Unified communications early adopters tout benefits

However, interoperability between UC products is one concern

Businesses presenting their stories at last week's VoiceCon Orlando 2008 found that unified communications can increase productivity, reduce costs, speed up customer service and even do good things for the environment.

The downside they see going forward is the lack of interoperability that will give them free choice among vendors, they say.

Dennis Schmidt, senior vice president for network services at Bank of America, delivered a keynote address on the company's 115,000 Cisco VoIP phone system, which has been integrated with UC gear to provide presence.

The phone system has cut the cost of supplying phone service to employees by 15 per cent per seat on average, Schmidt said, crediting remote management that means fewer trips to branches to fix problems. With VoIP running over the same network as data, the bank has also saved on wiring up voice-only networks in new buildings.

The system has enabled workers who move from building to building to log into an IP phone and get their presence registered to the network, have their calls routed to the phone and get their voice mail. "It becomes their phone," Schmid says. Without VoIP, they would have to forward calls from a dedicated extension somewhere in the network.

The VoIP system is green, too, Schmidt said, citing shared workspaces that VoIP enables as translating into less office space to heat and cool as well as enabling employees to work at newly created suburban facilities built closer to where they live to reduce commute times and the amount of gasoline used.

The bank uses wireless handsets to improve productivity of bank managers who spend more time out of their offices with customers than they could when they had to run back to their desk phones. VoIP over wireless phones have not been deployed to everyone because Schmidt believes the technology is not ready yet.

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