If Canadian IT departments commit to improved collaboration through hosted unified communications they stand to see not only cost savings but significant opportunities around increased competitiveness, productivity and innovation, a panel of subject matter experts told the Allstream Experts Forum in Toronto.
Speaking to a crowd of senior technology professionals from a wide range of industries at Roy Thompson Hall May 2, executives from Allstream and its partner Cisco discussed the potential of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) to address some of the most common concerns of Canadian CIOs. These include a need to reduce costs, provide greater value to the business and respond to requests for improved mobile computing by employees. However Teresa Griffin Muir, Allstream’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, suggested IT departments look beyond the bottom line when they consider the possible benefits of next-generation technologies.
“You can just renew your Centrex contract for another five years and try to lower your costs, but if you do that you’ll have done nothing to improve productivity,” she pointed out. “When you introduce collaboration, you have a much better opportunity to drive output growth. In the end, it’s really about developing a better relationship with your customer.”
Business users are crying out for unified communications because they are logging onto the network with a plethora of devices that all need to run seamlessly, added Rod Scotland, national architectures strategy manager for mid-market solutions at Cisco Systems of Canada. “The No. 1 challenge is to make the user experience transparent,” he said, “so we can just get to what we need to get to. It shouldn’t be a case of, ‘Where do I go to get on the network?’ It’s not getting caught up in the technical side.”
UCaaS and collaboration technologies can be used in almost any kind of business, Scotland said, from financial services to the public sector, where use cases could include faster product testing processes or more efficient employee training.
Tom Jolly, Allstream’s vice-president and general manager of unified communications, said enabling collaboration can’t start without setting up the right network foundation – a move to converged infrastructure running on IP. “When you bring in collaboration, the business case (for network convergence) really starts to have some legs,” he said. “It means you’re managing one network instead of two.
“The danger is not to do it,” he added, pointing out that IT departments that want to boost collaboration will need to ensure availability and quality of service as they flesh out their strategy. “You’ll want a network specifically tailored to voice, for example.”
In conjunction with the Toronto event, Allstream introduced its Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS), a Cisco-powered UCaaS offering that will deliver voice, video and other collaboration services to the Canadian market. Allstream will be continuing its series of live events about collaboration with a stop in Vancouver on May 7.