In today’s rough economic climate, businesses face certain difficulties in enticing and retaining customers, controlling costs, and safeguarding a competitive advantage. This can be achieved through successful communication, but though communication technology has developed significantly, businesses are becoming more and more mobile, with employees, clients and partners being spread all over the country and the world. As a result, organisations have to look for communications solutions that facilitates the effortless collaboration of their team, associates and partners, whatever platform, system or device they’re using. The most promising platform for such a solution is the Internet, which allows for low-cost or free calls with IP-telephony systems. One approach that businesses are considering is Unified Communications (UC). This article explains what UC is, and the benefits of Unified Communications.
What is Unified Communications?
Unified Communications is often described as ‘communications being integrated in order to optimise business processes’. UC allows your business to unify your typical business processes with both real-time communications such as instant messaging, presence information, VoIP, call control and video conferencing, with non-real time communications such as email, integrated voicemail, SMS and fax. Bringing telecoms and business data together like this on the same network lets users combine voice, data and video information as part of their business applications, saving organisations time and resources.
Though it’s assumed that Unified Communications is a single product, it actually consists of a set of products that offer a consistent, unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. Many businesses already use the different independent components of UC like VoIP or specific features like find me/follow me, but by combining these elements into a single, more complete solution and integrating them with other business processes, a company can improve its success whilst saving money.
What are the Benefits of Unified Communications?
The unification of telecoms and business data gives organisations the ability to combine and use voice, data and video information in their business applications, so that entire instant messaging streams, faxes, emails, phone calls or videoconferencing sessions can be saved and forwarded as chunks of data. Having communications simplified by providing them through a single phone number and inbox streamlines your business processes and eliminates the need to check countless platforms. The products that UC comprises all display a consistent user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. This gives all platforms a particular look and feel, which both simplifies communications and gives users a feeling of familiarity. As a result, the user experience is much more pleasant for your team.
UC software can encrypt information that’s sent over the network, keeping it secure. This is especially useful if you have sensitive information that you don’t want to end up in the wrong hands, such as personal details. Unification can also simply things for an employee, who only needs to use a single phone number or handset and a unified inbox for all communications.
Unified Communications solutions deliver advanced telephony functions such as short-number dialling, which removes the need to enter dialling codes, useful for businesses spread out across different locations. You can also take advantage of advanced call forwarding to different types of devices, and hunt groups, where incoming calls can search for an idle extension in a department. UC can also provide multiple device rings, in which the desk phone, desktop and mobile can ring simultaneously, no matter where they are. This helps the caller to get through to the right person more quickly. A single number can be used for all phone devices, and companies can keep the same dialling code across properties and mobile phones.
As UC is based over a digital network, its calls can be cheaper than through traditional telecoms. Billing and systems administration is a lot simpler, and conferencing is less experience by only using one vendor for all services.
UC can also provide Presence technology, a type of application that makes it possible to locate and identify computing devices as soon as users connect to the network, no matter where they are. Users can see the availability of a client, and the best way to contact them. The Presence indicator can also transmit comments from the user. Presence also allows your team to quickly locate and include the experts you need. The communication could start as an IM or SMS conversation, but if a deeper level of communication and collaboration is needed, then the conversation can advance to a voice or video call.
Contact management integration is another useful feature of UC. This offers a single, easily accessible phone book for all of your business contacts. As UC is held on a central server which can be accessed over the network, the phone book can be accessed by multiple devices in different locations.
Though Unified Communications was once the luxury of large business, lower-cost equipment and more accessible platforms now means that smaller organisations can benefit too. Telecoms companies such as Vodafone and BT can also deliver UC applications and services, with bespoke packages and various levels of commitment available depending on the size of firm. The out-of-the-box features vary considerably depending on the provider, but are a good basis for letting UC improve your business processes through faster and more effective communication, lower costs, and an integration of devices and applications.
There is so much to consider before choosing and setting up a Unified Communications system, and it’s a decision that can potentially save you a lot of money and dramatically improve your business processes. However, wading through all of the possibilities to find the right solution for you can be time-consuming and costly. Wouldn’t it be better if someone else could do it for you?
YourShortlist offer non-chargeable assistance in finding the right solution. By taking into account your unique needs, we can offer advice from our team of qualified experts and provide a shortlist of the best vendors that can offer you a UC solution. Just leave your details on our contact page, and we’ll get back to you.