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Unified Communications as Step to Lean Operations

Tuesday, June 30, 2015 - 16:45
UC Lean Operations

Most would agree that a common business goal for organizations that want to thrive is to enact lean operations.  In other words, these businesses embrace a strategy of producing the best quality output while utilizing the least amount of resources.  In a typical day’s worth of communications with our team, customers, vendors, and others, it’s fairly easy to identify the waste in that system. Examples of wasted time across an average employee’s day could include: phone calls made but unanswered; extra trips down the hall only to find the person we’d like to see is out; and meetings scheduled, but attendees late or missing.

How much time is lost to each individual during the day from these valueless outcomes? How much valuable working time is wasted for the organization? What’s more, beyond the salary and wages spent yielding a negative result, consider the lost opportunity cost resulting from all of this wasted time.  Fortunately, there are enhanced communications tools available to today’s businesses that can promote lean operations across any organization.

Unified Communications (UC)

Defined as the integration of a set of communications products providing voice, video, web, and text-based communications, yielding a consistent unified user-interface and user-experience across multiple devices and media-types – is a powerhouse tool for business communications.  

UC has fundamentally altered the employee productivity landscape. The amount of benefit an organization realizes through the deployment of UC, however, varies widely, depending on the depth of its implementation.

Companies that fully leverage the potential benefits of UC solutions are usually focused on generating lean operations across the enterprise.  By their nature, Unified Communications tools allow companies to minimize communication costs.   Several aspects of UC can take large strides towards producing lean operations.

Aspect of Unified Communications and How they Help Lean Operations

1. Office 365 - Enabling Mobility

Office 365 is a cloud-based collaboration service that combines Office desktop applications like business-class email, shared calendars, file sharing, instant messaging (IM), and video conferencing.  Using tools like Office 365 allows users to stay connected on the go, enabling the workforce to go mobile.  

Users can conduct effective multi-user online meetings using HD video conferencing, note taking, and screen sharing.  Shared mailboxes can be created to house team communications accessed right through Outlook.  And documents can be shared in SkyDrive or Microsoft SharePoint for maximized collaboration and productivity.

2. Presence - Productivity through Accessibility

Presence is a real-time information about a person’s availability; another value-added UC tool contributing towards leaner operations.  Two examples are Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business, both offered through West Unified Communications.  Cisco Jabber provides presence, instant messaging (IM), voice, voice messaging, and video calling capabilities for your desktop and mobile devices.  

Presence is designed to allow consistent presence visibility and communication access – to reach the right people across the network in an efficient and effective manner – enabling higher levels of productivity and accessibility.  Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business provide next-generation cloud communications services that connect people anytime, from virtually anywhere. Lync and Skype for Business, enable enterprise users to have a more collaborative, engaging, and effective communications experience.

3. Mobility – Travel no Longer Means Lost Time

forwarding an in-office call to your mobile phone is only one piece of the enhanced mobility tools offered today. Nowadays, mobile users can easily participate in voice, video, and web conferences from their mobile devices. Using a product like Mobile Connect, employees can receive all of the beefed-up calling features they are used to accessing from their desk phone.

It is an application that allows mobile employees to have one-touch access to features offered through their enterprise communication network.  These features can include access to company directories, 4-digit on-network dialing, low-cost international calling, and touch screen access for voicemail handling enterprise

4. Call Routing - Efficiency through Scalability

Enterprises often need to adapt quickly to changing business conditions such as seasonal call volumes and other such fluctuations in business communications.  Implementing enterprise call routing and contact center management tools can be a key part of eliminating time waste in organizations.

A tool like ControlMaxx from West UC provides unlimited scale of users and call handling capacity, through customizable rules; ensuring customer service excellence with limited staff intervention.

5. Virtual Office – Access all Needed Data all the Time

Another way business operations can run leaner is through reduced real estate costs and the ability to collaborate with experts across the globe.  With the right tools, remote workers can function as though they were working from corporate offices.  A tool like Virtual Office allows remote workers to connect to their corporate infrastructure from their home or remote office.  

Virtual Office data connectivity allows for secure Virtual Private Networking (VPN), granting remote access to corporate data resources, such as e-mail, applications, databases, and file stores. Using their own broadband internet access (cable or DSL), remote workers have greater access to the resources they need, allowing them to be more productive.

6. Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery – Continue Operating Even During Outages

A big part of opportunity cost is the result of those heart stopping outages where everyone’s phone goes down. It could be the result of aging infrastructure, perhaps a storm, or maybe a new utility worker with a backhoe. But through advanced call routing tools, like those identified above, sophisticated call routing plans can ensure incoming traffic is handled, and the business of your organization continues without interruption.

So having the right tools in place for seamless business communications is a required first step towards lean operations. Of additional importance is making adjustments to smooth out key business processes.  Process smoothing is about minimizing work interruptions or time spent in the process where no value is being added.

Much has been written about the application of lean in many processes and across many industries; suffice it to say that optimizing the balance between tools and workflow helps to achieve faster, higher quality output.  But in part, smoothing is about keeping the process flow balanced and moving – avoiding situations where backlog builds up at a single point in the process.

Some examples of these ‘bumpy’ process areas might include a lack of call center routing rules and voice heuristics for use in staff planning for call escalations; or, a manager who is the only contact available for approvals, but spends 75% of his time walking the plant floor, unreachable by office employees.

Can UC tools help facilitate a smoother process flow? Absolutely! UC tools can be used to tailor the flow of information, and even the modes of response.  This means that more time and availability are freed up for that decision maker, rendering the entire process more efficient.

What are the key processes in your business and how can the improved flow of information facilitate improvements in those processes? Consider both customer facing and internal processes as equally rich sources for improvement. Approach this challenge in a cross functional way, bringing together IT representatives along with drivers of your critical processes – from engineering, marketing, sales, operation, and finance.  And to ensure lean operations in your business, be sure to implement a full suite of Unified Communications tools.  Doing so will ensure your organization gets into the best shape possible!

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