Unified Communications (UC) is an integration of real time communication services such as instant messaging, presence information, telephony, data conferencing, video sharing, call control and speech recognition with non – real time communication services like voice mail, email, chat. UC is not a single product but a set of products which provides a unified interface and experience across multiple devices and media types. Unified communications is an industry term used to describe all forms of call and multimedia/cross-media message-management functions controlled by an individual user for both business and social purposes.  Telephone was once the most accessible and simple device for communication.
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People now use multiple devices of communications like wireless phones, Personal Digital assistants, personal computers and there are new forms of communications such as instant messaging(chat), voice mail, E-mail etc. The goal of unified communications involves breaking down these barriers so that people using different modes of communication, different media, and different devices can still communicate to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
For example, one can receive a voicemail message and choose to access it through e-mail or a cell phone. If the sender is online according to the presence information and currently accepts calls, the response can be sent immediately through text chat or video call or, it may be sent as a non real-time message that can be accessed through a variety of media.
Call control and multimodal communications,
Conferencing and collaboration tools
Business process integration (BPI)
Call Control and Multimodal Communications : Call control is a very common word that is used in the telecommunication network. Call control are used to monitor the calls and maintain connections once they have been established. (searchunifiedcommunications.com) Common examples are call waiting, call forward and call diverting.
Instant Messaging: Instant messaging is a real time text based communication between two or more people using shared clients within a network. Commonly Instant Messaging is also referred to as chat.
As quoted by a vendor “Instant messaging is comparable to chatting in your own private chat room, with only those people you choose to invite. You can create a list to keep track of welcome guests and alert you when one of them sends you a message.” (instant-mesaaging.htm, 2006)
Unified Messaging : Unified Messaging is the integration of different electronic messaging and communication media (e-mail, SMS, voice mail) into a single interface accessible from many devices like cell phones, personal computers etc.
Speech Access : Speech is access is using speech or we can say our own voice to access various modes of communication. Vic Langford, vice president of Unified Communication Solutions, Avaya said “All they need is their own voice to access e-mail, voicemail and fax, create a conference call and manage calendars.” (avaya news releases, 2009)
Conferencing and collaboration tools: People can form a virtual office sitting anywhere in the world. They can collaborate with the help of communication devices which are accessible to them making it interactive.
Business Process Integration : Business process integration (BPI) connects disparate technology systems to streamline the transfer of business information to and from various technology resources among different departments and branches of the same organization.BPI unites these systems, which ultimately improves efficiency and reduces staffing and system maintenance costs. (Business Process Integration, 2008)
Presence: Presence in terms of Unified Communication gives us the present status of the person whom we are willing to talk. It tells you whether the person is online, busy or away.
Image source: Google Images
Importance of Unified Communications in present Business Ages
Businesses in India are expanding at a tremendous speed and enhancing the productivity. There is a constant pressure on the management to adopt cost effective solutions to maintain competitive edge while ensuring collaboration amongst geographically dispersed workforces.
“Companies are now realizing that transformation into a collaborative, borderless enterprise will allow them to harness the efforts and collective wisdom of individuals across and outside the organization and this is the single largest reason driving UC demand. Moreover, this transformation can help them to create new business models, accelerate decisions, increase productivity and innovation, and strengthen customer relations,” highlighted Minhaj Zia, National Sales Manager, Cisco (India and SAARC) (prakash, 2011)
Benefits of Unified Communications
It helps you to make the most of your existing communications investments because Unified Communications can integrate smoothly with your existing IT infrastructure and your telephone systems, including legacy PBXs. Plus, its technologies bring new tools like click-to-call, and audio- and videoconferencing etc. Unified communications technologies use a software approach-instead of a rip and replace hardware approach-your business can stay flexible and embrace innovations as they come. When emerging technologies and changing business needs require your communications infrastructure to adapt, all you have to do is upgrade or extend your software, not your hardware (microsoft.com, 2008).
IT administrators can manage telephony using Communications, which features the same familiar interface, advanced modular architecture, and object-based management structure.
From the financial perspective, implementing a network with a single, primary vendor helps organizations to obtain total cost of ownership (TCO) than does a network built with systems from multiple vendors, according to a study conducted by Sage Research. According to this study the cost of ownership per endpoint in a primary-vendor network is 26% lower than that of a multivendor network, and organizations that use a single, primary vendor for IP telephony have a 43% lower network cost of ownership than those that use multiple vendors (Benefits of UC in intelligent network, 2006).
