The New Age of Unified Systems
Just as you have got used to one technology, another springs up that is transforming business. Much like big data and cloud computing, unified communications (UC) is the most recent tech buzzword being heard in the boardrooms.
Unified communications is the unification of real-time communication services over several mediums such as mobile, fixed-line phones, and PCs. In simple terms, it is a way to get all the business communication services from a single provider and set them up to make them work seamlessly together.
How Does Unified Communications Work?
Unified communications is supported by a single or multiple back-end system, usually referred to as a UC platform that aids integration amongst services, along with a front-end client that gives access. For instance, a web conferencing system would use an audio conferencing system that would be built on an IP telephony platform, and click-to-click (CTC), click-to-video, or click-to-chat functionality would be allowed by a unified messaging client.
It is because of unified communications that a client is able to move from one mode of communication to another in a single session; for example, a user starts communication via email but decides to have real-time communication, transforming the session to a voice call with a single click and then to a video conference by another click without any disruption.
Common Components Of A Unified System
Unified systems and their components can be deployed in multiple scenarios – on-premises, private, or public cloud, or a combination of all three. Unified communications that are cloud-based are known as UC as a Service (UCaaS). Additionally, because of an open-source project known as WebRTC, businesses can allow for real-time communications within website browsers such as FireFox, Google Chrome, etc.
Components of unified communications may include:
- Web conferencing (interactive whiteboards and virtual meeting rooms)
- Video applications (audio conferencing, telephony, voice mail)
- Text-based communication (chat, email, SMS)
- Video services (broadcasting, video conferencing, telepresence)
- Real-time presence
- Collaboration (screen sharing, file sharing, calendaring, messaging, joint workspaces)
Under these user-facing components, underlying elements include:
- Endpoint decided such as headsets, cameras, softphones, desk phones, etc.
- Multipoint control units for video conferencing with various endpoints
- IP, cloud-based, or traditional private branch exchange (PBX)
- Communication getaways such as SBCs or Session Border Controllers
- Singular or multi-vendor UC platforms.
Benefits Of Unified Communications
Improved Productivity And Efficiency
Unified communications make it simpler for people to do their work by saving time on easy tasks. The ability to attend incoming calls wherever you are; on your mobile, phone application on your PC, or your office phone, assures that you never miss an important call, so you can work from home, on the road, or while sitting in your favourite coffee shop.
Additionally, it allows several team members to work on a single document simultaneously by sharing pictures, ideas and adding comments, which means that less time is consumed in sending the work back and forth for feedback.
Unified communications let the team of any number have discussions in real-time via several applications. With Skype for Business, multiple participants can be added into conversations, and teams can easily shift from a chat to a video call in case the discussion becomes too intense. Microsoft Teams allows the users to make chat groups, post email threads, and work on documents.
IT Management Relief
The direct beneficiary of installing a unified communications tool is the IT department. If a unified system is effectively deployed in an organisation, the staff will benefit and be able to use all its applications and features under a single management environment.
The decrease of third party applications in the network also means the reduction of security threats as well as the hands-on management required to optimise and monitor several individual applications.
Optimisation Of Existing Processes
When it comes to tolls regarding communications, firms usually have to rely on several applications from multiple vendors to achieve the desired outcomes. This can add complexity, waste time, and duplicate tasks.
A unified communications platform lets the users access a plethora of communication options that are literally at their fingertips. An alliance of features in the same tool means that employees can move smoothly within a common user interface and environment. Additionally, all applicants will be assured to function properly together, reducing IT nightmares and eliminating set-up time.
UC makes use of Voice instead of IP technology to integrate various communication platforms. This is entirely different from the traditional telephone system, where the rental amount was to be paid to the service providers.
With UC, such rental costs do not appear on your bill, notably decreasing the recurring operating costs of the phone systems. You can save almost 40% by shifting to UC.
To avoid communication hiccups from taking place, firms must use reliable technology services so employees can be connected and productive. This is where unified communications comes in.
Because it effectively centralises various communication methods such as email, fax, phone, voicemail, etc., to simplify how you connect with employees and clients, a unified communications platform is a highly reliable technology.
