Effective communication is vital to your business. It keeps your employees and customers connected, ensures you provide excellent service, enables you to work collaboratively and allows daily business functions to continue. Unified Communication solutions are rapidly becoming an important pillar of a business’s IT strategy.
In a time where remote working is the ‘norm’ and employees are more geographically spread than ever, having reliable systems for communicating is invaluable to your business. The ability to get different departments together for weekly updates and the need for face-to-face interaction (albeit virtually via a video call) cannot be underestimated.
Relying on legacy technology such as PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is unlikely to give you the efficiency and capability you need. Today’s users are used to a range of different communication methods whether it be instant messaging, voice calls, FaceTime or social media. Your communications systems need to incorporate all of these features and more. In fact, 68% of Unified Communications as a service (UCaaS) buyers say that an all in one service is essential to their purchasing decision.
In this blog, we examine:
- What Unified Communication is
- Who can benefit from a Unified Communications solution
- Why a Unified Communications solution is so important for your organisation
What is Unified Communication?
In its simplest terms, Unified Communications joins together all of a business’s communication channels. It usually includes voice, email, SMS, instant messaging, video conferencing and audio.
The term unified communications arose in the mid-1990s – at the time the capabilities were limited. However, UC rapidly evolved when businesses began to introduce IP networks into their environments enabling them to transmit voice, this became known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). VoIP solutions enabled businesses to break free from wired PBX handsets (remember those) and move to a software-driven solution that quickly developed into some of the popular platforms we see today such as Microsoft Teams.
Unified Communications have now become an essential part of a business’s digital transformation strategy. With BT announcing the switch-off of its ISDN and PSTN lines, finding a hosted voice (cloud) system that unifies all communications across a business will help organisations future-proof their infrastructure.
Who can benefit from Unified Comms Solutions?
- Do you operate a global workforce?
- Have you got employees working from home? (Highly likely given the current situation)
- Are your employees field based?
- Do you have employees that work flexible hours (outside of the traditional 9-5)?
- Are you trying to scale your business?
- Are you an IT or operations professional in charge of streamlining communication within your business?
If you answered yes to any of the above scenarios, chances are a unified communications strategy will be beneficial for your business. It will help you to break down communication barriers caused by distance and improve productivity by giving employees a single platform from which to collaborate from any device, anywhere.
What does a Unified Communications solution comprise of?
According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UCaaS, Zoom, RingCentral and Microsoft are the leading solutions. So what does a Unified Communication platform such as these comprise of?
- A cloud-based IP-PBX
- VoIP enabled phones, cameras and microphones
- Multipoint Control Unit (MCU) which enables multiple users to video conference
- Sleek user interfaces which combine all channels to improve the user experience
- Voice and text applications
- Social networking tools to facilitate collaboration
- Web conferencing features for virtual meetings
Why are Unified Communications so important for business?
Unified Communications can make your teams and operations more efficient and reduce downtime by as much as 14.6%. A report by Forrester showed that on average a UC solution that allows employees to collaborate, share information and have more efficient meetings can save employees 1.1. to 8.0 hours per user per week. It also found that decision-makers using Microsoft Teams were able to improve their time-to-decision by as much as 17.7%, due to the fact that information and resources are far more readily available to them.
The time and productivity gains made by businesses as a result of Unified Communications not only has a direct impact on operational efficiency but also provides better business outcomes by enabling organisations to make important decisions faster.
More streamlined communications
With everything combined within one interface employee communication becomes more streamlined. Users can switch between channels without the need to repeat themselves. The report by Forrester found that information workers save 15 minutes per day by having all features in one simple to use interface, meaning they do not need to leave the application.
Combining your communication channels and using one integrated platform may sound costly but with fewer services and physical equipment to manage businesses can greatly reduce costs. The majority of Unified Communication systems are based in the cloud, meaning there is no need to maintain servers and legacy handsets.
Better human experiences
Over the past year, we’ve learnt first-hand the value of face-to-face communication. With social distancing still in place, the ability to make human connections via video call has become a top priority for many businesses. Unified Communication platforms offer high-speed video conferencing as well as chat functionalities that give users a more human experience.
Simplifies global business communications
Managing the assets of a global business can be extremely tricky. An office in one country may be using a range of different communication applications, hardware and software than their co-workers in another country. This can lead to inconsistencies in user experience, information silos as a result of platforms not integrating and can have a negative impact on communication.
With cloud-based UC, the same solution can be used globally enabling information to flow throughout your business. Employee collaboration becomes much simpler – with all users working from the same platform there is less chance of employees running into technical issues which can stop them from working effectively.
The other bonus is that Unified Communications enables users to host high-quality video conferences reducing the need for long-distance travel for business meetings. A study into the use of Teams showed that over a 3 year period, online meetings replaced 150 overnight trips saving the surveyed organisation $233,080.
Flexibility to scale
Unified Communications offer organisations the ability to scale up and down at speed. With no physical infrastructure (e.g. telephone lines) to install and configure, new users can be set up at the click of a button. Should your needs change and your business downsizes you can also remove users quickly and adjust costs accordingly meaning you are never left with technical debt.
Supports remote working
Within the current climate, businesses are depending on their employees to be able to work remotely. If it wasn’t for UC they would have to physically set up infrastructure at each one of their employees’ homes to be able to do this. This would have huge cost and time implications.
However, with Unified Communications solutions, there is no need for traditional handsets. Instead, employees have access to communication tools via their laptops and mobile devices. All they need to do is log in to the organisation’s platform of choice and they will have access to a directory of employees and all the tools to make calls, message, and collaborate effectively.
UC has also been instrumental in many organisation Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies. Instead of handing out company laptops and mobiles, employees can instead download an app and access the UC services securely from their personal devices.
Fit for the future
With cutting edge technology such as 5G network and IoT enabling businesses to innovate faster, organisations must keep up with change in order to stay competitive. Unified Communication systems are constantly developing to make use of the latest technology. Ensuring infrastructure is up to date and your business communication systems transform with the digital landscape will stand your business in good stead for the future.
Changing workplace trends such as mobile working and globalisation have caused many businesses to reassess their communication, collaboration and productivity technology. As businesses continue to build IT strategies with greater agility and flexibility in mind, Unified Communications solutions will become a key component of digital transformation giving businesses greater operational efficiency, improving the user experience and allowing businesses to grow with ease.
If you would like to discuss UC solutions, Conosco would love to help. We partner with leading brands such as RingCentral, and as a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can ensure you get the most from Microsoft Teams. Get in touch with our experts to find out more.