A unified future: 5 compelling benefits of unified communications for IT Directors

In the past, telecommunications weren’t always high on an IT Director’s ever-expanding list of priorities. IT directors were more concerned with ERP, SaaS, cyber threats and ultimately reducing IT spend. As long as the phone system worked, that was all that mattered. But lockdown and the scramble to enable remote working has pushed communications, and in particular Unified Communications, way up the agenda.

Unified Communications enables telecommunication to be fully integrated into IT. This “unification” creates huge benefits to the business, the users, and the customers. In this article we define the term “unified communications”, and then look at five benefits that will drive your business growth:

  1. Collaboration and hybrid work enablement
  2. Cost reduction and efficiency
  3. Simplified integration
  4. Enhanced user experience
  5. Enhanced customer experience

What is unified communications?

Unified Communications (UC) is like a Swiss army knife for modern digital communication. It eliminates the need to switch between multiple communication tools by unifying them all under one system. From a single UC interface, an employee can send an instant message, start a video call, share a document, schedule a meeting, make a phone call or send an email.

UC describes a communication system that integrates, or unifies, various communication methods within a business. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Voice and telephony, including mobility support
  • Meeting solutions – audio conferencing, video conferencing and web conferencing
  • Messaging – email with voicemail and unified messaging
  • Presence and instant messaging
  • Communication-enabled applications – integrated contact centres, communications platform as a service and workstream collaboration applications.

Unified Communications does not represent a singular tool or technology; rather, it is a solution that weaves a comprehensive, effective communication fabric within an organisation. The aim is to optimise business processes by reducing latency, managing flows, and eliminating device and media dependencies. It provides a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. The great thing for an IT Director is there is no need for any legacy telecommunications hardware like PBX’s, that need to be maintained and run by a telco expert or a third-party.

What are the benefits of unified communications?

1. Collaboration and Hybrid Work Enablement

The nature of collaboration has been transformed in the last few years. Rarely do people get together in a meeting room to brainstorm. With remote and hybrid working the opportunities to look over people’s shoulder and bounce ideas off each other are very rare. But effective collaboration is key to productivity and innovation that drives businesses forward.

Mobile and Hybrid Working have benefited hugely from Unified Communications. UC solutions offer cloud-based platforms that allow employees to access their communication tools from anywhere, using any internet-connected device. Whether they’re in the office, working from home, or on the road, they can use their smartphones, tablets, or laptops to access their emails, make calls, send instant messages, participate in video conferences, and share files. This ubiquitous access is fundamental to supporting mobile and hybrid work models.

UC enables a seamless transition between different devices, enhancing the flexibility of communication. An employee could start a conversation on their desktop at the office, continue it on their smartphone during their commute, and finish it on their home laptop. The transition between devices and locations is smooth and does not interrupt the flow of communication.

2. Cost Reduction and Efficiency

By consolidating various communication tools into one comprehensive system, UC reduces the cost associated with maintaining multiple separate systems. This includes not just the direct costs of the tools themselves, but also the associated costs like separate vendor contracts, support costs, training costs, and system integration costs. By having one consolidated system, these costs can be significantly reduced.

As mentioned earlier, Unified Communications solutions reduce the need for extensive physical hardware and infrastructure. Traditional telephony systems require substantial investment in PBX systems, desk phones, wiring, and the ongoing maintenance and upgrading of these systems. UC eliminates much of this by using VoIP communications, which are typically less expensive and more scalable.

3. Simplified Integration

A big benefit of Unified Communications is that it is designed to integrate seamlessly with a wide range of existing IT infrastructures. This ability allows businesses to modernise their communication strategies without the need for a complete overhaul of their existing systems, reducing disruption and maximising ROI. Most UC solutions are designed to be compatible with existing hardware setups, such as workstations, servers, and even certain telephony hardware. UC also integrates with a variety of software platforms, including enterprise software like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, project management tools, and more.

