So What Is Unified Communication?

Unified Communication offers many productivity and cost reduction benefits to businesses by simplifying the way employees communicate with colleagues, suppliers, customers and prospects through the convergence of voice and IT applications. It therefore follows that modern, IP PBXs like SpliceCom’s range of soft, hard and virtual systems are perfectly placed in the network to assist with the consolidation of voice services with business critical IT applications across an IP infrastructure – though perhaps some IP PBXs are better suited for this task than others!

In its simplest form Unified Communication increases overall productivity by simplifying life for the workforce when it comes to internal and external communications. This is achieved by reducing the number of devices and interfaces used for communicating during the business day, integrating (or unifying) applications so they work together, making them easier to understand, use and support.

Each individual business is unique. It therefore follows that the applications and components encompassed by Unified Communication will differ on a company-by-company basis, based upon what is relevant and useful to a particular organisation. This means that Unified Communication will be the interaction of some, or all of the following applications;

  • Workforce Mobility
  • Messaging
  • Conferencing
  • Presence
  • IT Convergence

Leaving aside Business Telephony for the moment, it’s the areas of workforce mobility and IT Convergence that we at SpliceCom have witnessed most growth over the past 12 months.

Mobility, both in and out of the office, can now be handled by one device – yet another example of unification. In our customers’ case this is usually a SmartPhone or Tablet running our iPCS IP system softphone application. In fact, with the feature richness that built in to iPCS we’re now starting to see the mobility device becoming the only device in certain industries and applications, negating the need for an IP deskphone at all.

For larger organisations, IT Convergence means system integration. But for smaller businesses the associated service element associated means that this approach won’t work simply because of the skills required and the subsequent costs. We’ve seen some of our competitors take it upon themselves to provide bundled applications to meet the need of this market, reducing both cost and complexity in the process. Unfortunately, this isn’t what’s required. Ultimately for smaller companies it’s their key business applications that need to be integrated with voice; typically that means Office, Outlook and Communicator in a Microsoft environment. Using alternative email applications, contact databases, presence detection, etc. – even if they can be easily deployed and work together in a far more integrated matter – just isn’t an option.

No, when it comes to Unified Communication what’s required for smaller businesses is the same “best of breed” approach towards applications as that adopted by larger organisations, it’s just that the integration needs to be made easier. As such SpliceCom’s Navigate personal productivity desktop app provides SpliceCom users with a simple off-the-shelf solution, providing integration with Outlook for contact dialling and dialling and phone numbers that can be found in documents or web pages, alongside calendar recognition with automatic control of users settings. This is in addition to phone control, or use as a full featured IP Softphone if required. Finally, there’s also an option for desktop integration with Microsoft Lync – but that’s really the domain of larger companies and outside the remit of the focus of this article.

A well-planned and delivered Unified Communication strategy allows businesses to work smarter, whilst simultaneously reducing costs. The workforce can be freed from their dependence on the office, allowing them to be just as productive when they’re mobile as they are sat behind a desk. This provides a reduction in office space required, building/ travel/meeting costs and overall communication, voice conferencing and mobile phone expenses.

Whilst Unified Communication makes the workforce more available and more responsive, the convergence of a businesses core IT applications with voice and other communications methods, allows existing business processes to be simplified, extended and enhanced. This accelerates workflow and improves decision-making, which in turn allows companies to build stronger relationships with their customers’ and so increases customer loyalty towards the business. Enterprise and SME customers all want the same thing, it’s up to us to make it simple to implement and cost effective for smaller businesses.