What better place to start this series than in Cincinnati, Ohio? Known for nearly two centuries as a center of American manufacturing, this strength continues, augmented by major media firms (including print, broadcast and Internet) as well as major distribution firms, including HQs of a leading fast food chain. Of course, this is supported by business infrastructure including law firms and financial institutions. We saw representatives of all these Cincinnati businesses at the Microsoft Unified Communications Roadshow last week.
In meeting dozens of customers from the Cincinnati area, the UC theme was alive and well. In essentially every case, the customers were looking to “integrate communications to optimize business processes,” our UCStrategies.com definition of UC. Specifically, the dominant approach among Cincinnati-area enterprises was to look at the use cases within their business processes in order to make some breakthroughs.
In one case, represented by a custom technology engineering firm, the theme was to selectively move users to PC-based communications, on desktop or laptop computers. The primary driver was speed and effectiveness of engineering teamwork (aka collaboration), which was noticeably enhanced with presence and IM to access resources and with click-to-communicate, -share, or -meet or both internal teams and for meetings with clients. In addition to the business benefits, the company was achieving cost savings on toll costs for field and customer communications as well as reductions in infrastructure costs as the users moved from PBX-based communications to PC/Server based communications using Microsoft Office Communications Server (OCS). All users moving to OCS received specific training so that they learned how to use the tools specifically for their jobs.
A number of firms were looking at major out-of-pocket cost savings from recent or planned movement of conferencing from hosted services to the in-house “unified conferencing” capabilities of OCS. Those companies with major peak-load or seasonal conferencing loads were using or considering a hybrid model, leaving the peak period conferences with a hosted provider so as not to over-invest in the in-house capacity.
Another consistent theme was enablement of increased and improved remote working (teleworkers, field or traveling personnel, off-shore contractors). The primary motivation for these moves was employee productivity and convenience, supplemented by speed and effectiveness of customer services. In addition, there were specific net savings in terms of office space and travel expense. While some firms were comparing PC/Server type solutions to IP PBX-based solutions, the majority were already moving ahead with the Microsoft OCS model since most of their remote workers were already on a PC or laptop.
The media firms were looking for continuing improvements in support of their content creation and content management teams. Since these are very collaborative activities, the theme among the media firms was to have communications tools embedded into or linked with the collaboration tools for speed of project completion, which increases competitiveness, lowers costs and enables revenue growth,
This cross section of US businesses was consistent with both the Top UC Applications as described in the BCR Article “Top UC Applications Now Apparent” and with the Cost Savings and Business Value themes described in the “Achieving Cost and Resource Savings with UC” white paper.
However, beyond the consistency with noted themes, this group of businessmen and businesswomen displayed a wonderfully focused approach to Unified Communications – homing in on the hard dollar savings and the profit-enhancing, productivity-driving use cases.
Stay tuned for coming updates from Mumbai and Bangalore, India, and Athens, Greece, as the road show continues.