Abhay Prasad is a Senior Manager in the Customer Business Transformation (CBT) team that is part of Cisco’s Voice Technology Group. Abhay leads CBT’s consulting practice in the Manufacturing, High Tech and Energy verticals. The CBT team comprises a group of experienced business consultants who work with many of the world's leading companies on strategies to leverage Unified Communications and drive business value through cost savings, increased revenue, improved employee productivity and more effective business processes.
Previously a Senior Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, Abhay brings over 7 years of experience with more than 5 years working as a management consultant in the manufacturing and high tech spaces. Within the manufacturing vertical, Mr. Prasad worked extensively with basic materials and energy clients in Asia, Europe and Africa on strategy, operational process improvement, mergers & acquisitions, and new business development initiatives.
Mr. Prasad holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad in India and B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. He also spent a semester studying International Business and Projects Management at ESCP in Paris. Abhay has fluency in Hindi and English and basic proficiency in French and Spanish.
Business Value of Unified Communications; Manufacturing; High Tech; Oil & Gas; Utilities; Utilities; Metals and Mining; Transportation and Logistics
Abhay Prasad is a Senior Manager in the Customer Business Transformation (CBT) team that is part of Cisco’s Voice Technology Group. Abhay leads CBT’s consulting practice in the Manufacturing, High Tech and Energy verticals. The CBT team comprises a group of experienced business consultants who work with many of the world's leading companies on strategies to lever
I had previously written about how unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) is helping address many of the key concerns of manufacturing CXOs across the manufacturing value chain. In this series of monthly posts I will go deeper into some of those ideas by focusing on one specific part of the manufacturing value chain each time. Let’s start with how UC&C are impacting how enterprises do research and development given that is where value chain really starts – with the germination and development of a new product or service idea. In the R&D process, UC&C can provide three key benefits: Reduce product development time and costs through use of voice, web and video collaboration – Collaboration tools in general help more effective team-work between increasingly geographically distributed design teams. As Blair Pleasant mentioned in a recent post - they reduce process/human latency and accelerate time to market. By driving a diminished need for travel, they also reduce travel costs and give back hundreds of in-transit hours back to R&D personnel. Immersive video technologies like TelePresence can be particularly effective in this regard. I’ve been talking to a CXO who oversees R&D in a high tech company’s new businesses. His R&D teams are located in 4-5 centers globally and regularly travel to a common location to conduct days-long in-person brainstorming sessions that also require intensive use of white-boards. He believes that Immersive Collaboration Rooms that combine the power of TelePresence-like high def video with interactive virtual white-boards could reduce their travel costs by at least 25% and drive 10-15% faster time to market simply by eliminating the latencies associated with aligning multiple schedules with international travel needs. Greater productivity, higher retention rates are other add-on benefits that he sees accruing from the solution. These rooms are already in use at a different engineering services customer as well to great effect. But even just using 'plain, old' integrated audio/web/desk-top video conferencing can drive significant impact in the engineering and design spheres. Ed Flavin, the CIO of Modec, a company specializing in the engineering, procurement, construction and installation of floating production systems spoke at VoiceCon this Spring about how their company is using UC&C in their engineering group. According to Ed, now that Modec engineers can share engineering drawings using Cisco MeetingPlace, they can finalize plans during a day-long meeting instead of emailing files over three to eight weeks, saving tens of thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs during a typical two-year project. Drive faster resolution of daily/routine design tasks like engineering change orders (ECOs) – Leveraging presence and MeetingPlace/WebEx, UC can help reduce latency in daily design tasks like ECOs and help prevent costly project overruns. Per benchmarks for manufacturing companies maintained by the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), enterprises spend nearly 5% of R&D budgets on ECOs. A 10-15% acceleration in ECO resolution can translate into cost savings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions. Cisco has a joint solution with PTC that integrates UC into PTC’s market leading PLM suite Windchill in a way that allows engineers and project managers to click-to-collaborate within WindChill but also receive automated notifications of ECOs on mobile devices and take action to resolve them with voice commands or by punching buttons on the device even when they are in transit. Provide more collaborative design environments – In a typical office due to increasingly mobile work-force, the space utilization is less than 50%. Empty offices lack buzz and cubicles are not designed for increasingly collaborative job-profiles. This provides an opportunity to reduce real estate costs while improving the collaborative quotient of an office space. Enterprises like Quanta in Taiwan are moving towards the concept of non-dedicated workspaces that encourage dynamic and more collaborative seating arrangements on a daily basis. So, on a particular day if an R&D engineer needs to work with two colleagues they can choose a cluster of workspaces that are close to each other instead of occupying a conference room for the day. Then the next day the employee may need to work with a different set of colleagues and they can again choose a different set of workspaces that maximizes collaboration for them. In addition to enabling a more flexible, creative and collaborative work environment this particular capability can also drive hard dollar cost savings by reducing real estate requirements by as much as 40% by eliminating swing space and reducing dedicated conference room needs. * * * * * There are many more interesting and innovative examples of how enterprises are leveraging UC&C capabilities in R&D and I shall periodically write about individual cases. In the meantime, please feel free to add any examples that you’ve seen in the comment section or talk about an R&D issue that you’re grappling with. Note: Some enterprise descriptions have been modified to ensure anonymity
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Blair, This is a very illuminating set of posts and very useful since distilling the different categories of benefits is a necessary first step in an enterprise making an informed effort in trying to capture optimal value from each category. I'd love to get your thoughts on a couple of aspects related to this classification... a) At what point does UC-U morph into UC-B? For example, lets take the example of presence and click-to-collaborate (Call/IM/start a web conference) capabilities being embedded in a PLM tool to speed and ease interaction between distributed design team members. Would that, in your opinion, be sufficient to turn this into an example of UC-B instead of UC-U even though the business impact (e.g., faster time to market) would be essentially the same? b) In some cases we're seeing new processes being designed around UC and Collaboration capabilities e.g., virtual sales expert in financial services. However at least till now, that does not involve integration of UC&C capabilities into a business application...Would you place the Virtual Expert in the UC-U category (due to lack of integration with a business app) or the UC-B category (due to its business impact)? Or do you think there's potentially a third category that involves using UC to transform existing processes substantially enough so that they really are new processes being enabled by new UC&C capabilities?
