The world of work has changed significantly since the concept of Unified Communications (UC) was first touted as the ‘next big thing’ to transform IT back in the 1990s.
According to PwC, 55 per cent of UK SMEs have already fulfilled UC’s promise of integrating real-time communications such as telephony, instant messaging, and video conferencing with non real-time services such as email, voicemail, and SMS. And now cloud-based UC services mean that the technology is within cost-effective range of even more businesses.
Industry analysts predict the market will deliver 22.5 per cent Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) to reach $18 billion by 2020. So will 2017 be the year that UCaaS becomes mainstream? If you are considering implementing UC in the year ahead, here are six reasons that we think will make it a good move.
1. Employee productivity
The ability of employees, often based in different locations, to communicate effectively is critical for most businesses. As such, UC tools can be amongst the most important a business can employ.
Most people are used to using a variety of voice and written forms of communication in their personal lives and are expecting this same versatility at work. By bringing together voice, messaging, web and video conferencing, with presence information, UC ensures that staff can communicate with their colleagues in a way that best suits them, speeding up business and increasing employee satisfaction.
Why wait for a colleague to reply to an email, when you can use Instant Messaging to get an instant reply? And why not use video conferencing rather than voice calls to build stronger relationships with suppliers, while saving time and money spent on face-to-face meetings?
2. Flexibility for the workforce
Workforce flexibility is no longer a future trend. If you can’t enable your employees to work at times and locations that suit them, then you risk losing them. And typically, this statement is most true of the employees that are the most valuable to your business. UC enables this mobility and flexibility, providing users with all the communications channels they need on one secure platform, with a consistent experience across a desktop or mobile device.
Today’s UC services mean that employees can be as productive on-the-go as they would be if they were working from an office desk, with access to all corporate communication features and channels at any time and in any connected location.
3. Cost control
As SMBs and mid-market companies search for more robust features and functionality from their communications systems, cloud-based models are increasingly meeting the market need. UCaaS models can provide an enterprise-level feature set while simultaneously lowering operational and capital expenditure, by consolidating all communication, including telephony, email, voicemail, instant messaging, video conferencing, and any server-based application, into one seamlessly integrated offering.
The savings can be significant when businesses no longer need to pay for and support individual tools, products or equipment. With built-in HD videoconferencing, companies can also develop closer collaboration with colleagues, clients, partners or prospects while reducing travelcosts. In addition, by allowing companies to optimise their use of office space, UCaas can reduce real estate costs.
A pure cloud solution can also greatly reduce the amount of on-premise hardware that needs to be supported, as well as providing the flexibility to rapidly scale up without making a big capital investment, for example, adding extra customer service agents for a retailer during a busy sales period.
4. A better customer experience
Customer experience is increasingly becoming a big driver of technology investment and business transformation projects. Increasingly, tech-savvy customers know how to find and secure the best deal and will simply move on to a company that satisfies their needs if they can’t get an instant answer to their query on the channel of their choice.
Waiting is not an option for today’s time-pressed consumer. A UC implementation can dramatically improve the customer experience, providing support for multi-channel and features such as intelligent routing, so customers reach a company expert to answer their query for fast, first-time resolution.
5. Easy to manage communication and business continuity
With UC, everything is in one place for the IT department - one server, one interface - making it easier to manage the communication environment. Companies have total control over their infrastructure together with enterprise grade resiliency, redundancy and reliability. Today’s UCaaS offerings are designed to provide continuous service availability with built-in advanced data security and disaster recovery as standard.
6. Collaboration accelerates innovation and growth
Collaboration provides wider access to geographically dispersed groups and brings integration and uniform methodology to business practices. The increased integration can help your company grow faster and provide mutual support networks between organisations and internal departments.
Moreover, this increase in productivity leads to innovation that creates competitive advantage through knowledge, good practice, and information sharing.
Richard Buxton, Head of Unified Communications, Node4
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa