Unified communications is the way work works best. For office and IT managers, the focus is on clear communication and effective collaboration. Here’s what you need to know.
The way businesses communicate is changing. A decade ago, most companies used just a few communications platforms like email, phone, and fax.
The rise of work-from-home and remote teams is possible due to the growth of communications networks, including instant messaging, VoIP, and video conferencing.
The problem? It’s a lot for IT and office managers to support. If a Zoom conference goes down, you might not even know who to contact — is your internet is out, did the hardware fail, or is Zoom offline? It’s frustrating. And it’s also a costly waste of time and money, as the downtime impacts company productivity.
If that sounds familiar, unified communications could be the right solution.
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What is Unified Communications?
Unified communications (UC) is the practice of integrating and connecting business communication services, such as texting, video conferencing, voice, fax, email, and many of the other ways businesses communicate.
Depending on your communication needs, UC might include:
- Instant messaging
- Persistent chat
- Video calls and conferencing
- Voice calls
- File sharing
The main goal of unified communications is to improve communication and collaboration by making it easier to build, maintain, and service all your communication platforms by combining them into one, single entity.
How does unified communications work?
In practice, unified communications are more straightforward than they might sound. Rather than having one vendor for phone services, another for VoIP, and yet another for video conferencing, unified communications combines all those services so your business only deals with a single vendor.
There are also variations of unified communications — for example, a business might choose to keep their current internet provider, but use one vendor for all their AV, chat, and video conferencing needs.
This type of flexibility is crucial in today’s fast-paced digital world.
What are the benefits of unified communications?
We’ve already mentioned the main benefit of unified communications — it is easier to use. As a result, your IT team or office manager can spend more time keeping your business running and less time troubleshooting technical issues.
But, there are benefits for the entire company. Here are four benefits of switching to unified communications.
In addition to letting your IT team focus on more critical issues, unified communication can improve productivity for the entire team. With just one program to learn, workers can quickly move from a Zoom Room to a hot seat to a huddle room without moving wires, setting up new displays — or figuring out a whole new program.
Unified communications are often easier to maintain, since one support team understands how all your systems work together.
Collaboration is crucial, especially as businesses increasingly rely on remote workforces. Digital tools make collaboration easier, but only if they work. Unified communications streamline the collaboration process so teams can easily switch between different workstations (if they are in the office), different platforms, and even different hardware systems.
Advanced tools also allow workers to collaborate in real-time. As a result, businesses can respond faster to industry changes and leverage new opportunities that might have gone unnoticed in the past. That provides a massive competitive advantage.
Unified communication improves communication by bringing all communication platforms together. This makes it easier to manage and reduces costs across the board.
Here are a few ways UC can reduce costs:
- Only pay for the services you need
- Reduce communication infrastructure downtime
- Lower travel costs by improving online collaboration
- Spend less to scale or upgrade equipment because a third-party provider hosts the system
But, there’s an even larger benefit. Companies with highly effective internal communications report 47 percent higher returns. This is because UC also increases productivity, which drives profits. Rather than spending time learning new systems or dealing with tech issues, your team spends more time helping your company succeed.
Better support and scalability
With UC, all your communications platforms are under one umbrella. This drastically simplifies the support process.
Say your VoIP stops working. IT might spend an hour or more calling around to different vendors — is a server down, is there an issue with the software, or is the hardware outdated? You might not even know where to call for support.
With UC, one company handles all your communication needs, making it easier to find and get the support you need to get back to work.
When you are ready to upgrade or scale your communications, you don’t have to spend time juggling meetings with your phone, AV integrator, and internet provider. You can call one company that knows exactly what you use and what solutions will work with your current system.
Is Unified Communications right for your business?
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of moving to a unified communications model. But, is it right for your business? In some cases, no. Smaller businesses or those with limited communications needs likely won’t reap as many benefits.
Before you decide to switch, review these five signs that unified communications is right for your business:
- Managing your communications vendors is getting frustrating: If managing multiple vendors is creating stress and reducing your productivity, it might be time to switch to UC.
- You have three or more communication vendors: Juggling invoices, hardware, service calls, and platforms can get overwhelming. If you have three or more vendors, it might be time to consolidate into one vendor.
- Communication issues are impacting performance: If conference calls are constantly dropping, chat programs are crashing, or emails aren’t going through, it might be time to upgrade to a UC provider.
- Your business is growing: UC is ideal for scaling businesses, so growing businesses should consider making the switch.
- Your Communication Systems are Outdated: If you are already considering upgrading your communication hardware and software, now may be the right time to switch to a unified communication service provider.
If even one or two of the items on that list sound familiar, it may be time to make the switch to unified communications.
Considerations for your Unified Communications strategy
There are many benefits to UC; however, there are a few downsides that can throw a wrench in your plans. Preparing for these issues can improve adoption rates and decrease launch time so that you can make the most out of your investment in UC.
#1: Learning curve
Change is never easy. It can be even more challenging when your business, and its employees, are set in their ways. Unified communications may come with a steep learning curve, especially for less tech-savvy employees.
Before launch, work with your UC provider to create a training program that works for your team. This might include a mix of in-person and virtual training, gamification, or other incentives to encourage teams to learn to use the new program.
The good news is UC can reduce the number of systems overall, so your team will use the same platforms no matter where they are.
Integration with current systems
Ideally, UC allows your business to switch to one, single entity for all your communication needs. However, there may be other legacy systems (even outside of communications) that struggle to integrate with your new system.
Before launch, make sure your service provider understands which systems you use — they may be able to offer a better solution or design a custom integration package.
In most cases, unified communications helps save businesses money by reducing costs and increasing productivity. However, smaller businesses might not need the benefits of UC. For example, a small team that relies on mostly free communications tools like Gmail and Slack likely won’t be a good candidate for unified communications.
Before making the switch, take time to run the numbers and make sure the cost makes sense for your business.
Communications shouldn’t be hard. With InGenius Solutions, it doesn’t have to be.