Unified Communications

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November 12, 2008

Interview: Objectworld Touts UC Solution, Now Interoperable with Microsoft SBS, EBS

By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor


Seeking to provide SMBs with enterprise-class unified communications, a Canada-based UC software provider today announced that it’s supporting Microsoft’s (News - Alert) Windows Small Business Server 2008 and Windows Essential Business Server 2008.

 
Officials at Objectworld Communications Corp. say they can now help their company’s partner and solution providers deliver an end-to-end, Windows-based business communications solution – all managed through Windows.
 
The Ottawa-based company’s flagship offering, called “Objectworld UC Server,” provides Windows-based telephony and legacy PBX (News - Alert) integration, and company officials say it’s now the only UC solution of its kind that’s integrated with Microsoft’s SBS and EBS.
 
Both of those, SBS and EBS, are valuable tools for many SMBs and – particularly in this slower economy, when companies increasingly are seeking to leverage technology to cut costs and boost production – UC solutions that integrate with the Microsoft products may be attractive.
 
Objectworld (News - Alert) officials say their solution: deploys in 15 minutes per user; lowers total cost of ownership with simpler management; makes employees more productive; and integrates business communications and processes with corporate data.
 
TMCnet had a chance to put some questions about UC Server, and the value of unified communications in this economy generally, to Objectworld’s director of marketing and sales, Vincent Guihan. We talked about the relative popularity of the solution’s SIP telephony edition and the value of providing Objectworld UC Server as a hosted environment.
 
Our exchange follows.
 
TMCnet: In this slower economy, we’re reading a lot about companies seeking to leverage technology to save money and boost production – a major selling point for unified communications, even before the downturn. What effect have the financial events of the past few months had on Objectworld’s customer base, if any?
 
Vincent Guihan (pictured left): Return on investment has always been a key value proposition for Objectworld customers, and this continues to be the case. More and more, customers are looking for ways that they can cut costs on operations so that they can invest in growth and compete more aggressively in the market place. Business can’t easily grow revenue just by cutting costs. They need to cut costs and drive productivity.
 
Helping our customers solve both of these problems profitably has always been very important to us as a business, and that our products help our customers address their business goals is very rewarding for us as a company. I love nothing better than to work on case studies with our customers and solution providers. It fascinates me to see how they’re using the product in ways that we don’t necessarily expect.
 
TMCnet: Objectworld offers its solution in three editions: standard, SIP and CEBP. Briefly, describe for us the differences among those three. Also, what effect, if any, has the economic downturn had on the SIP telephony offering?
 
VG: Each edition of Objectworld UC Server is geared toward different buying agendas of unified communications customers.
 
For businesses that want to replace their aging PBX’s voicemail capabilities with a modern, full-featured and inexpensive unified communications solution, Standard Edition integrates with 95 percent of the existing PBX market.
 
For businesses that want to make the transition to VoIP, or if they have a green field deployment, Objectworld UC Server SIP Edition provides a feature-rich SIP-based telephony bundled with unified communications as a simple, all-in-one software solution for Microsoft Windows platforms.
 
For businesses that want to streamline and automate customer service with phone-based self-service and account management services, who already have a PBX, or potentially a unified communications solution, but want that link business communications, business processes and corporate data, Objectworld UC Server CEBP Edition provides a low-cost, high-value solution.
 
In some cases, they want to or need to rip and replace with a VoIP solution, in some case cases, they don’t want to or can’t afford to. In those cases, they would either buy SIP or Standard Edition respectively. CEBP Edition is more of a nice offering. Because the price of SIP and Standard is so low, most businesses just buy one or the other to get the full features and benefits that come with Objectworld’s more complete solutions.
 
SIP Edition continues to be a strong seller in the less than 100 seat range when VoIP is an attractive value proposition and is more typically cost-effective than adding unified communications as an adjunct to an existing PBX system.
 
TMCnet: How big a draw for Objectworld’s SMB customers are the UC Server’s VoIP features?
 
VG: Depending on the customer, considerable. What Objectworld UC Server delivers is VoIP, but it’s VoIP that’s managed largely with Active Directory, that can be managed remotely, that can easily integrated branch office, teleworkers and mobile workers, that can be deployed for highly redundant systems, and so on. UC Servers’ VoIP is also tied together with our voice paging and our emergency out-dialing capabilities, which marry the cost savings of VoIP with the power of our service creation environment.
 
The combination allows our solution providers and customers to drive ROI and to build revenue generating phone-based applications – for example, talking house listings for real estate, self-service and account management and accounts receivable for financial firms. So, the VoIP features are a big draw, in the context of their connection to business applications. Objectworld’s VoIP Solution SIP is the only solution in the market that wraps up VoIP productivity applications for end-users as well as for IT, and back-office integration between the business communications, business processes and corporate data all in one software application at a price that small and medium-sized businesses can afford.
 
TMCnet: Given the upfront costs that come with some non-hosted IP-PBX systems, we are told, many businesses are turning to hosted services. What value proposition does Objectworld bring in such an environment?
 
VG: Objectworld certainly could be provided as a hosted environment. Real estate and insurance brokers often provide our solution with what amounts to a hosted service. Brokers provide their agents with our applications capabilities: unified messaging, call control, notification, integrated fax, voice paging, and more, and the agents pay a much lower monthly fee than if they paid for a fax line, a home phone line, their office line, their pager, and so on. This provides a substantial revenue generation opportunity. But for the most part, Objectworld sees an increasing number of small businesses looking to own their own solutions.
 
TMCnet: We also hear a lot about the benefits of open source UC solutions, such as when Nortel acquired Pingtel (News - Alert) or Linux-based systems. If possible, gauge for us the interest in open source solutions, and tell us how Objectworld addresses companies that are deciding which direction to go in for their own UC systems?
 
VG: There’s a lot of customer interest, but the cost to deploy a full-feature “free” solution is very substantial. Estimates suggest that Linux-based solutions cost up into the $700-per-user range to deploy. Objectworld UC Server SIP Edition comes typically costs around $350 per user for a 100-user deployment, depending on the specific phones, gateway and server, as well as the specific professional services required. Standard Edition typically costs $100 per user.
 
With the increased productivity of unified messaging – roughly 40 minutes per day – based on an averaged wage according to the Department of Labor, of $18.20, businesses can make up to the costs of our system in as little as 15 days. Eliminating just 10 fax lines may eliminate as much as $100 per month per fax when you add up the cost of the line, the tone, the paper, etc. That’s $1,000 per month just in operational costs that are eliminated paying for the software in just 10 months, well below what many analysts are proposing – that businesses should only buy if they can see a return in 12 months.
 
This doesn’t include all the time saved with listening to your e-mail on the drive in or on the drive home – with Objectworld’s text to speech capabilities – the time that it saves businesses to conduct moves, adds and changes, the time it saves mobile employees with Blackberry support, new message alerts, being able to access their voice mail and fax messages in their e-mail, and a lot more. Businesses that want to automate and streamline a lot of self-service information or account services can see an even faster and more substantial ROI with Objectworld UC Server.
 
That’s pretty much out of the box functionality and the self-service applications are usually a few hours to several days to build – it’s entirely visual and anyone who can put together a Visio diagram can do simple call flow services with UC Server. A business can, in theory, do that with an open source solution, but the returns on their various investments to deliver that kind of feature/functionality and the benefits that go with will take much, much longer to realize.
 

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael´┐Żs articles, please visit his columnist page.

 
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