Better Customer Service
When a customer comes in contact with your business, they generally want to converse with a specific department or person and want to get their issue solved as quickly as possible. Unified communications ensure that the person knows whether or not their preferred customer care service person is available without having to wait for several minutes.
With unified communications, you can still be available for the customers by redirecting your office number to your phone number so that your customer can contact you at any time. If you cannot answer the phone, ring groups can be fixed so that the call is forwarded to the next suitable person.
Since everything is automated, centralised, and easy through unified systems, the firm can do away with multiple technical support numbers, account managers, and expensive bills. It is also easier to monitor employees and, instead of several supervisors, a single supervisor can overlook how the employees are performing.
Additionally, since everything is automated and centralised, employees will have to efficiently complete the task. They cannot run or hide from their responsibilities.
Enable A Mobile And Remote Workforce
In recent years, working remotely has become increasingly popular. People are choosing to work from home to maximise their free time and utilise that free time to learn new things, enhance their skills, take care of their family, or simply travel more.
One just needs a laptop, Wi-Fi connection, and the dedication to work from home. Studies reveal that employees who have the option of working from home are more satisfied with the firm they are working in.
Employees are more likely to stay loyal to their firms if they are allowed to work remotely. Additionally, this also decreases the overall expenditure on office rent, furniture, equipment, etc.
Makes Collaboration Easier
Team collaboration is more common now than it was a few years back. The reason is simple: the unified system allows the workforce to stay connected throughout the day and night. Everything is becoming faster and quicker and, because of a centralised communication platform, the team members can contact and update each other regarding project details within seconds.
This is also useful when the workforce lives in different cities or countries. They do not need to be physically present for meetings each and every time. A simple group video call can gather employees working from various cities or countries together. Sharing files, images, and ideas also becomes easier with UC.
If the supervisor or team leader sends the guidelines for a particular task in the company’s work management platform, it stays there. Unlike vocal instructions that people tend to forget over time or written instructions that might get lost, digital instructions are permanent.
Features such as email with voice let the employees listen to the guidelines any time they want to. This way, they do not have to contact their superiors or colleagues every time there is a doubt.
Even the follow-ups and feedbacks remain with the employees. They can always open a particular email or message and improve their efficiency as per the need.
The unified system enables the workforce to communicate with each other instantly. A web conference or a group video call can solve the problem, even at midnight. Employees do not have to wait until the next morning to discuss important feedback or the next step.
Before now, firms were required to hold a meeting where everyone would be present to talk about important issues of a project, but now, the physical meetings are replaced with web conferences, allowing people to instantly get in touch with each other without changing their location.
As a result, the firm can quickly make decisions, and quick decision-making often leads to lucrative outcomes.
If your employees often need to exchange confidential data, physically doing so could prove to be dangerous. Your ideas may get leaked or your client’s details may become public if the printed file ends up in the wrong hands or one of your vendors decides to act wrongly. Additionally, the person who has those details could extort money.
UC means just a single vendor, so the risk that your confidential data may be leaked by one of your vendors is completely eliminated.
Drawbacks Of Unified Communications
Before considering a UC implementation, enterprises need to consider all the possible costs that come with UC. For installing UC, firms need to install new equipment, which will require labour. The overall cost may be on the higher side.
In fact, it is not necessary that your current systems support such upgradation. Thus, you will need to invest in training resources, and with technological advancement, administrators will also need continuous training to keep up with the changes.
Resistance To Change
Your employees may not like the idea of being continuously monitored. They may also not like being in constant touch with colleagues and the firm. Once they go home, they might object to being ‘pinged’ by someone from the office. While it may seem beneficial from an organisational point of view, the employees may not like the change at all.
Unified communications have the flexibility to adapt to the organisation’s specific needs, and are not a one-size-fits-all type of technology. If used correctly, it can help a company tremendously. From making communication easier, faster, more secure, and round the clock, to the decreased need for administration, UC is highly beneficial for any organisation.
However, opting for UC could prove to be very expensive for firms that have more than 5,000 employees. They will need to upgrade and change their existing systems, which would need constant upgradation due to technological advancement, but this is not stopping unified systems from taking over traditional systems.