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February 15, 2010
Dennis Gatens, Director of Strategy, Enterprise Networks Division, ADTRAN Inc.
In my previous blog, I discussed the importance of unified communications to the channel as an opportunity to bring greater value to your SMB and enterprise customer through key benefits in the form of productivity gains and enhanced customer service. However, in the past it has been difficult to find a consistent definition of the features and functionality that UC brings to the end user, nor was it perceived as scalable to the small business. The value proposition message for UC certainly has become clearer over the past year, but a real-world example can go a long way to help articulate it to the SMB and enterprise.
Last time two questions I asked, from the end-user perspective, were:
“What can UC actually do for me and my business?”
“How can UC fit my business, not the other way around?”
Not necessarily a business, but an enterprise nonetheless, a good example is Norwood School. Norwood School serves more than 500 students and has approximately 130 faculty and staff members. Located in Bethesda, Md., the 40-acre campus includes four educational and administrative buildings, an arts center and an athletic center. The Norwood administration identified a need to streamline communications and found a solution through its adoption of UC.
The environment in today’s schools can be described as fast paced and rapidly changing, requiring multiple levels of communication to keep in touch. For example, different scenarios may require administrative staff and faculty to be off-site and access messages remotely utilizing Blackberry devices, PDAs or other smartphones as a communication source. Meanwhile, various school events and activities rely more heavily on automated systems as a way to inform parents of essential information and key dates. There is a growing demand in schools by faculty, students and parents for fast and reliable information with around-the-clock access.
Addressing this demand,the Norwood administration began to examine the need for a centralized communication system, one that would combine all forms of communication – e-mail messages, voice mail messages and faxes – into a single platform. A UC solution was the answer. UC allowed the school to leverage its existing telecommunication systems and office applications while streamlining the messaging process. The school implemented an end-to-end UC solution to provide direct access to messages from any location, at any time of day while preserving its investment in the existing IP PBX.
UC combines self-service call-flow management, unified messaging, fax server, as well as line-of-business integration and service creation tools; driving productivity, simplifying administration, and reducing costs. Utilizing UC to bridge the gap between faxes, e-mail messages and voice mail messages from desktop phones and cell phones, school employees are now able to access messages in real time, regardless of location and via a single touch point of their choice to improve responsiveness. Most importantly, UC also provides increased security – whether it is a last-minute school closing due to weather or other concern, by being able to obtain immediate information during a crisis situation.
UC is changing the way faculty, students and parents communicate. Increasing productivity and efficiency, the UC system enables a mobile school environment allowing for the retrieval of voice mail, e-mail or faxes 24/7. School staff can access all of their messages from one single location such as their e-mail inbox and customize any of the features to fit their daily schedules including responding to emergencies immediately. School safety can be continually enhanced through the flexibility of UC that allows the integration of technology and advanced communications.
Although this example describes the benefits to a school, inherent to UC is its flexibility and scalability to address virtually any vertical market and size of business. I look forward to the upcoming Channel Partners Conference & Expo where UC will be an important topic for the channel.
Dennis Gatens is director of strategy, Enterprise Networks Division for ADTRAN Inc., where he is responsible for the development and execution of market, channel and product-focused strategies. He has 25 years of broad experience in enterprise and access communications markets, having held leadership positions in engineering, marketing, product management, sales and business development. Throughout his career, he has brought to market a number of emerging technologies, including custom fiber solutions, xDSL, VoIP and PON. Gatens holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in business administration from Radford University. He also is a member of the 2009-10 PHONE+/Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.
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