To effectively rise to the challenge of the current global economy and increasingly collaborative relationships that involve interactions among employees, business partners, and customers, there needs to be a unified approach to communications and collaboration.

Businesses today are experiencing communication and information overload, which is why an organisation’s ability to effectively collaborate and communicate with a wide range of entities is increasingly becoming a major business differentiator. Used effectively, Unified Communications and collaborative strategies enable organisations to simplify the experience of the workforce, add value to multiple core business processes, achieve quantifiable bottom-line savings, and realise substantial operational benefits.

What is Unified Communications?

UC refers to the integration of real-time communication services, such as presence information, instant messaging (SMS) and voice and video conferencing with non real-time forms of communications, such as email, SMS, and voicemail. So, UC brings mobile phones, headsets, landlines, email, video conferencing, and softphones and interfaces into a single solution that allows users to be in touch with anyone, in real-time, wherever they are.

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Benefits of Unified Communications

UC solutions leverage the functionality of convergence network architecture, where fixed line meets wireless and voice meets data, not to solve the added complexity of communication in today’s business environment, but to re-empower users to communicate with ease. UC allows information from any device or location to identify a user across networks wherever he/she is use, irrespective of the device used. UC enhances productivity by providing:

  1. Simpler collaboration – the user is placed at the centre of a more controlled and manageable communications interface, where you only have to “click” to collaborate instead of operating multiple applications.
  2. Speed to market – UC encourages and enhances collaborative processes, which is essential for organisations to be competitive in today’s horizontal business environment. Team working becomes simpler to perform projects faster and move forward quicker.
  3. Real-time response – the ability to integrate voice and data communications into one collaborative application promotes cost-effective dissemination of critical business information.
  4. Enhanced value – UC provides an integrated portfolio of capabilities and services that allows organisations to increase agility and leverage the dynamic and flexible working practises.
  5. Cost savings – UC eliminates the uncertainty of tracing and communicating with vital contacts owing to presence technology, saving an average of 32 minutes per employee. Studies also show a 30% reduction in cost of conferencing and travelling.
  6. Effective management of remote workers – better mobility eliminates the need for unnecessary and time consuming trips back to the office, while increased accuracy and timeliness of data capture has led to increased professionalism and job satisfaction.
  7. Empowering individuals – users are freed from the complexity of technology, allowing them to focus on what they are communicating.

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Risks

There are many benefits of introducing Unified Communications that are tied to greater mobility, effective communication, and better collaboration. However, there are risks to introducing a technology where the users do not fully understand its practical applications.

The situation can be worsened if the existing telephony is difficult to integrate with UC solutions, and the high cost of acquisition can cause small businesses to give up on UC altogether. UC also increases network traffic, which exerts more pressure on bandwidth utilisation, network management, and associated costs.

Investment in the future

When done properly, the benefits of UC are compelling, though it may require organisations to discard their current communications. A UC solution is an investment in the future, so businesses should consider their overall communication strategy before implementing it.

Check if you have the resources and expertise to deploy UC, whether you need to change the existing telephony infrastructure, and whether your budget can cater for all the necessary changes, including staff training.