Many small businesses are struggling in the difficult economic climate and BT stepped forward at the start of the month to offer its customers advice on making the most of their technological resources.
Its Business Experience forum in London, from June 29 – July 4, was its annual address to customers about the uses of services such as mobile broadband, ‘cloud’ applications and hosted VoIP.
BlackBerry maker RIM and fixed infrastructure supplier Nortel were also on hand to dish out advice and information on surviving the choppy waters of the recession, with their latest products as buoyancy aids.
BT Business managing director Bill Murphy (pictured) argued there is, generally, minimal help available to small businesses searching for new ways forward. Business Experience, BT’s third such event, is vital as an open forum, information resource and sounding board for prominent SME customers, he argued.
“This is all about our customers,” he said. “There are very few events in the UK for small businesses. This gives small businesses the opportunity to educate themselves about what technology can do for their businesses. Times are tough but there are still opportunities to invest, especially if it’s something that will help gain customers or save money. Many of those things are on display here.”
BlackBerry unified comms
BT announced plans to integrate the BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (MVS) technology with BT Communications Complete, which runs on the Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series platform. This will enable calls to switch from mobile to Wi-Fi networks, even mid-call, when in the vicinity of the router.
The idea is SME customers can save money on mobile phone costs when in the office by running their calls over a company Wi-Fi network, whilst continuing to utilise a device running all their contacts, calendar and email applications. It enables fixed line and mobile voicemail to be stored in a single voicemail box, accessible from both lines. Users can also choose a single contact number to ring through on their mobile phone and office line.
The service is pitched to businesses with 16-60 staff, and ranges in cost from £7,000 to £17,000.
According to Murphy, the partnership with RIM could be the start of something special. “One of the biggest themes emerging from the technology sector is the whole idea of unified communications. Nobody has really extended that concept into the mobile world just yet but it’s about to happen. We’ve been working very closely with Cisco and RIM about integrating technologies onto the UC500. That will allow a richer integration, not just for voice but voice and data.
“Presence, checking availability, instant messaging – these are all the things that can help people be more agile with the way they work. If you know if the person is available or not, it’s quite easy to know whether you speak to them directly, IM them, email them – if it’s urgent you can get at the person in a discreet way whereas before you couldn’t, you could only call.
“So we integrated this into the business platform so to speak. This is very important and we’re really pleased that we’re doing it with both RIM and Cisco today.”
Murphy said there is a simple reason for partnering with RIM for this product – it produces the “business device of choice” and gives everything workers need out of the office and at their fingertips.
At the same time, Murphy says BT Business is working closely with certain other manufacturers on customer initiatives. BT’s original Office Anywhere product was in conjunction with HTC, he pointed out.
“There will only be a handful of people that we work with because businesses want the functionality – they’re not as hung up about the design of a product.
“In default it can help them do business better or give them the ability to access what they want, when they want, which is really important to them. They’re demanding the right type of functionality more than what the phone actually looks like.”
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