Defining Unified Communications

unified_communications_barriers_to_communication_business_communicationIn my previous post, I called Unified Communications a buzzword. While it is true that this technology is certainly popular and the concept is catching on, it does not mean that those employing this solution know what it means or that they are using it to its full potential.

Often, even those that are out there selling the unified communications solutions don’t know the best way to explain what it is to customers! On a LinkedIn discussion I came across, people were trying to determine “What is UC” or wondering about defining unified communications. The discussion turned into a huge conversation with over 211 attempts to define the concept. Without being able to directly define the concept it is difficult for people to explain what exactly unified communications is.

I’m not saying that anyone in that discussion is right or wrong. Honestly, I did not have the time to read all 200+ posts. What we can take from this is that many people don’t understand the true definition of unified communications. Therefore, businesses are probably not leveraging this technology as well as they could.

To me, it is important to point out that a unified communications solution is defined by the end users. A medical facility and a financial institution’s unified communications solution will probably look and function very differently because different businesses work best with different features and solutions. The good thing is the solution can be customized to optimize the specific needs of organizations.

When a business is considering implementing a unified communications solution, there is an important conversation that needs to happen which includes a long, hard look at their current communication infrastructure. It is essential to ask questions about the effectiveness of their current communications such as:

  1. How do your employees (across the organization and in different departments) communicate and collaborate?
  2. Are there barriers to communication that are causing inefficiency?
  3. If the business sees a visible lack of efficiency and room for improvement, implementing unified communications can help.

For example, I deployed a unified communications system to a bank that had 8 branches. Furthermore, they had loan officers in each branch. In the past, if you contacted the bank and asked for a loan officer, the receptionist would literally start calling down her “list” until she got someone to answer. This was not an effective or efficient way for the branch or the person on the phone. Through “presence” abilities of a unified communications system, the receptionist’s new world consists of taking that same call, looking on her screen, and knowing immediately which people on that same “list” are in and available to take the call.

As the bank found, with an IP based phone system, there are no geographical constraints or technological barriers between different modes of communication. This solution makes it as simple as possible to transition communication across any mode or method, such as phone, video or instant message.

It’s really about connections and how these abilities are evolving. Traditional or PBX phone systems are declining because they are limiting when it comes to an integrated approach to communications. Integrating telepresence, video communications and other types of unified messaging is now the best way to optimize your workplace.

Ultimately, the essence of a unified communications solution comes down to intelligently combining any and all forms of communication, making us more efficient and productive.

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