Is Unified Communications Absolutely Essential for a Business?
Below Darrell Polden, Group Service and Technical Director at Altodigital, talks to CEO Today about the benefits of unified communications, the rewards and considerations therein, and generally how it works.
Unified communications (UC) has always been about integrating to drive efficiencies. The approach brings together a raft of different communications methods, including telephones, instant messaging, video conferencing, emails and fax. It is also a technology type that has been growing in popularity over many years. According to recent analysis from Research and Markets, the market was valued at US$37.33 billion in 2017, and is expected to reach US$ 106.44 billion by 2022, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% from 2017-2025.
Reaping the Rewards
A raft of business benefits are driving this growth. Partly, it’s about convenience. Rather than paying for a range of different products, investing in UC gives an organisation access to all the essential tools as part of a one-stop-shop approach. Cost control is another factor of UC as it reduces the outlays of communication through more streamlined processes, cutting business costs more generally through more efficient use of resources. It’s also about connectivity, of course. Any loss of connectivity can have immediate consequences in terms of an organisation’s performance and accessibility.
This 100% connectivity is key. Through UC, businesses can be sure of providing users with a consistent, reliable interface and experience across multiple devices and media types. UC is also about the speed and the ease of the connectivity provided – the need for businesses to connect faster than their customers in order to drive competitive edge.
In line with this, the latest virtual office, smart mobile apps and video conferencing solutions can help businesses to always stay ahead of their competitors and stay first in line when it comes to receiving, and efficiently responding to, new business leads and opportunities. Today, the latest cutting-edge technology, delivered as part of a UC approach, enables users to direct numbers, call forward, engage in integrated chat and take part in three-way conferencing – to name just a few of the features currently available on the market.
The UC approach can also drive smarter connectivity and a more collaborative approach to doing business altogether. Flexible call forwarding can be applied within a UC configuration to ensure that business users never miss a call while the availability of high-quality video makes instantaneous conferencing a reality. Added to this, users of UC will likely enjoy the freedom to send/receive faxes on any computer and hold cloud-hosted, interactive video meetings that allow them to see and engage with customers, make key decisions and deal with technical issues.
Benefits for Employer… and Employee
It is sometimes overlooked when organisations talk about driving business efficiencies but one of the greatest potential benefits of UC is its ability to raise productivity levels. One of the key ways it does this is by making communication across the workforce and beyond more flexible.
By combining the different channels of communications into one single platform, employees can more easily and quickly communicate with colleagues in remote locations, by seeing exactly what channel to contact that colleague on in real-time. In a sense, it is about building a technology platform that supports UC. You can develop a virtualised environment through a combination of IP-based networking of cloud infrastructure. Working on top of this, UC can be used to deliver insight into the presence of employees working within the business but also partners, suppliers and a complete remote workforce, operating outside the corporate perimeter.
Delivering this kind of flexible approach to working is something that UC is particularly well suited to. That’s a significant benefit for employer and employee. Businesses increasingly want to find ways of supporting remote workers, who spend much of the time on the road at different locations, perhaps as part of an extended sales team; and also, those who work from home. In doing so however, they also need to support efficient and effective communications between corporate management and these external teams that strikes a balance between the organisation’s need for control and workers’ natural concerns that they should have a choice about when and where they are contacted.
A cloud-hosted unified communications implementation can be especially beneficial in this context. Hosted cloud-based telephony services, that are carried by VoIP, allow companies to place connectivity and communications effectively anywhere that an internet connection and that availability is further enhanced by the proliferation of smart mobile devices.
Within this environment, UC can be made available to all, allowing organisations to deliver a fully connected enterprise. Employers ascertain where workers are or will be at any given time and also their level of availability, while workers themselves retain some autonomy in designating whether or not they will be available.
As we have already referenced too, there are a growing number of collaboration tools and applications available that enable both parties to communicate and collaborate more actively to a conversation or a meeting without having to physically be in the same location. Moreover, home workers can be brought on board, in times of peak demand, for example, to contribute to an increased call centre effort. Real-time call recording or quality management systems can also be brought into play to deliver a reporting capability and to clearly demonstrate that remote workers can have a real impact within the interaction environment.
Adding to the list of benefits that UC can provide in the context of delivering remote access capability remotely the approach can contribute to lowering a company’s carbon footprint by reducing the need for different parties to travel in order to meet face-to-face.
Gains for all
The continuing dynamic growth we are witnessing across the UC market today is no surprise, given the wide range of benefits the technology can deliver to businesses in terms of enhanced integration, connectivity and cost control. Although as this article demonstrates, its impact on flexible working and on employee productivity also has a key role to play in helping to drive the success of the organisation over the long-term. When organisations evaluate the benefits of making the move to UC, that positive impact should never be forgotten.