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Friday, May 24th, 2019


'Presence' the key to effective unified communications

Just like a good search engine works better for you when it knows things about you and your context - to provide you with the most relevant information and links you need - so does good communications in a call center environment make customers come back again and again. This the analogy Ken Kannappan, CEO of Plantronics, uses to explain the importance of a good unified communications (UC) solution.

We caught up with Plantronics CEO Ken Kannappan at the leading audio communications player’s 50th anniversary celebrations and the opening of its new Asia Pacific hub in Suzhou, China in April 2011. Inevitably, the conversation revolved around UC.

His definition of UC is "instant messaging, voice, video, conferencing, desktop sharing and unified messaging all rolled into one". And the key to effective UC is "presence".

Kannappan explains what presence is all about: "Cell phones disrupt the actual availability of people. You may be at your desk, but you can’t answer a landline call because you’re busy on the cell phone. A calendar program may show someone is not available, when he actually is, because a meeting was postponed or ended early." The former is not truly present, while the latter actually is - but not regarded as present by the system in the enterprise.

This is important because “every business wants speed. But 70% of business calls are missed,” he adds. The Plantronics UC system defines someone on the cell phone as unavailable. If a headset is switched on and the phone rings, the system automatically knows you’re available and ready to answer the call. Other applications on your computer are then paused for you to answer the call.

The highest levels of adoption of UC are expected in organizations that fit the following criteria:

  • Firms with high unutilized real estate (especially in reputable CBD offices). For instance, 50% of consulting firms’ staff are not at their office desk to answer their calls. They could be travelling, visiting clients, or working from home. A UC solution offers such staff a full suite of communication and office applications.

  • Firms with significant travel expenditures involving expert and professional services such as geologists, researchers and oil-rig construction. With UC, such enterprises can leverage expert resources more effectively, even when they’re travelling.

  • Technology companies, which are usually not vertically integrated. But serving global markets requires a lot of communication, interaction and cooperation - and UC solutions meet these needs.


Audio quality
Besides presence, audio quality is another obstacle to effective UC. "While audio quality potential is already available, we usually don’t get quality because of bandwidth," says Kannappan. Data packet transfer is the issue.

Plantronics, which has about 70% of the global B2B headset and UC market, solves this bandwidth-related audio quality problem through arithmetic algorithms - both in its firmware and software.

Nascent market
The UC market is still in the early adoption stage, especially in Asia, according to Kannappan. "It will take a while for UC to be fully adopted as a mainstream technology. It’s already seeing gradual growth. [I believe it’s because] young people are used to applications such as Skype and are comfortable working with headsets and UC tools."

Upbeat about the UC market, Kannappan believes it is just a question of timing: PABX and other landline systems will see technology refresh over the next few years, and when key customers are already on the 'open federation' UC standard, other companies (suppliers, customers, and others in the value chain) will find it effective and useful to be on the 'open federation' platform as well.

In fact, in Asia Pacific, UC has seen significant uptake among:

  • Natural resource extraction operations, such as mining and energy exploration. Hazardous travel conditions and remote working are key factors requiring effective UC tools.

  • Contact centers in areas such as the Philippines, where typhoons and other disasters mean staff would have to work in disaster recovery/business continuity (DR/BC) mode, usually remotely.

  • Businesses where collaborative discussions among colleagues are critical - regardless of location.

  • The financial services industry, where current market growth is leading to an increase in HR requirements. With real estate a serious cost factor in many cities in the region, mobile and remote workers can be provided with UC tools, so there is no need to increase office space or for redesign of existing facilities.

Plantronics launched several new UC products at its 50th anniversary celebrations and the opening of its new Asia Pacific hub.