Telecommunications Webinar

Which telecom projects are proving most effective for Minnesota businesses?
Telecommunications Webinar

David Lind
Information services director, enterprise technology services, Allina Hospitals & Clinics, Minneapolis (network of health care providers)
Projects we’ve taken on in the last year:
> Redesign, consolidation, and upgrade of wide-area-network services
> Upgrade of high-speed communication link between two data centers
> Upgrade of phone system for Cambridge Medical Center
> Upgrade of 15 legacy phone systems to VOIP, eliminating more than 30 T1 lines.
> Enabling our technical infrastructure for real-time locator services (RFID). This technology takes advantage of our existing 802.11 wireless network and is layered on top of these existing network services.
> Implementation of distributed antenna systems to extend cellular coverage “in building,” where normally cellular coverage would not exist.
> Development of a strategic framework called “health care without boundaries” that addresses the need for more technical flexibility to enable exceptional care in our community.
Much of our work in the last three years has been to embrace new technologies and then retool our environment. The convergence of voice and data has been one of the more significant changes. We have collapsed what once was two separate and distinct networks (voice and data) into one network transport, while significantly reducing our costs and increasing our bandwidth.
In 2011, much of our work will again focus on components of our “health care without boundaries” strategy. We believe that this strategy will address many of the pressures imposed on us by changes in the consumer mobility markets. For example, we are taking a “device agnostic” approach in response to the use of mobile phones, tablet devices, etcetera. We believe that if we focus on creating mobility in the applications and services, while enabling the enterprise for multiple network transports (including cellular and traditional voice and data), we can achieve this goal. The benefits are in the flexibility, which allows us to control our costs while delivering enhanced capabilities that meet the needs of our business unit partners.
Our organization continues to utilize and support a network of videoconference centers bridging the distance gaps and helping reduce our travel expenses. With the newer more advanced technologies and the increase in availability of high-speed broadband communications, more solutions are being developed which will enable effective, real-time video interaction between a patient and a physician or caregiver. I think the most exciting thing happening in videoconferencing is the improvement in software and a change in the video standards, allowing for high-quality video and voice to be compressed and transmitted via today’s standard networks, without the need for larger more expensive and dedicated network links.
Mike Haigh
Partner, Haigh Todd & Associates, Inc., St. Louis Park (communications management and consulting firm)
Enterprises are looking to standardize and simplify their telecommunications environments. We have seen an increase in organizations flattening and consolidating the enterprise telecommunications infrastructure and applications.
Cost-cutting projects have also been prevalent. These include conducting asset inventories of the organization’s “spend” on telecommunications services. There is significant opportunity to reduce and eliminate unnecessary cost from telecommunication budgets by being intelligent consumers of network services including voice, wide area data network, Internet, and wireless. All are critical to the enterprise communication needs, but are frequently acquired in a piecemeal fashion with little emphasis on an overall direction and rigid ongoing scrutiny and management.
Another area of interest is the communication and collaboration needs of the mobile work force. Corporate IT organizations must provide the tools to make the mobile worker as effective as someone at the corporate headquarters.
We provided consulting and overall project management for a three-year project with a major health care company to migrate the enterprise to a standard telephony environment across more than 60 locations. Planning was a critical component of the process to ensure there was minimal impact on the business operation while the technology conversion was executed.
A retailer engaged us to help them define requirements and evaluate alternative solutions for the organization’s communications services, including WAN, Internet, and voice services. We identified opportunities to reduce their costs by more than 12 percent even before the new carrier contracts were finalized. We found a wide variety of issues, including double billing for services, services and facilities that were no longer in use, billing that was not tied to corporate contracted rates, and a variety of other billing issues.
In the coming months, customers are working on: 
> Using the corporate WAN to deliver voice services across the enterprise
> Cost savings, including an interest
in session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking
> Communication and collaboration improvement for mobile or virtual workers
> Contact center focus, improving customer experience, and multimedia contact types
It is becoming increasingly important that the customer service organizations allow their customers to interact with them in ways chosen by the customer—calls, e-mail, Web chat, or the increasing use of social media.
Eric Knudson
Director, converged technologies, Ideacom Mid-America, Inc., St. Paul (telecommunications services company)
We are seeing more small businesses move to cloud computing to reduce expenses, so their Internet link has become critical for daily operations. One of the solutions we have been providing is Internet and voice communication fail-over between two carriers. We help customers find a vendor that will offer similar bandwidth at slightly slower speeds to control costs and the features needed to perform the fail-over (i.e. SIP trunks for voice communications).
Unified communications combined with mobile applications are on the increase. Companies are beginning to see the benefit of having their employees more mobile, and voice applications, unified messaging, mobility, presence, conferencing, and collaboration enable faster, more effective communication.
We have seen an increase in Web collaboration and audio conferencing in the last few years. Web collaboration has allowed companies to leverage a lower overall cost infrastructure while still experiencing the benefits of live team interaction and communication.
We help companies identify their pain points and get them running at optimal efficiency. We then strategize what project or projects will give them the most return on investment, either in terms of money or soft-cost employee efficiency.