in available technologies
and in their own businesses.
solutions are designed to help companies manage the challenges,
but many small and medium-sized organisations with disparate
networks have found that while a new solution might resolve
one issue, it can also create another.
example, if a new application on the data network does
not function smoothly with existing applications on the
voice and video networks, it can be expensive and time
consuming particularly for a company with
limited funds or staff-to discover the source of the problem
and then resolve it on each network. To streamline operations
and improve efficiency, many businesses are migrating
to IP-based networks.
an IP infrastructure, all data, voice, and video applications
can be integrated onto a single, secure network. New applications
work reliably with existing applications because they
are all based on the same protocol. Features that were
unavailable or too expensive with traditional systems
high-quality video at every desktop and phone,
for example can be deployed relatively easily.
compatibility of IP with existing technologies allows
a company to eliminate its traditional phone system at
its own pace. Plus, with just one network to manage and
maintain, a company is better able to scale its network
to meet changing business needs and user requirements.
Furthermore, having an IP network enables a small or medium-sized
business to use the same IP applications as a large enterprise,
which improves its competitive advantage.
for all the ways in which small and medium-sized businesses
can profit from a converged network infrastructure, some
might be hesitant to make the migration because they are
unfamiliar with what an IPC solution can do for their
business or they are concerned about the speed with which
employees will learn to use IPC.
the future of IPC in the small and medium-sized business
market is strongly influenced by the ability of solution
providers to address these issues with customers-and the
ability of solution developers to design relevant applications
and devices that are user-friendly.
Solutions Meeting the Unique Needs of Small and
IPC applications and devices are user-friendly and are
designed to be used by people who do not have a technical
background. Fortunately, the ubiquity and flexibility
of IP enables IPC to be tailored not only to the needs
of individual users but also to the specific requirements
of a business.
solutions accommodate varying service densities, interfaces,
security, and communications parameters as effectively
as varying user-skill levels. When properly implemented,
they can enable employees of a small or medium-sized business
to perform many functions, including:
and screening calls in real time or in advance
a phone''s LCD display to access company calendars, purchasing
reports, personal contacts, corporate directories, and
other important information instantly
personalized features-such as contacts and calendars-from
a shared IP phone simply by logging in to that phone
a laptop to receive and place calls, check voicemail
or even participate in a conference call from any location
advantage of integrated conferencing applications to
collaborate with colleagues in real time behind the
safety of the corporate firewall
an example of how a company might take advantage of IPC,
consider a healthcare provider with several offices. A
physician in one office can use an integrated conferencing
application to discuss a patient''s condition with physicians
in other offices.
the network''s data, voice, and video capabilities, the
physicians are able to see and hear each other during
the conference call as well as securely share files, slides,
test results, and other patient information in real time.
Other examples include the following:
organisation with branch offices, frequent travelers,
or telecommuters can provide all users with reliable,
secure access to the network applications available
at the main office without requiring a separate phone
extension at each remote location
law office can set up a phone system to automatically
record caller names and call times for streamlined billing
calculation and improved accuracy
city government can install network ports in each building
so employees can quickly move locations as needed without
IT personnel support.
Regardless of which applications they deploy, small and
medium-sized businesses can benefit greatly from IPC.
In addition to the competitive and solution flexibility
of IPC implementing an IPC solution can help companies
in three vital areas: cost of ownership, employee productivity,
and operating expenses.
Cost of Ownership: A converged network infrastructure
saves costs associated with operating and managing multiple
disparate networks and streamlines operations business
Companies can also lower employee training costs, thanks
to the intuitive interface of IP phones, and reduce
the money previously allocated for travel by taking
advantage of the conference-calling features of those
IPC applications are available to anyone on the IP network,
making it easy for mobile users to stay connected while
working on the road or from home. This capability also
allows an employee to change locations quickly and easily;
she or he is instantly accessible simply by plugging
the IP phone into a network port.
Because applications can also be shared between computers
and IP phones, employees are better able to multitask.
For example, employees can view customer information
instantly on their LCD displays or in "screen pops"
on their computers when calls come in rather than putting
the callers on hold to look up the information in the
Operating Expenses: All calls made on a wireless
IP network are transmitted over the corporate intranet,
eliminating long-distance fees and allowing employees
to focus on their work rather than on the cost of their
work to the company.
Conference-call fees are also eliminated with IPC conferencing
applications, a significant benefit considering that
conference calls account for more than half of all call
minutes for some small and medium-sized businesses.
Additionally, businesses can save money by consolidating
work space because employees have the ability to share
devices such as IP phones and still access their own
features using a personalised login.
IPC-the Channel Partner way
Once companies understand how IPC can benefit their business,
the next logical step is to focus on purchasing and deploying
the appropriate solution. However, most small and medium-sized
businesses do not have an in-house IT staff to direct
this process; even if they do, the staff is generally-and
appropriately-reluctant to attempt such a complex installation
recognise that SMB organisations have unique support needs
since the procurement and deployment of solutions
within these organisations is undertaken by the widespread
channel partner community, a robust channel partner training
program focused on small and medium-sized businesses would
best help the cause of vendors.
partners that earn an IP Communications Specialisation
have the requisite training and experience to design,
install, and provide ongoing support for IP technologies,
IPC solutions, and IPC applications. The certification
program helps assure small and medium-sized business customers
that the partner has invested in their success and that
they will not receive less attention simply because they
are not as large as other companies.
focusing on specific technologies and customer types,