Network, telecom, and facilities manager
American Engineering Testing, St. Paul
Geotechnical, environmental, and construction materials engineering and testing firm
Minnesota employees: 200
Recently, we installed small hybrid telephone systems in two offices, and we installed a hosted VOIP telephone system at our Green Bay, Wisconsin, office. It was the first we’ve attempted. A network engineer from our home office worked with the vendor onsite to complete and verify operation of LAN and WAN connections as part of installation. The system provided much greater functionality and increased productivity over the existing three-line system, which was being overpowered by the quickly growing office. It will also provide a test case as we move forward with our nationwide VOIP network initiative.
Following a server and server room upgrade last year, we are prioritizing a network infrastructure upgrade. This will increase performance, and will provide support for our nationwide VOIP and unified communications initiative.
American Engineering has had a Polycom videoconferencing system for several years. We support more than a dozen locations. Videoconferences are used daily as a management communications tool with our regional offices and are regularly held between all locations for things like client project consulting and safety and training sessions for employees and clients. The savings have already shown a good ROI, not just in travel and hotel costs but in turning what were travel hours into more productive hours.
Voice & Data Networks, Inc., Edina
Enterprise networking services firm
The place we’re seeing the most activity is in the area of enterprise collaboration. The enterprise phone system or “voice” system has been completely redefined. The phone system is now really collaboration software. And the concept of unified communication (UC) largely remains a concept. Clients can’t really choose a UC product off the shelf—UC is what you, the client, make it. “What you make it” depends directly on how better collaboration between people via technology can make your business more productive and more profitable. The thing that has surprised, I think, the whole industry is how ubiquitous using communication technologies to enable business process really is! It seems sometimes that this concept can touch almost anything in the enterprise.
Our company has a client that sells and services field-deployed heavy equipment. This client found that a substantial amount of calls were coming from their field technicians’ cell phones and directed back to the home office. For this client, UC meant four-digit dialing from all company-owned cell phones directly to the party that they needed at the home office. The cellular carrier, cell phone provider, and WAN provider were all a single party that interacted directly with the client’s headquarters phone system via SIP trunking. This project put all of those technicians’ cellular calls “on net,” eliminating minute charges, enhancing productivity, and controlling cellular costs. Additionally, cellular calls were routed through the client’s headquarters system so that outbound calling permissions were applied to cellular users.
Business leaders, such as COOs and sales, merchandising, and client-service vice presidents, are larger factors in the priority-setting process than ever before. The project that gets approved first seems to be the one that has the greatest or most quantifiable return.
We are still seeing clients building out some videoconference facilities or upgrading existing facilities for high-definition or larger capacity. Popular video goals also now include room-to-individual (fewer than 10 individuals), individual-to-individual video, or broadcast video such as streaming video for education or corporate alignment. Ease of use and embedded technology has combined with products such as Skype to serve a rather large market segment. Personalization of the encounter, along with device-of-choice issues seem to be the drivers of the day.