COMMENTARY

Why your customer needs to embrace unified communications

NOTE: This is part two of commentary series on united communications. Click here for part one.

A hurricane just made land-fall across multiple Gulf states. Your office must move quickly to establish a call center to handle calls from thousands of displaced citizens needing federal aid. Plus, you need to have your own people accounted for and ensure they’re able to meet your agency’s emergency service mission. 

Can your current telecomm system meet these response times? What is the cost in operational terms and human capital if there is a significant delay in delivering information?

Whether it’s a hurricane, fire, or terrorist incident, a government agency has to have the most responsive and reliable telecommunications assets that provide the flexibility to tailor a solution quickly and cost effectively to provide communications to affected citizens. 

Its written right into the continuity of operations plan. Yet, relying on legacy stove-piped systems, often with different features and capabilities, means your agency is at risk. A Unified Communications (UC) solution ensures that your agency can meet both today’s threats and tomorrow’s mission with a consistent set of capabilities and a single management system.

UC solutions provide both functionality and flexibility and, when obtained from FedRAMP approved cloud providers, do so wrapped in security, an essential feature to ensure the protection of communications of government-government and government-citizens communications.

While federal agencies combat several thousand hacking attempts per day, both official and personal information is at risk with many older telecommunications solutions. These technologies often lack the necessary security capabilities to keep information safe and discussions secure. This makes security a principle building block of any new system amid increased attempts to compromise government systems.

Mobile workforces are another reality to consider. Millions of square feet of federal office space have been eliminated over the past seven years, according to media reports. The Office of Management and Budget requires agencies to develop and implement annual goals for further reductions. 

All of this has created a federal workforce that is more mobile, and decentralized, than ever before. A telecommunications system implemented when workers were consistently under one roof simply doesn’t meet today’s needs. It is important to give mobile and remote workers access to all of the tools and information resources, as if they were back in a federal building, with no loss of security and costs that are roughly equivalent.

Older telecommunications systems were often designed to manage increases in your workforce but not decreases. So, if an agency only has 100 workers in a space that used to fit 200, you’re likely paying for twice as much telecomm service as you need, not to mention whatever extra you pay now to support the mobility that’s occurred since the current system was installed.

Today’s telecommunications solutions, including cloud-based UC solutions, meet each of these needs, and more.

Expanding or deploying Unified Communications is as easy as adding capacity to an organization’s existing MPLS IP network, activating new LAN ports, and identifying feature functionality requirements of employees to be served. 

It essentially reduces the implementation costs of a new location, or expanded staff at an existing location, by half. You provision UC as if deploying a computer on every desk, and all computer, message, video, and voice communications transit the local LAN to another person in the same location or are routed to the national or global network used for all other communications.

Remote and mobile users that have correct access permissions can access the new location the same way they would access any other agency location on the network.

On-going management is a simple process for moving or changing features and does not require cable moves or installation support—the management port is equipped with a GUI that provide simple orders to be done by the user and happen when scheduled or instantaneously—at a much lower cost than traditional telecommunications systems.

New UC solutions also have the ability to scale both up and down. This was a key requirement of GSA’s Enterprise Information Solutions (EIS) contract. As a result, your agency only pays for the services it needs. Both surge needs and agency down-sizing can be handled.

Today’s solutions also function as a solution, not an embedded suite of products your agency owns forever. This means that obsolescence or outdated capabilities are no longer concerns. Your agency obtains a true solution that includes hand-sets, switches and other equipment, but in such a way that the “pay by the drink” nature of the solution ensures consistent, regular upgrades with no additional cost.

As we’ve said before, transformation to Unified Communications is NOT the traditional nightmare that changing local telecom providers has been in the past. It is often said that moving all of the communications infrastructure to the LAN connected to a UC platform can be completely installed without turning off the old systems. This gives time for training, installation of soft clients and new desk phones—all before complete disconnection of the existing telecom system. With new applications for video, conferencing, messaging, voice, E911—all accessible by teleworkers, mobile workers and offices--you can’t afford not to transform. 

About the Author

Larry Allen is president of Allen Federal Business Partners.

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