Thursday, October 25, 2007

Driving to Work is a Thing of the Past!

Getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning and driving down the freeway; other cars conspiring to make you late to work; and the increased chances of ending up in an accident are now a thing of the past.

Welcome to what technology has been promising for years. Imagine waking up at 8 AM and joining a conference call in your PJs. Jump on to your PDA and check your day’s calendar, then start the trek to your office (aka downstairs).

Telecommuting hasn’t yet become a reality for many of the millions of office staff and executives that still try to traverse the dangerous wild we call freeways. But the technology is here! Why aren’t we using it effectively!

For example, if you are one of the few who hasn’t yet, installing Exchange 2003 or 2007 allows simple things like opening Outlook from home or any other location using a protocol called RPC/http (RPC over http). This centralizes your data on the server while allowing access from anywhere via the very utilized Outlook.

So let’s discuss what's needed to successfully distribute your workforce.

1. The ability to accomplish all of your work without the need for having a business location. The employees that come to mind are salespeople, administrators, and other in-house business representatives. While other factory workers and accounting team that directly correlate to pushing paperwork or writing checks may still need to work in a small distributed office or company warehouse. A very interesting example is of a Cisco Executive Assistant named Margaret shown in the picture. She is sitting at her desk and doesn’t commute to that location in San Jose…in fact she is in Texas in this picture.

2. A strong communications plan. Most businesspeople know that you can't really manage your team without seeing them. Often times, body language is more telling than verbal, so the ability to see your fellow worker, boss, or employee is crucial to the design. As well, since email has become a more reliable and traceable format of communications, having the ability to check those messages anytime and anywhere has become very important.

So how does this design look? An exchange server running RPC over http and a mobile client like active sync or Blackberry Enterprise Server are truly invaluable. This has become a requirement over an option in the last year.

But since email is sometimes not enough, a voice system is needed. This system should be a distributed phone system using VoIP that enables a telecommuter to pick up their office phone and make calls just like they were sitting in their office downtown. Adding on the video option, the computer screen becomes a two way video conferencing utility.

Unified messaging takes all of these technologies and connects them all into an easy to access message box. Imagine checking one voicemail box and email box and it being the same box. How about responding to emails with your cell phone by speaking the response and the reply turning it into a wav file attachment that the recipient can play back on their phone.

One of the common issues is not knowing where someone is. Are they out of the office, on a flight, at their desk, or gone for the day. Can they be reached with a video call, or are the busy on another call. With Cisco Presence, you can find out the exact status of another individual in your office and communicate with them in the best fashion without wasting time listening to each other’s voicemails.

I hear a lot of you asking about ROI. Return on investment is a very easy task. Let’s examine the most common savings. Studies show that occupying office space for a 1 year period which includes such items as the cost of the building and maintenance, the cost of furniture, computers, phones, and other items like janitorial service equal $12,000 per year per person.

Cabling is another money saver. On average, a phone in an office is moved 3 times per year resulting in a MAC (Move Add Change) work order which us telecom companies charge on average $100 per MAC.

Not to bore you with more of these, many studies have been done that show that both a distributed workforce as well as VoIP has an average ROI of 7 months.

It’s obvious to the 49 million Cisco VoIP users and 13 million telecommuters that this is the wave of the future. Are you riding this wave? If not, contact your DSW representative to tell you more, show you a demonstration, or help you develop a ROI for your company.

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