Advantages of Unified Communications
Since ages we have known that benefits are same as advantages. Advantages differentiate; they point out how this product is better than an alternative model or brand. “4-wheel drive means I can always get where I am going, even in deep snow.” Benefits are about impact; they translate the features and the advantages into tangible or optimized results. “By showing up for work, even when it’s snowing hard, I can earn $350 and get all the new leads that day” (Features Advantages and benefits of Unified Communications, 2007). Some listed advantages of Unified Communications are listed below:
Access and manage all messages using a PC, telephone, PDA, or Web browser.
Listen to email messages over the phone via text-to-speech conversion and reply instantly.
Send and receive fax messages with a PC.
Generate voice mail messages as email attachments that can be sent to anyone with an Internet address.
Reply in the “medium” of choice, allowing users to use the application and device which is most convenient.
Work with compound messages, such as forwarding an email or fax message with a voice introduction, or embedding voice messages into emails.
Alcatel – Lucent Unified Communication Systems
Alcatel – Lucent provides the following bundle of services for UC
Omni Touch 8400 Instant Communication Suite
Omni Touch 8600 My Team Work
Omni Touch 8400 Instant Communications Suite
Omni Touch 8400 Instant communications Suite is a software suite using the latest technologies and providing a full set of IP based unified communication applications. These applications allow subscribers to tailor control and manage calls, messages, directories, collaboration tools and information from any location, using any device and any interface, in ways of never thought of.
It offers the worldwide integrated multi-media, multi-session, multi-terminal unified communication application. It enables the end – user to experience new facilities.
The Instant Communications Suite can be accessed from various types of terminals and interfaces.
The following terminals are available:
My Instant Communicator
Deskphone (IP Touch)
Instant Communications Suite services
Unified Messaging Services: All your e-mails, voice and fax messages are brought together in one inbox using your own messaging client(e.g. Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes)
Telephony Services: They are real time telecommunications management tools which can be accessed from your office or when you are away from business. Telephony services enable you to use voice over IP with your multimedia PC.
One Number Services : This allows you to route your incoming calls according to the rules which you define. Using these routing functions, one number services accompany the user away on business and filter calls according to the caller, time and geographical origin of the call
Conferencing & collaboration Services: From simple dial-in audio conferencing to multimedia, multiparty collaboration with instant messaging, application sharing, presentation sharing, and video conferencing.
Alcatel- Lucent Omni touch 8660 My team work
Alcatel – Lucent Omni touch 8660 My Teamwork Conferencing and Collaboration brings people together for virtual meetings and events, saving money, fostering innovation and maximizing enterprise agility. Omni touch 8660 My Teamwork is a software-based multimedia, multiparty business communication solution that runs on commonly available computer hardware for low capital investment and total cost of ownership. It can be used from any telephone, any location, and any browser for secure unified conferencing collaboration inside or outside the company with no specialized software or virtual private network required. The presence- aware, easy-to-use interface supports a full feature set including meet-me, adhoc, and scheduled meetings with click-to-conference, instant messaging with public and private chat rooms, application and desktop sharing, document management, integrated HD video and more.
Full-featured multimedia, multiparty conferencing and collaboration with all features accessible from a single browser window.
Minimizes the complexity, fosters use, fast return on investment(ROI)
Modular licensing, flexible deployment options
Focus on features that save money and make money, adds functionality quickly and painlessly
Supports currently installed telephone and video infrastructure, IP minimizing costs.
Secure access from many different devices and means
Flexible conferencing that provides secure access from any telephone, PC or browser from any other location
Reliable, scalable and secure
Future requirements easily met- scales from two to thousands of concurrent via software licensing
The Indian Telecom Industry
The Indian Telecommunications network is one of the largest emerging sectors in the economies of India. Today, it is the fastest growing market in the world. It has emerged as one of the major factors for India’s economic growth. Telecom sector accounts for 1% of the GDP and it is likely to double in 2-3 years. This has helped spread the benefits of a booming Indian economy to beyond metros and large cities, and wealth creation is happening in tier-2 cities (Telecom Industry in India, 2010). The growth rate of the telecom industry is rapidly increasing. It is expected to reach 120% by the year 2013.