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When unified communications first started being considered for deployment, few foresaw its emergence as a competitor to tempur-pedic mattresses in helping executives sleep better at night. That however increasingly seems to be the case. Might it work in a similar way for you? A Forrester Consulting survey from late 2007 showed the manufacturing company executives rated the following as the three most important issues keeping them awake at night: a) Responding to customer service issues b) Reducing production downtime on the manfuacturing plant-floor c) Accelerating product development We're seeing customers use UC in ever-increasing innovative ways to address these as well as other pain points. In the area of customer service there is the example of a company that makes machinery used by furniture manufacturers to cut glass, stone and wood among other things. This enterprise which has a multi-lingual customer base is using an IP Contact Center solution to quickly route customer service calls to a service engineer with the right language and technical skills which by itself would have improved the customer experience. Not satisfied with just keeping the customer happy, they decided to try for customer delight by then substantially reducing the time it took to resolve service issues by leveraging integrated audio and web conferencing. Their service engineers now just use Webex to take control of computers at customer locations and use them to operate the applications that run their machinery and carry out trouble-shooting remotely. For the company this has meant nearly an 80% reduction in service-related travel but even more importantly it has meant hours cut from downtime-issue resolution for their customers and hence higher customer satisfaction. I've seen examples of equipment customers taking the lead as well. A processed food products major now uses portable video cameras with Meetingplace to share live video feed from the plant floor with equipment vendors to speed issue resolution time. The maintenance engineers use wi-fi IP phones to dial the vendors directly from the site of the issue in the plant instead of having to walk a few hundred meters to the nearest land-line phone (radio-phones typically not being able to call outside the plant). And in the area of accelerating product development, I have talked with several customers interested in ways of speeding internal design processes like Engineering Change Notification (ECN) resolution which can be fairly time consuming and costly. A high tech major was looking to integrate their UC system with their PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) application so that when an ECN was generated and needed to be approved by a manager or executive, the system would not just send an email notification to the approver, but also place a phone call on their Mobile or desk-phone. On taking the call the approver hears a description of the change generated by text-to-speech software and has the ability to approve, reject or place a hold on the change by pushing buttons on the mobile phone. The enterprise was looking to susbtantially reduce latencies in their ECN process and drive engineer productivity with such a solution So as you can see there are many ways in which UC can help cure sleeplessness. So the question is, are the same things that Forrester identifed, also keeping members of this community awake? And what course are they considering for getting a more restful sleep? If you're looking for ideas, perhaps this community can help.
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Gerard, This is a great question that comes up in almost every other customer discussion. I think at least in the office environment, the change over the next few years is likely to be a greater mix of devices like Greg also mentioned. That mix of device will I think vary by company, vertical and functional area probably be driven by the ease of use, greater need for productivity while keeping costs in control. Just taking an example from the manufacturing vertical which is my area of familiarity, R&D team members who often spend a lot of time on their desks while, I think continue to prefer landlines or soft-phones depending on the cost/ease-of-use trade-offs. Corridor Warriors (corporate IT teams) and Manufacturing plant-floor workers like process/maintenance engineers need a device which is low cost as well as mobile and I think devices like wi-fi IP phones and dual mode phones will probably make inroads in these groups. Plant-floor workers and managers in particular have little use for soft-phones or land-lines since they spend so much time away from their desks. And in many mannfuacturing facilities mobile phones either don't work or are not allowed. And of course in Sales given how much time the employees spend outside the office, mobile phones will continue to be the device of choice. Cost considerations could drive greater penetration of dual-mode phones into the sales functions. It would be interesting to find out how other organizations and groups are thinking about this issue. Abhay Customer Business Transformation, VTG
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