Increase Productivity with Unified Communications for Small and Medium Businesses
This article is the first in a three part series of articles on how to “Increase Productivity with Unified Communications for Small and Medium Businesses.”
Part 1, what is Unified Communications?
Global value chains, mobile workforces, social networking, pervasive video, and information overload: this is the new normal. To address these business complexities, many Small and Medium Businesses are implementing Unified Communications (UC) that connects people, information, and teams. UC is a buzz word in the telecommunications industry that will be mainstay in a few years. If your company would like to achieve any of the following objectives, you should definitely read this article:
• Connect co-workers, partners, vendors, and customers with the information and expertise they need.
• Access and share video on the desktop, on the road, and on-demand, as easily as making a phone call.
• Facilitate better team interactions, dynamically bringing together individuals, virtual workgroups, and teams.
• Make mobile devices extensions of the corporate network so mobile workers can be productive anywhere.
• Innovate across the value chain by integrating collaboration and communications into applications and business processes.
Unified communications can link all of your messages and contacts into a single presence. You can see, hear, and communicate with colleagues and customers through any common channel, and route it to a standard interface. Many businesses actually have deployed some form of Unified Communications without even recognizing that there is a technical name for what has been deployed. For example, some companies with traditional Phone systems might purchase an e-fax service where the faxes are routed to their email. So fax is now integrated with emails. Unified communications is sometimes confused with unified messaging, but it is distinct. Unified communications refers to both real-time and non-realtime delivery of communications based on the preferred method and location of recipient; unified messaging systems takes messages from several sources (such as email, voice mail and faxes), but holds those messages only for retrieval at a later time.
Unified communications represents a concept where multiple modes of business communications can be seamlessly integrated. Unified communications is not a single product but rather a solution which consists of various elements, including (but not limited to) the following: call control and multimodal communications, presence, instant messaging, unified messaging, speech access and personal assistant, conferencing, collaboration tools, mobility, business process integration (BPI) and a software solution to enable business process integration. The term of presence is also a factor – knowing where one’s intended recipients are and if they are available, in real time – and is itself a key component of unified communications. To put it simply, unified communications integrates all the systems that a user might already be using and helps those systems work together in real time. For example, unified communications technology could allow a user to seamlessly collaborate with another person on a project, even if the two users are in separate locations. The user could quickly locate the necessary person by accessing an interactive directory, engage in a text messaging session, and then escalate the session to a voice call, or even a video call – all within minutes. In another example, an employee receives a call from a customer who wants answers. Unified communications could enable that worker to access a real-time list of available expert colleagues, then make a call that would reach the necessary person, enabling the employee to answer the customer faster, and eliminating rounds of back-and-forth emails and phone-tag.
The examples in the previous paragraph primarily describe "personal productivity" enhancements that tend to benefit the individual user. While such benefits can be important, enterprises are finding that they can achieve even greater impact by using unified communications capabilities to transform business processes. This is achieved by integrating UC functionality directly into the business applications using development tools provided by many of the suppliers. Instead of the individual user invoking the UC functionality to, say, find an appropriate resource, the workflow or process application automatically identifies the resource at the point in the business activity where one is needed.
This "business process" approach to integrating UC functionality can result in bottom line benefits that are an order of magnitude greater than those achievable by personal productivity methods alone.
Unified communications helps businesses, small and large alike, to streamline information delivery and ensure ease of use. Human delays are also minimized or eliminated, resulting in better, faster interaction and service-delivery for the customer, and cost savings for the business. Unified communications also allows for easier, more direct collaboration between co-workers and with suppliers and clients, even if they are not physically on the same site. This allows for possible reductions in business travel, especially with multi-party video communications, reducing an organization's carbon footprint.
Unified communications is very useful for knowledge workers, information workers, and service workers alike, many of whom may cross the lines between the three sectors on a daily or hourly basis, depending on the task and the client. With an increasingly mobile workforce, businesses are rarely centralized in one location. Unified communications facilitates this on-the-go, always-available style of communication. In addition, unified communications technology can be tailored to each person’s specific job or to a particular section of a company.
Part 2, Top Benefits of Unified Messaging…to be continued next week
Dan Young is President & CEO of Young Consulting Group, a boutique business consulting firm, focused on helping owners grow their business. Young Consulting Group provides Telecom Consulting services for companies in the Small & Medium Business Sector. For your FREE Telecom Cost Analysis, call us at 800.798.7996 or email us at info@YoungConsultingGroup.com.