Unified communications enables businesses to streamline and gain control of their communications, creating a seamless interface for their customers and employees.

Unified communications enables businesses to streamline and gain control of their communications, creating a seamless interface for their customers and employees.

Unified Communications has been around since the mid 1990s but there still seems to be misconceptions about it and a reluctance to embrace all the benefits it has to offer.  So what is unified communications (UC) and why should businesses embrace it if they want to gain a competitive edge?

UC explained

The term ‘unified communications’ is often interpreted differently by different people depending on what sector of the market they are from.  At Xcomm we define UC as:

The integration of communications across all user touch points.

UC integrates real-time communications services such as instant messaging, voice or video conferencing and non real-time applications such as voicemail, SMS and email, with business processes.  This presents the user with a consistent interface and, therefore, a consistent experience no matter what device they are currently using or the type of media they are accessing.

It is probably fair to say that most users don’t understand UC as each business has different requirements and needs different applications.  It is not a single product or a single device but a solution made up of a variety of communications tools and components such as hosted telephony, mobile, SIP Trunks and internet services.  UC is an umbrella under which all the components and user touch points come together.

New ways of working

Businesses today need to work differently.  Gone are the days when business processes and problem resolution were done by an individual who had all the information to hand.  Business today demands real-time access to specific people and specific information at specific times.  This means employees need to communicate seamlessly and interact with co-workers, partners, suppliers and customers, regardless of location.

This need for collaboration between all the relevant parties is driving the need to constantly develop more efficient communication and information-sharing from any location via cloud-based networks.

UC enables working collaboratively by making employees more efficient and by facilitating faster decision making via better access to key players.

Multiple platform integration

And it’s customer-facing disciplines such as sales, marketing and customer service which need fast and efficient communication which is one of the biggest UC drivers.  Consumers and businesses are using different channels to make contact – web, messaging, video and mobiles – all of which need to be integrated to provide consistently high levels of service across multiple platforms.

Business improvements

The benefits of becoming a UC driven business are multi-fold.  UC provides faster access to the right people and information, it delivers information to the right people at the right time and presence information improves individual performance by reducing times spent trying to connect with others.  UC greatly enhances group and team performance, it makes business more efficient by facilitating shared workspaces, it optimises operational staffing requirements and helps to attract and retain staff.

And all of these UC-driven business process improvements have a positive effect on the bottom-line by improving market position, reducing the costs of doing business, minimising technology investments and support costs, improving revenue generation, increasing profitability and improving asset utilisation.

End of the line

The rate of change in the telecoms market continues to move at breakneck speed and that spells the end of the line for the telephone line.  In 2015 BT announced that it wants all users to be migrated from ISDN and PSTN to IP by 2025.  This might still seem like a long time ahead but those businesses that have already made the change and embraced UC, or are in the process of switching, are putting themselves in the best position to steal a march on their competition.

They are streamlining and gaining control of their communications, creating a seamless interface for their customers and employees, keeping control of their telephone numbers, reducing their mobile inventory and cutting their costs, not to mention ensuring business continuity in the event of a disaster recovery situation or national crisis.

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