What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications

What’s it all about?

This week our resident Unified Communications expert, Chris Watling, provides you with answers to the most basic questions around UC.

What Is UC?

One of the questions that I am forever being asked is what is Unified Communications? The phrase has been around so long and there are so many products that have been described as Unified Communications, that no one seems to remember what UC actually is.

Unified Communications as a Concept

Like all good things, UC is simple, but complex to explain. UC is designed to bring together all means of communication and enable you to choose the most appropriate one to your situation.

The idea is that all channels of real time communication (phone calls, presence information, conferencing and instant messages) are integrated with non-real-time communications (voicemail, email and Fax). Unified communications is not one product but a set of ‘products’ that provide a standard user experience across a range of devices and mediums.

True Unified Communications allows an individual to send messages in one medium and for them to be received in another. The most common example is receiving a voicemail and then being able to choose to access it via email or from your phone. Presence information allows the receiver to choose the most appropriate method of response. If the sender is online then real time channels (instant message, voice call) are best, or if the sender is offline a non-real-time message may be preferred which can be accessed from a number of different media.

Why Unified Communications?

Multiple communication methods and better information about contact availability are inherent to a Unified Communications solution. You will always know when a contact is available, so gone are the days of telephone tag. This saves time and allows users to be more productive.

Multiple communication methods mean that you can choose the channel that best suits your message. For example: you need an answer quickly but it is going to be a short and simple conversation, so you communicate by instant message. In the past this would have been a phone call, would have taken longer to complete and would have interrupted what the other person was doing (if they were there at all).

With Unified Communications online and offline communications are available on multiple devices (PC/tablet/smartphones) this means that users can work from anywhere. In some organisations the implementation of Unified Communications has allowed the business to change working practices and reduce the amount of office space required as more people hot-desk and work from home. This has also proven very popular with staff that appreciate cutting down on journey times and having more flexibility around how they spend their working day.

Unified Communications improves productivity. For example, lags in workflow due to inefficient communications are reduced. One organisation that implemented Lync found that first time fix rates were improved. Agents in their contact centre could see which specialists were available through presence, so routed calls successfully to the right person first time.

Unified Communications Solutions?

There are lots of products out there claiming to offer “Unified Communications”. How will I know what is right for our organisation?

At the time of writing there is no single ‘product’ that delivers the full Unified Communications experience off of the shelf. Most of the products out there offer a good solution. For instance Microsoft Lync or Cisco Jabber. However some very specialised applications, such as contact centres, may require third party software to complete the UC solution.

Have we raised more questions, than we have answered? If you would like to explore how UC can benefit your organisation, please do make contact. For more information and impartial advice call us on 0844 477 1622 or email [email protected]

Next week we will run through the benefits to SME, to find out just what UC can add to your business.Want the chance to win a Plantronics Voyager Legend UC Bluetooth headset. All you have to do is tell us your story of how flexible working and Unified Communications are changing the way you work, or dream big and tell us how you’d like flexible working to change your work-life balance. So send us an email to: [email protected]

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