What does ‘unified communications’ mean & what impact can it have on your business?

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By now you may have heard about unified communications, also known as UC. Indeed, you may actually be using it on a daily basis. But what does it mean, exactly, and what impact can it have on your business?

Simply put, unified communications groups all of your communications – telephone, fax, email, mobile, instant messaging, video conferencing, web conferencing and inter-company communication – into a single platform. UC also has the ability to take one type of communication and make it accessible on multiple types of media, such as voice mail to email or SMS or fax to email, allowing you to do business the way it suits you best.

Rather than being a single product, it is a group of products that provide a consistent, unified interface and user experience across all of your devices and media. Managed and administrated through a central platform, it can tie into all your existing office systems, streamlining your processes and supporting productivity while reducing your telephony costs by a considerable margin. Ultimately, it allows for greater flexibility in all of your communications, giving you the power to move at the speed your business demands, whether in the office or out in the world.

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How UC is transforming the way we do business

In 2016, business moves at lightning speed. With an always-available always-on expectation, we must constantly strive to meet customers’ demands, as well as those of vendors and suppliers in order to stay competitive. You may be doing business with partners and contractors all over the globe, and this is where unified communications can tie it all together. Imagine your key sales people, reachable from a single number no matter where they are. Using the UC platform, they can access shared data through their laptop or mobile device, and even attend meetings from wherever they might be.

Many companies are able to spread their reach farther and wider than ever before, connecting offices in multiple cities and countries so that each individual outlet functions as one unit together. Integrations of key office systems, including your CRM, company email, productivity software and the like provide your employees with an easy way to collaborate, even if they work remotely. Your CLO may be in Melbourne, for instance, but he can make a difference to the people in your Perth office as effectively as if they were right there on site.

Unified communications: the direct benefits

While there are myriad arguments that support the adoption of a UC strategy, there are four key benefits that are front and centre:

Productivity

Every single one of your employees uses electronic communications. Unified communications empowers your workforce by allowing them to work from any location. As long as they have a broadband connection, they can access the system, collaborate with their co-workers and be accountable for their assigned tasks. This essentially cuts the cord on the desk phone and focuses the benefits on where the user is, and that might not be in the office.

Teamwork, compliance and collaboration

Beyond personal productivity, UC provides a means for effective inter-office communications and collaboration. If you often have difficulty getting all your key players in the conference room at the same time, this is your answer. While many businesses may justify expenditures on various video conferencing services, the result can often be disappointing due to low quality and high cost. With UC, anybody who is on the system can communicate and collaborate in real-time. Add others to the conversation quickly and easily, monitor who is working at any given time, and schedule meetings whenever they are convenient. Imagine: there would be virtually no need to attend a meeting in person ever again. Finally, the system is always available, giving you the flexibility to call meetings, in-services or check in on a project whenever the need should arise.

Organization

When your workforce is more productive and efficient, the entire organization will be as well. The proof will translate directly through positive business outcomes. While there may be no measurable ROI as far as management is concerned, the increased productivity and collaboration will translate well to support UC’s value proposition.

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IT Operations

Although UC is a group of technologies that address a range of uses, they are all deployed through a central platform and so can be monitored more efficiently. This is essential for reasons of data security as well as bandwidth management, both of which can present a bit of a ‘wild west’ situation in a BYOD (bring your own device) or a third-party shadow IT scenario.

Value

Adopting a UC infrastructure can offer great value almost immediately, starting with your legacy telephone system. In the past, companies have relied on complex PBX systems to connect their offices, departments and employees, but the cost associated with such a system is exorbitant, and the service itself is not cheap either. Telephone service providers charge companies a premium for a business line as well as remarkably high fees for long distance and international connections. Much of this cost is related to their trunking systems – the telephone wiring that transmits the calls. Taking away the physical phone lines means that you are no longer locked into this strategy.

For less than the cost of one single business line, VoIP offers multiple unique numbers with multiple extensions, allowing maximum flexibility in directing calls while not tying the numbers themselves to a physical location. For instance, each one of your employees can have a direct line, each an extension of your main number, and through that number they can be reached anywhere they are, on any device they choose. It doesn’t even matter if they’re halfway around the world – the calling number is still local and there are no toll charges on either end. This is also true for end users who are not employees: hospital rooms are an excellent example. Patients can have their own unique number, eliminating the need for loved ones to go through the main phone system. Or, callers can be self-directed to the room phones via the central number, bypassing the need for a receptionist to direct and connect the call, representing value, efficiency and convenience.

Additionally, many companies are reporting that increased spending on UC infrastructure has translated to reduced spending on travel and related expenses. For some companies, this can mean a savings of thousands, and sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Finally, since you’ve spent so much on your legacy PBX system, you can still use it with your new UC environment. However, there are some excellent cases for the purchase of VoIP enabled and UC specific desk phones, headsets and speakerphones, if for nothing else they make the most out of the various features UC has to offer.

Reliable

While not all UC systems are 100% cloud based at the moment, many companies are moving in that direction. The advantages to storing your data in the cloud are many; that combined with broadband accessibility means that telephone outages are a thing of the past. Essentially, you could lose your entire physical space, but your web apps, phone system and all your means of communication – not to mention all your data – will be readily available at all times.

Future proof and scalable

One of the main concerns you might have about your company’s IT is whether it’s future proof, and whether you can add on or reduce the number of users at any time. UC offers an answer to both of these issues, providing full scalability in a cloud environment so you can up or downsize as needed. As for being future-proof, there will always be newer and better technology around the corner, but the current hardware is driven by software and firmware that can be updated easily from a central platform. In fact, system-wide updates can be performed without the devices actually being in-house, meaning that if your sales force each have their own headsets, for example, you can perform the update from the UC dashboard without having to call in every device. Your IT department will love this angle for inventory reasons as well, as every device on the network will be instantly locatable.

How Surecom can help

If you are considering making the move to unified communications, call Surecom today. We are an industry leader in communication technology, ready to meet the challenges of doing business in the ever-advancing IT landscape. As one of Australia’s most trusted sources of business intelligence, we always strive to meet and exceed the expectations of our clientele. Call today, and let’s talk about how unified communications can benefit you.

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