I was recently on my summer holidays in Ireland with my family (yes, supporting the economy with a stay-cation), and we had a tender to complete while I was away, so I needed to join a conference call on the 2nd last day of my holiday to finalize the details.
So, I went outside to the back of the house, strategically placed my iPhone for best signal, fired up my laptop and tethered to the phone, and spent the next 54 minutes on the conference call with 3 others from Strencom, one in Cork, two in Dublin, and me. We all contributed, we shared the tender document on-screen and were able to make changes on the fly, some of the guys were on video, and when we needed a quick question answered by someone not on the call, a quick instant message (IM) was sent to that person, and the question was answered, without interrupting the call. And the usage cost to do all that; zero.
To me, that’s UC at its best. It didn’t disrupt my holiday; I didn’t have to spend 2 hours setting up or looking for the closest café with wifi, and most of all, It Just Worked the way it should.
Often shortened to UC, Unified Communications is a business technology where all communication tools are integrated so that businesses and individuals can manage all their communications in one place through one “pane of glass” instead of separately using different, disparate and unconnected applications.
Are you using some or all of the following services; email, Skype for voice and IM, voicemail (on mobile and landline), WebEx (or GoToMeeting), PGi Conferencing, Jabber, Powwownow, Xoom, Calliflower… the list goes on.
Then if you are, you are using the opposite to Unified Communications. You are using all the components, but not in a Unified way, and that’s really where the benefit is.
Unified communications also gives better control over important features like presence (your available status. E.g.. Busy, Available, On a Call, In a Meeting) and single number reach.
The following details give all the features and functions, but to really understand what kind of impact UC can have on your business, you need to try it in your business. So read on, but think about trying it before you rule it in or out. The flip side is that it may not be suitable for every business, so trying it out is important.
All the major technology providers have their solutions; Microsoft Lync, Cisco UC, Avaya UC, Shoretel UC. Strencom provide Microsoft Lync, but try any one of them to see if it suits your business, and try all of them before you make a decision to buy.
I’d be really interested to hear your comments if you have already migrated to UC, and what type of experience you have had, good or bad. Or if you are thinking about going to UC, please also add comments, questions or reservations you may have.
The rest of this blog gives you the FAB as they say in marketing terms; Features, Advantages and Benefits, so read on if you want to see them.
Components of Unified Communications
With unified communications, multiple modes of business communications are seamlessly integrated. Unified communications is not a single product but a collection of elements that includes:
- Video Conferencing – PC to PC and multiparty
One of the key drivers in Unified Communications is the ability to video conference with users of the same software in your company, your customer or suppliers. The ability to interact with your customers will bring you closer to them, enable you to interact with them more and eliminate email to your most important contacts.
With built-in conferencing solution you can create ad-hoc conferences with colleagues or schedule conference with customers and suppliers to move issues along and close opportunities.
- Collaboration tools
Built into many Unified Communications solutions is the ability to share documents and presentations with users on the same software and the ability to include parties outside the software just using a browser.
- Instant messaging
Reduce the amount of in-house email, interact with your customers at a quicker pace, liaise with your suppliers while talking with your customer.
Yep, voice as well! Users can take, transfer calls and manage personal call flow; you can also have your mobile phone ring simultaneously so you never miss that important call.
- Call control and multimodal communications
This includes voice communication in all its forms, voicemail, email, and other types of multimedia elements like pictures, video etc.
No more chasing colleagues, customers or suppliers, eliminate voice mail and telephone tag. See when people are available and choose how you want to communicate with them.
- Unified messaging
Email, voice mail and IM conversations all in one client, intuitive!
Some of the Benefits of Unified Communications?
Here are some examples of how unified communications can be useful:
- Companies with a mobile workforce can remain connected even when they are outside the office or home.
- Enterprises can considerably reduce costs incurred for accommodating workers and offer flexibility to employees, allowing them to work from home.
- Web and video conferencing calls allow better interaction and subsequently better productivity, thereby reducing the cost on travel.
- Remote workers can feel part of the organisation while working at home or on a customer site.
- Connecting to your customers allows you to:
o Generate better long-term relationships
o Resolve a problem or create an opportunity quicker
o Create more conversations
Requirements for UC?
While not a definitive list use the information below as a guide for what you need:
- A PC or mobile phone, on to which a client needs to be installed.
- If using it on a PC, use a good headset – PC Mic and speakers won’t cut it
- An account on a Unified communications product, hosted or on-premise
- Internet connectivity! Good, stable and lots of it if you’ve multiple employees. Ideally, choose a dedicated business to business ISP
- Also ensure you sign up / use a product that integrates with the applications you use e.g. Microsoft Office, has a future roadmap and good support.
Once again, I’d love to hear your comments, queries and experiences in relation to UC.