Unified Communications 101
Your introduction to UC
Communication is more complex today than it’s ever been.
New technology and consumer trends have transformed the way we connect on every day. We’re no longer restricted to conversations over the phone or in-person. Today’s employees can communicate and collaborate over voice, video, and instant messaging using the right communication tools. The global market for unified communication and collaboration is expected to hit a value of $57 billion by 2024.
The question for most companies is less about whether they should embrace new communication strategies, and more about bringing those channels together in a cohesive, central environment. After all, while options for communication might be a great way to improve business productivity, too many tools on different platforms can lead to confusing, and siloed environments.
Unified communication is the solution offering companies a way to tap into the freedom and flexibility that new conversational standards have to offer.
What is Unified Communications, How Does it Work?
So, what is unified communications, or “UC”?
According to Gartner, it’s the platform or tools that allow companies to use “multiple methods of enterprise communication” at the same time. For most companies, however, it’s a solution for bringing different modes of communication together in a flexible and manageable environment.
With unified communications, you allow your teams to communicate seamlessly on a single pane of glass, rather than pushing them to switch from one platform to another whenever they want to send an IM or make a VoIP call. Unified communications can either be delivered as a standard platform or in an “as a service” format. Unified Communications as a Service is often popular among companies who want to embrace the versatile cloud-focused approach to business.
The kind of UC environment you build will depend on the needs of your employees, and the capabilities of your vendor. For instance, you may have a service that supports:
- Web conferencing through virtual meeting rooms.
- Real-time messaging through online chat and SMS.
- Video conferencing, telepresence and broadcasting
- VoIP, audio conferencing and voicemail management
- Real-time presence and schedule management
Some UC platforms are even beginning to embrace the rising popularity of collaboration tools. UC&C solutions add things like file-sharing and screen-sharing to the unified communication mix.
What Are the Benefits of Unified Communications?
So, why should a business invest in unified communications?
The simple answer is that this technology helps to unify and streamline your workforce, encouraging better productivity and performance. According to one survey analysing the efficacy of UC, employees with a UC solution could save 191 hours of company-wide time each day – up to 29,660 hours per year (based on a company with 100 users). Aside from enhanced productivity, other benefits of UC include:
- Reduced costs: When everything you need for effective communication is joined together on the same platform, you don’t need to worry about paying for multiple different licenses. Unified Communications services are often far more cost-effective than paying for everything you need separately. What’s more, the stronger performance that you’ll see as a result of UC will help you to earn more money
- Better customer experience: Countless companies are currently concerned with customer experience becoming the ultimate differentiator for any brand. With unified communication, you can deliver a stronger customer experience by ensuring that employees have access to the information and support they need when they need it most. Research shows that 77% of companies believe they can improve their customer service with a UC solution
- Improved employee satisfaction: When staff members don’t have to constantly switch between tools to remain productive at work, they feel more supported and efficient in their roles. Happier employees mean reduced turnover, less time searching for and training new employees, and often better business outcomes too.
- Increased mobility: As companies continue to grow more dispersed thanks to trends like globalisation and remote working, unified communication platforms help to support a modern, digital workforce. With UC, businesses can allow staff to work from anywhere with an internet connection, without harming performance
- Greater IT Management: When all your communication strategies are connected in the same environment, it’s much easier for IT teams to manage usability and compliance. You may even experience fewer security problems
Top Unified Communication Vendors
There are many incredible companies making ripples in the unified communications space, and new brands are appearing on a regular basis. According to Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant at the time of writing, the most significant UC vendors today are:
Trends in Unified Communications
Unified Communications continues to evolve at a rapid rate as companies and consumers alike demand more flexible and convenient modes of connectivity. While UC already has the power to transform the average business environment through higher productivity and agility, new and disruptive technologies are sure to change the landscape even further. Current trends in Unified Communication include:
- As a service product delivery: Unified Communications as a Service is growing in popularity as companies search for a way to have the latest communication solutions in their business environments, without substantial up-front investments and maintenance costs
- Collaboration: The demand for collaboration is growing in today’s digital environment, and it makes sense to connect that collaboration with communication strategies. UCC or Unified Communication and Collaboration platforms are on the rise
- UC & CC: As well as exploring the connections that unified communications has with collaboration, some vendors are also looking into the power of UC and CC as a combined solution. By connecting back-end unified communication services with front-end contact centre solutions, companies can ensure better end-to-end connections
- AI and Chatbots: Artificial Intelligence is a common component of many communication trends today. As the business world continues to rely more heavily on data, artificial intelligence can be a great way to gather relevant information and make it more accessible to the right people
- Business voice assistants: Along with artificial intelligence, voice assistants are also emerging in the UC space, helping employees to get work done faster with verbal commands. We’re already growing more comfortable with these devices in the home through things like Amazon Echo and Google Home; soon we’ll see more voice assistants in the business environment too