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August 12, 2014

When Selecting Your UC Vendor, What Do You Need to Consider?


For attendees of ITEXPO West 2014 in Las Vegas this week, it’s hard to ignore the slot machines, roulette wheels and blackjack tables lining the halls as you make your way to the convention center in The Rio. And chances are as you pass the thousands who gamble all day long, you don’t give a second thought to what would happen if the slot machines suddenly went down or if you suddenly couldn’t make a call to the front desk at The Rio.

But those are the exact considerations that Larry Fretz, CIO of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, has to worry about.

“Casino resorts are 24/7, 365 always-on for IT and that presents its IT challenges,” Fretz said during an ITEXPO panel discussion today titled “Decoding UC ROI: What Metrics Matter Most.”

As such, when the Palms Casino started evaluating different UC vendors and offferings, it had to account for a solution characterized by best-of-breed redundancy, disaster recovery and peak performance solutions. Specifically, the Palms Casino had to answer the following questions when it came to choosing its UC strategy:

  • What would the casino’s employees do if their desk phones went out?
  • What would happen if the call center went down and its employees were unable to confirm bookings and drive revenue?
  • What would happen if a guest needed to access his or her phone in the event of an emergency and the phone system was down?

“We ended up looking at a combination for telco carrier services where we can redirect those reservation services to what are effectively home agents because we have that capability,” Fretz said. “We recognize if something were to happen to our UC environment we have a bigger problem because of what else is in that data center. If the UC environment goes down we are impacting gaming, hotel and other business areas.”

The session this afternoon centered upon real-life use cases like this, exploring how real-life companies go about implementing UC solutions and the key factors that go into such a decision.

Simon Bettis, director of information and technology services at Jefferson Union High School District in northern California, recognized his school had to look at a solution that boasted stellar quality of service. With the school sitting on a fault line, administrators recognized that if a natural disaster were to strike, the school had to be able to respond instantly.

“We are waiting for that big one, and God forbid if it happens, the system is set up so it can be sustainable by itself,” Bettis said. “If the parents have an emergency and want to leave a message to the school office, we want them to be able to get the message as soon as they hang up the phone—not days or weeks later.”

“No. 1 it’s about security and No. 2 it’s about cost,” he added.

In addition to security, a number of companies consider a UC vendor’s ability to mitigate risk when it comes to selection. According to Louis Carr, CIO of the Department of Information Technology for the Clark County Nevada government, the division evaluated vendors based o their ability to integrate into the county’s other lines of business. For instance, it searched for a vendor that could equip remote workers with an IP-based phone systems so supervisors could track their work productivity remotely.

Today’s supervisors are accustomed to seeing their workers in front of them to make sure they are performing adequately and with the right UC system, supervisors have access to a sea of metrics—from on hold times to routing—to mitigate customer service risk, Carr said.

In terms of the future of UC, all the panelists agreed that there is more they can do with the technology as they move forward. In fact, further UC implementation and adoption is very much a part of their future plans.

“We are underutilizing UC,” Carr said. “But my vision is regardless of the endpoint—smarpthone, desktop, laptop or tablet—that the employees are able to interact with our systems and get the information out of our systems that they need.”

Echoed Bettis, “My definition of UC is to ultimately have everything right here in the palm of my hand and that’s what UC is all about. I want to be able to access my email, voicemail, instant messages, faxes all under one interface.”





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