Figure (showing the expected growth of the telecom industry)
Source: Google images
The rapid strides in the telecom sector have been facilitated by liberal policies of the Government that provide easy market access for telecom equipment and a fair regulatory framework for offering telecom services to the Indian consumers at affordable prices.
The telecom industry is benefitted by the excessive use of the Internet across the country. New services like IP TV and IP telephony are becoming more popular these days. The Government has already set up Telecom Equipment and Services Export Promotion Forum and Telecom Testing and Security Certification Centre (TETC). A large number of companies like Alcatel, Cisco have also shown interest in setting up their R&D centers in India (Voice n Data, 2011).
Major Players in the UC Market
The major players of UC can be divided into two Categories
1. UC technology providers
2. Application Vendor using the Technologies
UC technology providers include:
The application vendors of UC are as follows:
Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories
Competitive analysis is a process of gathering and analyzing information about the competitors, features of their product, strength and weaknesses and their current trend in order to evaluate current position in the market and improve your products and marketing strategies. A competitive analysis evaluating the features of the competitors as well as Alcatel – lucent is shown in Annexure-1. It shows certain features in which Alcatel- lucent products are superior in and certain features they need to add to make their product superior in the UC market. It gives a rough idea that has advanced features of pricing through mail boxes, click to transfer facility and visual voice mail. It needs to add features like click to call from website.
Porter’s Five Force Model for UC Market
Unified Communications is still an infant product in the market. The Porter’s Five Force model will help vendors and investors to understand the current market trends and future trends in the market.
Figure (Porter’s Five Force Model)
SWOT Analysis of the Indian Telecom Industry
SWOT is the acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. It is a tool used for audit and analysis of the overall strategic position of the business and its environment. Its key purpose is to identify the strategies that will create a firm specific business model that will best align an organization’s resources and capabilities to the requirements of the environment in which the firm operates. A study of the environment in which the firm operates helps in predicting the changing trends and also helps in including them in the decision-making process of the organization. An overview of the SWOT Analysis of the UC market is as follows:
UC is readily accepted by people who are using it.
It helps in increasing the productivity of an organization.
Future growth prospects are positive.
It has got a large number of benefits and advantages.
There is a large scope of product differentiation and improvement.
Market leaders and challengers can reap good revenues.
Costs are reduced in the long run.
UC offers a competitive advantage to the business.
High implementation costs are involved.
No vendor can provide all functionalities and capabilities.
Awareness level among people is less.
Marketing activities are weak.
Less scope of product differentiation among competitors.
Growth rate of the UC market is less.
As acceptance level is high it has got very high growth rate.
Innovative marketing strategies can reap revenues.
Sales will increase if awareness is increased in the SMBs
Good chances of growth in the IT and hospitality sector
There are a large number of competitors in the market.
Vendors are solely dependent on suppliers.
More and more number of telecom and software players are eyeing the UC market.
Google and Skype are launching similar low priced software.
Due to undifferentiated products there can be a chance of price wars in the market.
Future Market Prospects
The evolution of Unified Communications tools has seen a tremendous growth in the past one year. With the constantly changing economic conditions, enterprises have realized various benefits that UC provides. Hence, Indian organizations have realized the benefits that UC tools provides vis-à-vis the onetime cost of deployment it needs,” said Shivashankar K, country manager, Lifesize Communications India (Trends in the UC market, 2009). With recession looming large, more companies will now be looking at unified communications technologies such as video and web conferencing/collaboration as a way to reduce travel expenses, at the same time being eco-friendly.
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According to a Frost & Sullivan forecast on unified communications in India, the total market size is around $670 mn (2008) and likely to grow to more than $1bn by 2010. Majority of this includes enterprise IP telephony; and applications like presence, mobility, conferencing and collaboration make up around 10% (Voice & Data, 2009). With the emergence of virtualization, embedded software on open platform and the software-as-a-service model (SaaS) model, there is increased focus on services and applications delivered over a robust network infrastructure.
The scope of unified communications in India is tremendous. Significant trends have been observed across industries like hospitality, IT/BPO, banking and financial services, telecom, etc. There has been impressive increase in the percentage of deployment of unified communications products and applications (Voice & Data, 2009).
Expected Growth of UC in the coming Years
According to Cellular- news the total UC product revenues will decline until 2011 due to the falling average selling price of telephony, audio bridges and unified messaging. Enterprise video, coming on particularly strong with a compound growth rate of over 20%, will more than make up for telephony decreases by 2012 and beyond.