UC solutions can integrate with your existing network infrastructure to ensure reliable, high-quality communication. This includes integration with your LAN, WAN, and even wireless networks. UC also integrates with existing security systems, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and access control systems. Finally, if you have bespoke systems most UC providers offer APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) that allow businesses to customise their integration based on specific needs.

4. Enhanced User Experience

One of the most significant benefits of UC is that it simplifies communication. By integrating various communication channels – like voice, video, email, and instant messaging – into one platform, it provides users with a single, consistent interface for all their communication needs. This makes it easier for employees to find and use the right tool for each task, reducing confusion and improving productivity.

For example, a conversation that starts as an instant message on a laptop can effortlessly transition into a voice call on a mobile phone, and then into a video conference on a tablet. This flexibility enhances the user experience, as it allows communication to flow naturally, uninterrupted by technical constraints. This can significantly streamline workflows, enabling users to get more done in less time.

5. Enhanced Customer Experience

Unified Communications can have profound benefits for customer experience. In fact, done well, UC can seamlessly merge user experience with customer experience.

For instance, with UC, employees can communicate in real time using the most appropriate medium (voice call, email, instant message/live chat, video conference), regardless of their location. This results in quicker responses to customer inquiries, leading to increased customer satisfaction. It also means that no matter how a customer chooses to contact your business, they will have a consistent and seamless experience. Plus when integrated with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, UC solutions can provide real-time customer data during interactions. This allows customer service or sales representatives to provide more personalised service and solve customer issues on the first contact. This increases first-contact resolution rates, a key factor in improving customer satisfaction.

In conclusion

As an IT Director, incorporating Unified Communications into your business strategy isn’t just about keeping up with the latest trends. It’s about reimagining the possibilities for growth, collaboration, and efficiency in your organisation. UC provides the tools to empower your employees, enhance customer experiences, and ultimately unlock unprecedented business success.

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Unified Communication FAQs

How can Unified Communications benefit my business?

UC can provide numerous benefits to businesses, including enhanced collaboration, increased productivity, cost savings, improved customer service, and support for mobile and remote work. By providing a single platform for all communication and collaboration tools, UC simplifies workflows and reduces the time and effort needed to coordinate and communicate.

Is Unified Communications secure?

Yes, most UC platforms come with robust security features, including encryption for data in transit and at rest, secure user authentication, and compliance with various privacy and security regulations. However, as with any technology, it’s essential to implement good cybersecurity practices to protect your UC system.

Can Unified Communications integrate with my existing IT infrastructure?

Many UC solutions are designed to integrate seamlessly with existing IT infrastructures, including hardware, software, and network systems. Many UC providers also offer APIs for custom integration with other business applications.

How much will Unified Communications cost?

The cost of implementing a Unified Communications (UC) solution can vary widely, depending on a number of factors:

  1. Size of the Business: Larger organisations with more employees will generally pay more for UC solutions as they will require more licences or user accounts.
  2. Features Required: The scope and range of features can significantly impact the price. More advanced features like video conferencing, call centre functions, or integration with CRM systems may come with additional costs.
  3. Type of Deployment: Cloud-based UC solutions are often sold as a subscription service, with a recurring monthly or annual cost per user. On-premises solutions might have a higher initial cost as you may need to purchase and maintain your own server hardware but might be more cost-effective in the long run for larger enterprises.
  4. Vendor: Different UC providers offer different pricing models. It’s important to compare not just the price, but also the features, reliability, customer support, and reviews of each provider.
  5. Hardware: If you need to purchase new phones, headsets, cameras, or other hardware to use with your UC system, this will be an additional cost.
  6. Implementation and Training: There may also be costs associated with setting up the system, migrating data from your old system, and training your employees to use the new system.

How can I ensure a smooth transition to Unified Communications?

A successful transition to UC typically involves careful planning, including assessing your current communication needs and infrastructure, choosing the right UC solution for your business, and providing training and support for your employees. It’s also advisable to work with a reputable UC provider who can guide you through the process and provide ongoing support.

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