One of the greatest outcomes of recent innovations in information and communications technologies (ICT) is the democratization of technology for individuals and businesses. You no longer have to be a multi-national conglomerate in order to harness enterprise grade solutions that can introduce new levels of efficiency and productivity to your business. Whether you are working from your home office or a small business with few employees, it is now possible to access software, communications, infrastructure, platforms, security and more that rival any Fortune 500 company. Unified Communications (UC) is one of the tools that is readily available in the marketplace designed to improve your business by simplifying the way you communicate and collaborate.
What is UC?
Unified communications is a platform that integrates communications and collaboration applications to improve business processes. They include: voice, video, email, instant messaging, presence and availability, real-time or near real-time solutions, and transactional or informational systems to find the best way to effectively reach employees, customers, suppliers and the resources you need.
Even though you can get each application by itself, UC brings it all together under one integrated platform to deliver all of the information these technologies provide seamlessly on your smartphone, tablet or PC. According to a 2014 softwareadvice research on the attitudes of SMBs towards UC, the primary benefit of UC was having all of the user’s communication tools in one place.
Now that you know what it is, how do you go about implementing it in your company?
Before you call a service provider, start by researching the particular needs of your company to determine how UC can improve the way everyone communicates and collaborates. Because the market is saturated with local, national and even international providers, the onus of finding the right company falls on you. However, don’t be afraid to ask for help, not only from the companies offering the service, but also from businesses in your community that have UC solutions in place. Real life experiences from your colleagues can prove to be more enlightening than sales people and video presentations.
Knowing what you need beforehand also makes you less vulnerable to up sells you don’t need, especially if you are a small business.
What can UC do for you?
Although it might sound too good to be true, UC can introduce levels of efficiency in your company that will let you focus more clearly on your core competency. Ron Feher, Chief Improvement Officer at WhiteRock Business Solutions, wrote a blog on LinkedIn about the importance of focusing and not wearing too many hats, a charge many small business owners are guilty of.
Here is a list of some of the benefits UC can deliver:
One number so you can be reached on any device, anytime and anywhere.
Use voice communication options with custom voice features like IVR, call queue, call recording, call routing and conferencing features to improve customer service.
Automatic synchronization of your presence and availability in real-time or near real-time.
Consolidation of voice messages, texts, emails or IMs in one place along with data support with fax, and fax/voicemail forwarding to email.
Automatic migration of all your directories, history and contacts on any device.
Lower telecom and long distance costs by using VoIP on smartphones.
Voice encryption to ensure no one can eavesdrop on your conversation.
Scalability to grow without having to worry about IT infrastructure.
Depending on the service provider you choose, the options listed here may or may not be available. It bears repeating, you have to do your due diligence to find the best solution for your company, because there are simply too many options.
Look for Trail Offers or Demos
The majority of the service providers have trial offers or demos which let you test drive the UC solutions they offer. This is a great way to introduce the technology to everyone in the company so they can have a go at it. If the services one company offers is not compatible with the solutions you have in place or you just plain don’t like it, try as many as possible, after all it is free.
Unified communications will not solve all the problems of your company. What the technology will do is, simplify and automate your communications and collaborative applications so you will have more time to run your business effectively.