“Unified communications is going to become a key competitive advantage”

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Building on a heritage of more than a hundred years of voice communications excellence, Siemens Enterprise Communications is one of the global leaders in unified communication solutions. It provides comprehensive communication and collaboration solutions for organisations of all sizes.

Anil Kumar Jain, managing director of the Indian entity of Siemens Enterprise Communications, also heads the company’s sales operations for the Asia Pacific region. Recently, he spoke to Uma Bansal, executive editor at EFY, about the changing landscape of enterprise communications. Excerpts:


ANIL KUMAR JAIN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SIEMENS ENTERPRISE COMMUNICATIONS, INDIA
ANIL KUMAR JAIN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, SIEMENS ENTERPRISE COMMUNICATIONS, INDIA

FEBRUARY 2011: Q. What are the key considerations for successful deployment of a communication solution?
A. Communication solutions deployment has taken a different shape over the years. Till now, it was a premises-based, hardware-centric model. But now it is slowly changing to a hosted-services, software-centric model.

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Some important criteria while deciding about a communication solution are open standards (no lock-in to a specific vendor or technology), high availability, disaster recovery, integral security, intuitive easy-to-use user interfaces, Web-based centralised management and green communication (low energy consumption).

Q. What concerns surface in today’s extended business environment including remote and mobile workers?
A. Remote and mobile employees demand the same set of services as they get when working from the office. There are different sets of challenges when including such mobile workers in enterprise communications.

The biggest challenge is security. As remote employees use public networks like the Internet, there has to be a secure mechanism to authenticate such employees.

The second challenge is proliferation of smartphones in enterprises. All these devices should be treated as mini laptops and managed from security as well as processes perspective in case the device is lost. Enterprises today need a mobile device management solution to handle these challenges.

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Q. How are mobile and fixed communication services being converged?
A. In the past, fixed and mobile networks were separate islands with very basic interconnectivity. Today’s information workers demand always-‘on’ connectivity irrespective of their location. Latest technologies like fixed-mobile convergence are trying to address this subject.

In fixed-mobile convergence, the user can easily migrate between corporate wireless local-area network (LAN) and public GSM/3G network without any disconnection of calls. This is creating new opportunities both for enterprises as well as carriers.

Another important functionality will be one-number service. It will take away the headache of the calling party about how to reach the intended user. There will be a single user number irrespective of what device or network the user is connected to and whether the user is in the office or outside the office in public network.

Q. Unified communications seems to be the most talked and most confused piece of technology in the market today. What is it?
A. From definition perspective, unified communication solutions focus on embedding communication and collaboration into business processes. This increases the productivity and effectiveness of the workplace. Unified communications solutions should be software-based, open, extensible and support the customer’s choice of services. These elements are controllable as software services or from the customer’s existing business application software.

Q. What does it consist of?
A. A true unified communications solution consists of five pillars: voice, messaging, mobility, conferencing and collaboration, and video. It does not matter whether the voice is over IP or TDM telephony. Unified messaging consists of all forms of messaging solutions like voicemail, fax mail, e-mail, SMS and instant messaging. Mobility is important to handle remote and mobile workers and effectively offer them organisational resources while on the move. It includes technologies like voice-over-WLAN and fixed-mobile convergence. Conferencing and collaboration solutions include audio/Web conferencing, white boarding and document sharing. High-definition video and multiparty video communication is becoming an important aspect of enterprise communication.

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From Siemens’ perspective, ‘presence’ is the glue which binds these pillars together and is available across all forms of communication.

Q. What kind of customers is it meant for?
A. Unified communication as a solution is for every type of customer. It has the potential to create a substantial impact on any organisation which uses a variety of communication technologies, has a multi-location setup and remote and mobile workers. So a variety of industries like manufacturing, BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), hospitality and healthcare are adopting these technologies.

Q. What benefits does unified communication bring along?
A. Some important benefits for end customers are reduced time and effort for team communications, reduced conferencing costs and need to travel, frequent and spontaneous collaboration, and the best remote collaboration with document-sharing features. Also, the customers can be accessible for critical business requests, know the availability status of key contacts and quickly launch conferences while on the move.

Q. What’s the latest from Siemens Enterprise Communications? What areas are you working on?
A. Currently, our efforts are focused on areas like socially-aware unified communications (integration of enterprise unified communications with public social networks), unified communications in a box (an off-the-shelf offering for SMEs in the form of an appliance), offerings for hosted and cloud services, integration of communication solution and business processes, specialised vertical solutions for trading floors, dispatch centres and command and control centres, and energy-efficiency management of IT and telecom infrastructure.

Q. What were the top enterprise communications trends of 2010?
A. Customers started investing in communication solutions which improve employees’ productivity. Video adoption in enterprises increased substantially. Many customers migrated from simple voice mail to unified messaging solutions. Green-field customers started deploying full-IP telephony solutions. Audio-video integration in boardrooms took the centre stage. SMEs were faster to adopt technologies like unified communications. Wireless LAN in enterprises saw the biggest growth in year 2010.

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Q. What do you expect in the coming years?
A. Coming years will see more rapid changes in communication technologies as well as business models. On the technology front, large-enterprise unified communications will be software-based, voice will be integrated into enterprise business processes and applications, social networks and related communications will become integral part of enterprise communication, and unified communications will move from ‘nice to have’ to ‘key’ competitive advantage. On the business front, single-vendor enterprise unified communications solutions are not realistic, multi-vendor services capabilities will be required, and communication will move from ‘infrastructure’ to ‘communications as a service’ model.


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