The company rolled out features gradually rather than all at once to minimize struggle, Boxrud says. "We did a lot of feedback surveys about how people were feeling about the tools," he says. "Some people had never been exposed to the video capabilities before."
As for financial payback, Boxrud says UL expects a return on investment on its UC technology and other network upgrades within about three years. "That's pretty much on par with what we anticipated," he says.
UC as part of a broader revamp
Another UC user, The Agency Group, a London-based booking agency that represents more than 1,500 music artists worldwide, began deploying Avaya Inc.'s Avaya IP Office 7.0 in late 2010 as part of a telecommunications overhaul to improve communications among its worldwide offices.
Part of the reason for the move was that the firm wanted to upgrade its communications infrastructure from an older Nortel system that wasn't IP-enabled and that the business had outgrown, according to Howie Gold, CIO at The Agency Group.
"We needed more trunking capabilities and more overall features, such as video conferencing and support for iPhone and Android mobile applications," Gold says. But another key reason for adopting unified communications was to achieve the firm's goal of ensuring always-on, real-time service for clients, regardless of their location.
The Agency Group also wanted to increase productivity among its employees, improve collaboration, save costs and reduce travel -- and it has achieved those objectives with the new system, Gold says. Perhaps most important, UC enables the firm -- which also has offices in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sweden and Nashville and has a large number of highly mobile employees -- to have a cohesiveness that it lacked before.
"Our chairman's main focus for IT was to unify the company, to enhance our level of communications and to get people from different offices to share information," Gold says.
Other immediate benefits for users included increased convenience and greater efficiency with managing communications. The system allows people to make calls to anywhere within the organization by dialing four digits. That eliminates the need for cumbersome international dialing, Gold says.
"We have a lot of communications between agents in the U.K. and Canada [for example], and they now have the ability to just pick up the phone and dial a four-digit extension and reach someone 4,000 miles away without any concern that it's a long-distance call," Gold says.
Even in this age of electronic communication the agency relies heavily on phone connections, Gold says. "You can do so much with email, but our business is a relationship business that requires personal communications," he says. "It's better if people can get a feel for a person's sense of humor or their excitement about a band."
The system has an application that allows users to send instant messages and see a colleague's presence, among other functions, from a Web-based portal. This allows mobile agents to remain transparently available to clients, regardless of their location.
UC has also allowed the firm to save money through reduced long-distance calling and the avoidance of hotel calling charges, Gold says. While he wouldn't quantify total savings, Gold says executives and agents can avoid calling costs of as much as $3,000 for a single overseas trip.
"There are so many different levels of savings that if you [consider that] and factor in the enhanced level of communications that goes with it, it's hard to say what the total value of the technology is, but it is exceptional," Gold says.