Figure (UC products forecast)Source: cellular- news.com
Hottest Technologies in Unified Communications
Some technologies which are already available in the Indian market are IP telephony, unified messaging, video telephony, audio/video/web conferencing, collaboration solutions, instant messaging and customer contact services, all integrated with each other and with the messaging and business applications. But the unified communications market in India is ready to adopt new technologies, which will give further boost to this segment.
Video streaming and rich media technology is the next wave and give users the ability to hear or view a file in real time, without downloading it first. Other new technologies which are being launched are presence or location based services using the SIP protocol and tele presence. Enterprise mobility is another application which is going to see a lot of action in the coming days with the launch of clients for cellular phones which provide all unified communications applications for a mobile workforce (Voice n Data, 2011).
ABS India an ISO 9001:2008 certified organization is a key solution provider in the area of IP & Convergence. It is a leading provider of enterprise communication solution to large, medium and small and multi -location businesses. As a technology integrator, ABS India design, deploy, implement, and maintain some of the most complex next – generation communication networks that enable enterprises to experience communication, information & technology.
ABS India offers end-2-end converged solutions by integrating some of the world’s leading technologies in the domain of voice, data and video with the footprints of services across the Indian sub continent including Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
By offering technologically advanced and end-2-end converged business solutions for businesses, ABS India has served a range of enterprise communication needs, including multisite network locations for prestigious clients from diverse domains.
ABS India is a system integrator providing turnkey solutions as well as managed professional services. The organization is driven by core values & robust processes with winning attitude to provide customized solutions. It has strong strategic partners & OEMs.
Business Dictionary defines value addition as “Set of quality control activities which transform an input into an output that is valuable to internal and/or external customers of an organization.”
The value addition char of ABS India is shown below:
Voice, Data & Convergence
Immense support & training
Strong Pre-sales & project group
Apt Solution with suitable technology
Superior OEM technology & support
Key Facts of ABS India
6000+ counting of satisfied customers
Turnover of USD 25million in 2010
Manpower – 200+
Certified Technical Staff – 100+
OEM certified Manpower- 75+
Presence of ABS India cross India
ABS India is present in 36 service locations across India and there are 30 resellers across India. The headquarters are situated in Bangalore. The regional offices are present in the cities of Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bangalore. Branch offices are present in the cities of Chennai, Pune, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
This chapter involves the type of study done for analyzing the potential and prospect for enhancement of the Unified Communications market by the testing its awareness and acceptance among corporates. It will describe in detail the study, the instrument used for study and the sample used and the representativeness of the sample.
Overview of the Research Procedure
Determine the Methodology
Preparation of Research Instrument (Questionnaire)
Conduct Pilot Analysis
Revise the instrument
Type of Study
The study tests the acceptance and awareness of Unified Communications among corporates. It is a critical analysis which is done among a small sample size and amongst a specific group of people i.e. the corporates. It is an empirical research which is done using the questionnaire survey.
The instrument used for the research is the questionnaire. The questionnaire is attached in Annexure- 2. The questionnaire is divided into three parts:
Questions for people using UC
Questions for people not aware of UC
Procedure of Survey
The most important part of the research is the proper administration of the questionnaire. The methods used in this research for administrating the questionnaire are:
Email: Dropping a mail in the mail box and the respondents can respond according to their convenient time.
Telephonic Survey: Calling up the respondents and asking them the questions. This will add to the level of satisfaction of the survey as talking to the respondent will make it clear whether he is answering willingly or not
Personal Interview : This is the most appropriate method for the administration of the questionnaire. This will help in giving a personal touch to the questionnaire and also will add to the image of the company if it is with an existing customer.
After the preparation of the questionnaire and determining the sample size and sample type a pilot survey was conducted with a sample size of 10. After the analysis of the pilot data the questionnaire was revised again. Some more questions were added to bring out a clearer picture of the survey. This was the final questionnaire which was administered among 50 corporates. The final questionnaire is attached in Annexure 2.
Data Analysis and Interpretation
The questionnaire given in Annexure 2 was administered among 50 corporates. The split up of the corporates was as follows:
ABS India Customers – 22/50
Non – customers – 28/50
The customers belonged to the following industries:
Media & Entertainment
Among the 50 corporates administered 50% were aware of Unified Communications. It is not that all of them were users but were aware of the working of UC. It was observed that hr the people who were aware of UC belong to the IT, telecom industry. Awareness was also found among people working in MNC’s like Infosys, Oracle etc.
