Is unified communications the ‘killer app’ that could drive Ireland’s economy?

4 Dec 2008

Eircom has committed to spend €1bn in upgrading its broadband network, as well as investing €60m in its core network. Clive Ryan (pictured) is director of Advisory Services at Eircom

What, in your opinion, is the biggest shake-up in the telecoms industry that impacts the modern business world?

The worlds of software and communications are converging. The advent of the internet brought about enormous change in terms of reaching new markets, but, fundamentally, the onset of converged technology solutions or unified communications (UC), which includes internet telephony and videoconferencing, has had the greatest impact on the business world.

But when it comes to using these technologies, are Irish firms experimental enough?

Typically Ireland has been portrayed as a laggard when it comes to adopting new things. That has changed markedly in the past two years.

Irish firms are conscious of being more competitive and enabling people to do their work more productively. They are adopting technology in a far more aggressive manner. Some don’t realise they are doing this and would be quite surprised at how world-class they’ve become.

Is the move to digital workplaces as smooth as it is being portrayed?

Not really, there’s lots of room for improvement. The nature of the Irish economy, of being small and open and depending on export trade, makes the country an ideal beneficiary of what these new technologies can do.

But, until now, companies have been going digital in a very silo-by-silo way. Also, some of the technologies have been expensive to deploy and maintain, and with the increasing digitisation of work at the point of the user, they are far more complicated than they should be.

The problem is that the productivity benefits are being hindered by the complexity. UC was born out of that problem.

How does UC work?

Integrated voice communications with email platforms such as Microsoft Exchange showed us the massive savings that can be made in terms of the time it takes to find and share information.

We found the killer app in all of this is the presence engine that lets you know whether someone is at their desk or not. Finding and interacting with people isn’t always the most efficient and capable communications channel. This technology gets rid of human latency and the incorporation of presence streamlines interaction.

If you were on the system, you’d go to your contacts list, hit ‘call Clive’ and the network would find me, no matter where I am.

What are the business benefits of this?

The business benefits are you get to the person you want quicker. It goes beyond, into business process enablement and the ethos of communications-enabled business processes – helping people share structured, formal information more quickly, and routing work to the best person, no matter where they are.

When will next-generation networks (NGNs) begin to roll out?

The reality is NGNs will happen in an incremental way. With most businesses now receiving 10Mbps and 12Mbps services, we’re already moving into the next-generation space. It won’t be a sudden switch on, it’s happened already.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years