Unified Communications (UC) is more than just the latest telecoms buzzword: it’s a crucial way for all businesses to make the most of their resources and ensure workers are collaborating as well as possible. Read on to find out more about how you can implement a successful UC system into your business.
What is Unified Communications?
UC allows all users on a network to access communications from any device at any time. UC uses the internet to integrate business communications beyond normal data, voice, and mobile communications services it incorporates: business applications, documents, office calls, emails, mobile numbers, and schedules are all available across the UC system. This allows your organisation and colleagues to stay connected, across all communication points, at all times. This applies whether you or your workers are working off site, from home, at another location, or even mobile.
What are the key features of a Unified Communications system?
At the heart of any UC system are 5 key components:
1. Call control
Private branch exchanges (PBX) unify all calls from inside and outside a business’ network into one internal network. Co-workers and clients can easily be connected through a simple series of extensions. PBX no longer requires specific hardware, and can run on software in the cloud that an IT technician can directly operate. Call control through PBX is essential to the architecture of any UC solution: it allows any device connected to the internet to pick up calls and notifications are required. Efficient call control is the foundation and starting point for any successful deployment.
Presence systems let all users on a network know who is available to communicate. This ensures that no time is wasted trying to contact someone who is not available, and allows you to see what co-workers with appropriate skills are available to contact instead.
3. Universal/Instant Messaging
Using Universal Messaging, workers can access all of their voice and text-based messages from anywhere and from multiple devices. Communication can then continue on any of those media, either on a message-by-message basis, or in real-time.
UC solutions are often launched from and connected to mobile wireless devices. The benefits of UC lies in its ability to ensure communication is accessible, regardless of location. This means that shoppers in a changing room can order clothes of different sizes and colours while still in the changing room, and it means that government workers performing remote work in the community can maintain full access to documents and expertise in the office, the variety of UC’s potential uses is huge!
5. Shared virtual workspaces
With virtually shared workspaces, whiteboarding and file sharing, workers can participate in a real-time conference wherever they are. A range of virtual assistants allows UC solutions to further improve worker mobility, as intelligent message screening and filtering lets users easily adjust and access their schedules, contacts, and calling via their Universal Messaging system. Online collaboration becomes second nature as relevant workers edit and comment on shared documents in real time.
With these simple components in place, a world of collaborating opportunities opens up for your business and your workers.
How can Unified Communications help your business?
Unified Communications make the most of smartphones and online connectivity to radically increase the potential productivity of your business. With workers already familiar with instant messaging and remote presence from their day-to-day use of technology, it’s easy to implement a UC system and let them make the most of it — UC systems have been deployed to help all sorts of organisations in all sorts of ways, from allowing offices to instantly order supplies once they are running low, to keeping a hospital’s patients aware of the latest developments.
The sports equipment manufacturer Shimano Inc. reported year-over-year revenue growth after incorporating the presence and click-to-call functions of UC. This UC functionality allowed sales teams to immediately seek assistance for customers’ queries from sales support and logistics teams. As well as increased revenue, this UC solution improved customer satisfaction from the company’s distributors.
If you’re considering whether or not to implement a UC solution, here are some questions to help you decide whether or not it’s for you:
- Do communications between your clients and your company take place across a range of media and devices?
- Do your workers need to seamlessly communicate with co-workers, partners and suppliers across a range of locations?
- Has your business ever wasted time by not being able to contact the necessary person at the right moment?
- Can developments in one area of your business affect how your business should be conducted elsewhere?
- Does your business maintain customer relations over the internet?
- Is your telecoms infrastructure able to provide the connectivity to deliver unified communications for internally for staff and externally across your customer touchpoints?
If the answer to any of these is yes, incorporating UC into your business network will remove potential delays and make collaborating easier. Your telecoms infrastructure is the critical foundation that provides the connectivity for any solution you are looking to deploy and that needs to be in place first, before anything else. Once you’ve gotten this right and deployed your UC solution, there’s every chance your workers will find unpredictable uses for it that will only increase productivity.
How can you create and implement a Unified Communications Strategy?
There are 5 steps to follow when implementing a UC strategy, as shown in this infographic:
Engage with staff to understand how they use current communications and business applications. Know which of these are important at the departmental level as well as an individual one. Use this knowledge to review your business needs: understand how your UC strategy matches the needs of the business as well as departments and staff. This helps you to adopt a user-centric approach to your Unified Communications strategy.
Choose key features that will fit with your business’ needs. Even things like the number of users in your organisation will affect this, as user numbers determine the bandwidth your UC host platform requires. Some UC features you might want to consider include Unified Messaging, Instant Messaging, Call Control, ‘Personal Assistants’, audio, web, and video conferencing, collaborations tools, Shared virtual workspaces, Mobility, and software to enable business process integration. If this sounds daunting, our experts at Immervox can provide advice based on your specific circumstances.
Establish Key Performance Indicators to measure the impact your UC solution has on its users. This can be measured against productivity, inter departmental collaboration, impact on external customers and suppliers, team morale and budgets to name a few. If these KPIs are linked to how your staff currently use your UC solution compared to how they operated before the implementation, the benefits of your UC solution will become clear, as well as the ways it can be further optimised.
Keep tracking your KPIs to get a good sense of how your UC system is operating. This requires transparency and regular communication across all staff based on your business’ objectives and performance. Share these objectives with your team as a way to help support UC adoption and encourage your teams to maximise their UC use: let them know how UC will help them too!
With these steps taken care of, you’re free to enjoy the benefits your UC solution brings to your team. Celebrate them and continuously engage with staff as your collaborative insights start to benefit the business and all its users. At the very least, you would hope to expect:
- Greater flexibility
- Improved collaborative working
- An enhanced customer experience
- Reduced overhead costs
- Reduced admin work
To deliver and deploy a successful UC solution you must begin with ensuring your telecoms infrastructure can deliver the connectivity needed. If you have any further questions about UC, or want to start making a success of your UC system today, do get in touch with Immervox: we’d be happy to help, starting with a full audit of your telecoms infrastructure to ensure your connectivity is ready to host your UC solution.