Siemens Launches Second Generation UC for SMBs

With an enhanced portal, tighter integration into Outlook, and especially a beefed-up contact center, the newly released OpenScape Office MX from Siemens Enterprise Communications aims to deliver an easy-to-install and simple-to-use unified communications (UC) solution for the small to mid-sized business market.

Geared to 30 to 150 users, the new product is the successor to HiPath OpenOffice ME, with enough additions and improvements to merit its own branding.

OpenScape Office MX has been designed to meet a critical need for voice and UC functionality in the SMB space, said Tricia Cooper, director of channel marketing in North America for UC pioneer Siemens Enterprise Communications. “They have to address the balance of dealing with a small staff, dealing with cost constraints, and at the same time dealing with how they communicate with their customers.”

That last item, customer communications, was foremost in the minds of designers when they assembled the new and improved contact center.

They built in a system-wide presence function in order to ensure calls reached a live person on the first try, transferring calls to whoever is available. Presence can be managed for individuals as well as for teams and workgroups. Scheduled callbacks drive follow-up for unsuccessful calls. In addition to calls, the center also can distribute fax and e-mail.

The presence function is crucial, Cooper said. “It really allows whoever answers the phone to see who in the organization is present, as well as what tools they can use to communicate with that individual to get that live call to the right person.”

Even beyond the Contact Center, much has been done to improve efficiencies. The MyPortal function for example now has a toolbar tightly integrated into Outlook. This in turn gives users the ability to fire off an e-mail out of Outlook while conversing, without having to toggle applications. Additional hotkeys allow for quick dial of frequently called numbers and access codes.

“It adds one more way to use the desktop to reach out to someone else on the network, whether it is internal or external,” said Mike Lapinski, national channel support engineer.

Siemens is calling this ability to bring together UC functionality in a single interface the underlying power of the new product. “The contact center is one piece of it, but the strength really is in the integration of all applications into one easy-to-use, all- in-one appliance,” Cooper said.

Ease of access on the user end is one piece of the puzzle. At the same time, engineers put their efforts toward ensuring simple startup and management of the overall system in order to support channel partners.

All-in-one functionality comes pre-installed. This includes the multi-media contact center, voice functionality, mobility, and security via VPN and firewall. The entire system is driven by wizard-based installation, “so that every time we touch an external application, it’s as easy as installing a standard plug-in,” Cooper said.

The back-end simplicity is more than a nod toward the IT limitations of many SMBs. It’s a fundamental component of the company’s marketing strategy for the new product, which relies on a channel network to do the heavy lifting.

“Because all the UC functionality is preinstalled on one server, there is no need for our partners to spend excessive time on installation on various servers,” Cooper said.

Channel partners crave simplicity in order to make best use of their time as they bring new customers on board. With this in mind, “we’ve tried to decrease the implementation time from a channel standpoint and we’ve hardened all the applications to make sure they work 100 percent of the time,” Lapinski said.

“We’ve provided them with a solution that they can carry in under their arm and in a couple of hours it is ready to go, and they can move onto the next customer,” he said.

Cooper described the SMB as needing help with UC, while not necessarily knowing what form that help should take.

In approaching this market, Siemens has relied on distributor Sotel Systems to take the pulse and gauge what customers may need in the near future. The end product offers not just the tools SMBs need today, but also those that may come into play as UC takes a firmed hold in the marketplace. Cooper cited presence as a prime example.

“Presence is something that people don’t tend to think about,” she said. “But once they have it, it becomes something they can’t live without.”

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