Reaping Rewards

By Dennis McCafferty  |  Posted 2009-05-18 Print this article Print

A growing number of companies are discovering the benefits of unified communications: improved productivity and convenience, decreased operating costs, enhanced collaboration and reduced travel.

Reaping Rewards

Large enterprises that scale the globe are also getting more interested in unified communications. Beckman Coulter, a Fullerton, Calif.-based biomedical equipment manufacturer, had nearly three dozen legacy systems for phone and voice mail communications used by more than 10,000 employees working in 70 offices worldwide. There was no single common dialing plan or network voice mail standard.

“Every site had its own phone system,” recalls Steve Campbell, the company’s director of network services, messaging and collaboration. “If someone was trying to contact an employee in another location, sometimes they’d get an operator, other times they’d get a menu and sometimes they’d need a dial-access number.

“We need to fly our staff across the country and often throughout the world, and they’d often need a tutorial just to figure out how to make a phone call, make themselves available on the phone or even figure out how to access their voice mail.”

Initially, Beckman Coulter sought a UC system overhaul that would replace the aging legacy phone systems. The company made that transition with the launch of a HiPath 4000 system from Siemens Communications. That worked out well, so it is now launching an expansion of the HiPath system to combine voice, fax and e-mail messages on a Windows server that relies on voice over IP technology.

“From a productivity standpoint, this will remove barriers and enhance the flow of communications,” Campbell says. “But there’s more to it than that: It’s about how a company sees itself. When everyone is tied into the same platform and everyone has the same system for e-mailing and calling people, you start to feel like you’re all working together for one company, instead of a collection of disparate parts.”

Eventually, Beckman Coulter expects to have its employees accessing e-mail, voice mail, faxes and IMs on the same platform. An employee presence feature will also be part of the package, so staffers who are tied together on a project will be able to see in real time whether a team member is at his or her desk, online or on the phone.

Clearly, such a project—which Beckman Coulter has dubbed TIGER (Telecommunications Infrastructure Global Equipment Rebuild)—presents many challenges, including training. But the company expects that this, too, will be a relatively simple, streamlined process before too long.

“The interface is always a big part of the equation,” Campbell says. “But we’ve found that this comes out of the box in a pretty intuitive, user-friendly way. With respect to training, we’ll probably have some group sessions at first for our pilot-phase staff. But after that, we expect to put everything into an online presentation that employees can take when they’re ready. I think we could train them on this system in just 15 minutes, at their convenience.”

Dennis McCafferty is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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