Unified Comms experts talk about ROI, Google, govt and philosophy

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Unified Comms experts talk about ROI, Google, govt and philosophy

At the Frost & Sullivan ICT Roundtable, representatives from five major unified communications (UC) firms talked about demonstrating ROI to potential clients, the philosophy behind product development, the use of UC in government and Google's role in the expanding market.

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Demonstrating potential ROI to clients was a common problem, said Gerard Florian, chief technology officer of Dimension Data,

“The ROI question is always an issue. How do you prove it? People will want to be risk averse, and will be wary of any ROI prospect that isn’t written in stone.”

Agreeing, Carol White, director of convergence at Telstra said ROI is the biggest hindrance to companies taking up UC.

“There are pockets were you can create ROI models. We have models for teleconference, for example, where we can prove the results of reduced travel and increased productivity.

“[But]it gets more difficult when you look at companies upgrading their telesystems because they’re outdated or broken – then you’ve got a compelling event for change. Without a compelling event, instead of hard ROI it becomes quite soft,” siad White.

Harold Melnick, senior product manager and UC specialist at Microsoft, said that this reticence affected Microsoft’s message to clients.

“Our message has always been: ‘VoIP as you are’, ‘don’t rip and replace’. It’s important to us to help companies justify the cost of investment.”

It's even more importatn as cost cutting spreads in the IT industry because of the economic downturn, the panel agreed.

“I think this is a perfect opportunity to see what are the drivers we can bring in terms of business value,” said Dinesh Divakar, director of enterprise solutions at Alcatel-Lucent. “Budgets are going to be slashed or flat, and [businesses] will have to look at ways of getting value from other buckets.”

In fact, IBM business unit executive Craig Campbell said that it had already seen increased business in the UC area.

“We’re a manufacturer of a UC application, and at the same time we’ve got the services branch available.

“A lot of our customers came across to IBM as part of the Logic acquisition in 2004. Since the acquisition we got a lot of new clients, but we’re taking our existing clients around the curve with UC.”

Microsoft’s product philosophy: it’s not bloatware, it’s a business productivity package

On the topic of product development, Melnick said Microsoft’s philosophy was different to other companies.

“Our research has shown time and time again that people will try out and adopt new tools if they’re introduced through existing software. So we prefer to make new tools available in existing environments, rather than creating new software to implement new tools.”

“We look at the tools that we deliver in the context of delivering value to the user. Our primary focus with the applications is to provide services at a cost-effective level.”

He gave the example of a productivity tool added to Microsoft Word that allowed users to see when the author of a document was online. This allowed collaboration between the author and other users, and removed human latency from the process, Melnick said.
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