One definition of unified communications is a set of functionality that facilitates internal and external communication in business processes. The most common functions across unified communications platforms include:
These are features that can be found in pure IP and in equipment based solutions, and offer the widest range of function to the widest range of enterprise.
With this as a base definition of Unified Communications, enterprises considering a technology change should ask these four questions to determine if UC is a smart move.
Will UC be a Good Cultural Fit?
For a UC implementation to be ultimately successful, the change it brings must be embraced by all levels of the enterprise. If functional staff don't like or don't want to use UC features, the likelihood of any form of measurable return is low and the potential for negative consequences are high. How many times have management looked back at some technology innovation and said "it was not worth the cost, people just didn't want to use it."
Will Unified Communications Benefit Our Business Processes?
A company that has 30+ years history with a key system, a receptionist and a fax machine and is happy with their experiences has no reason to change to bring unified communications into their business processes. But a similar company who has given their field sales force laptops and wifi cards has every reason to evolve into unified communications.
Likewise, an enterprise grounded in traditional business process whose main customer mandates EDI and video conferencing must evolve communication processes or lose business.
The question to ask is, will adding one or more of these functions to our telecommunications equipment benefit our business by saving costs, saving time or increasing return on investment? One example of how Unified Communications can produce tangible returns is in a call center/customer service environment. If customers or contacts can be dialed on-screen as opposed to on a handset, there is an approximate 15-30 second savings per call. Add this up per user per day and you can usually find close to an hour a day of extra time that can be used to increase call volume for more sales. If a solution cannot enable one of these three, then it most likely will not be a profitable fit for the enterprise.
What Other Technologies will be affected by a Move to Unified Communications?
Unified Communication technology often necessitates changes in other office technology to make it viable. For instance, a company that moves to SIP trunks will often need a higher speed internet connection, with which mandate a higher-capability firewall and higher-capacity switches.
Likewise, new telephone systems and other equipment have computer requirements that force updates, upgrades and new operating systems. Look at everything connected to implementing even a simple Unified Communications solution to make sure that that total investment does not create a long term negative investment.
How will Unified Communications Impact our Disaster Recovery Plans?
Just about every business has some form of disaster plan. Many businesses, especially financial and medical businesses, are mandated at many levels to have a solid, defensible disaster recovery plan including a means of maintaining contact with customers.
Yet an enterprise that consolidates voice and data services to capture savings with technologies such as SIP trunks and dynamic internet circuits could lose the redundancy they had with copper lines and lose the ability to maintain communication in an emergency. The best N+1 equipment solutions are worthless without uninterrupted power coverage of data modems, phone systems, switches and other network equipment.
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