Figure (acceptance of UC)
The analysis of the data showed that the users of UC in the business market are just 38%. This shows that UC is in the growth stage of the Product Life Cycle. So it is necessary that proper communication of the advantages and benefits of UC is done. It is extremely necessary to increase the customer base of UC. This will bring an instant increase in revenue and will also accelerate the market growth rate of UC.
Figure (users of UC)
The split up of work experience of people administered is shown in the figure below. 60% of the respondents were in the range of more than 10 years of work experience. This question shows that the questionnaire was administered among such people as people on managerial posts in the organization can take decisions to implement UC in their organization
Figure (Work Experience chart)
The breakup of the number of employees working in the organization is shown in the figure below:
52% of the respondents had more than 1000 number of employees working in the organization
Figure (number of employees in the concerned organization)
The breakup of the medium of awareness is shown in the figure below. It is observed that the people who are users of UC are aware of it through Management initiative. The people who know about UC through IT magazines, management initiative, internet or other friends are not users of UC.
Figure (Medium of Awareness of UC)
The chart below shows the various tools of communication used by the corporates. It is observed that audio conferencing is the most widely used tool. Chat and application sharing have almost equal usage and net meetings are widely accepted tools for communication. Others include tools like visual voice mail, click to transfer facility, emails etc. This chart includes tools used with UC
Figure (Tools of Communication Used)
The bar graph below shows the most sought after benefit of UC. It can be seen that reduced travelling costs is the benefit the corporates are experiencing the most. Along with these there are benefits of increased productivity, increasing communication and collaboration. Other benefits include saving time, easy usage and cross country communication. It can be seen that there is no benefit which is not availed. So it can be said that UC is readily accepted by corporates.
Figure (Benefits of UC)
The most important part of the survey is the satisfaction level among the corporates. It is seen that none of the corporate is dissatisfied using UC. So we can say that UC is one of the best tools for communication in todays world. Out of the 19 people(38%) using UC were satisfied with it.
Figure (Level of Satisfaction)
The figure below shows the rating given to UC by the corporates. It can be seen all the ratings lie between good & excellent. The reason for rating it good not excellent is that UC is a bundled set of services and some of the the tools which are not used have to be taken up with the bundle. The cost is also another issue.
Figure (Rating of UC)
The column chart below shows the demo requests receieved for UC during the administration of the questionnaire. There are 19 demo requests.
Figure (Demo Requests)
The following figure shows the number of companies in which different communication tools are provided by different vendors. It is observed that 16 companies are availing services from different vendors. These companies are mainly SMBs and LE’s are using UC.
Figure (Communication Tools provided by single vendors)
The biggest challenge for the company is selling UC to the SMBs. SMBs demand unified communications solutions that easily integrate into and quickly simplify or speed business processes. SMBs also look to familiar, trusted sources to steer them in the right direction. The company needs to develop a cutting edge and position itself for the marketing of UC. Besides the four P’s i.e. product, place, price and promotion the other 3 P’s i.e. people, process and physical evidence need to be concentrated upon. People focus on who uses the product or service, Process on how it reaches the customer and finally Physical Evidence is demonstrating other customers’ satisfaction, which is proof of customer service.
First of all it is necessary to find out the customers who actually need UC. This can be decided on the basis of the cost of implementing UC, the size of the organization, number of employees in the organization and the business it is into. It is observed that UC is readily accepted by the people who are using it. So the awareness of UC is the main part which needs to be concentrated on. This can be done by bringing out the clear picture of UC in the mind of the people who actually need it and will help them making their communications and collaborations easier.
The main problem with UC is its heavy cost. There are a large number of vendors coming into the UC market, so the quality is also a major issue that has to be kept in mind. Study on the industry and competitors can be done through Porter’s Five force model. Awareness of UC is seen more in the IT industry and multinational companies. More awareness should be spread in the It industry and usage of UC in the hospitality sector can reap revenues. Promotions should be mainly concentrated on the benefits and advantages. Along with this the probable customers should be given demos showing them the easy and convenient usage of UC.
According to Product Life Cycle stage UC is still in the growth phase. As the product is now into the market it becomes more strengthened and faces more intense competition. This competition now offers greater choice to t
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