Unified Communications: It’s Not What You Think It Is

by Jitesh Shah, CEO, InterCall India    Apr 22, 2015

 

Jitesh Shah

Today’s dynamic business scene is characterized not only by strong competition but also by sophisticated customers, an increasingly mobile workforce, and operations that span time zones and continents. To succeed in this challenging environment, one of the things organizations would need is a communication tool that would allow them to effectively collaborate internally and externally.

To address the need for effective communication and collaboration, more and more businesses turn to unified communications (UC) solutions.  According to a recent study by Wainhouse Research, the worldwide market for unified communications as a service, or hosted UC, is projected to reach approximately $5.3 billion by 2018. In Asia Pacific, it is estimated to reach $421.7 million by 2017, up from $91.2 million in 2010.

Despite this growth, it is quite surprising to know that many IT managers still do not have a clear idea of what UC is all about. A study conducted  by Frost & Sullivan shows that among the over 1,000 IT decision makers surveyed in the United States and Europe, 42 percent said that they do not completely understand the concept of UC.

There could be numerous reasons why this is so, and the various myths about UC that have sprung up over the years could be one of them. To help you get a clearer picture of what UC is and what it can do for your organization, we have debunked some of the most common UC myths we have encountered: 

Myth 1: UC is a single application   

The reality – UC is an integrated set of applications that enable users to perform a wide range of communications functions within a single interface. It is not a single technology, application or service. It is rather composed of different elements which can include telephony, email, voice mail, fax, instant messaging, presence information, as well as audio, web and video conferencing.

These functions used to be offered as stand-alone applications, however, with UC, these are integrated at a network level, making users a single click away from moving from one form of communication to another. Users can easily see whether colleagues are available for a call, share documents with one another, start a conference call and move to web conference or video call when necessary.  

Myth 2: All UC components are a must-have     

Not true at all. As a matter of fact, it is quite rare to find companies acquiring a UC solution as a complete package. This is because you can mix and match UC elements to ensure that you get the UC solution that suits your organization’s needs. Some companies also opt to subscribe to individual components in phases – getting those that they immediately need first and then

 

upgrading whenever they see the need to. This unique characteristic of UC empowers you to determine which features would work best for your business and make the most out of it. 

Myth 3: UC is all cost

This is probably the most misleading myth of all. Yes, UC requires an investment but the key to fully realize its benefits without breaking your budget is to have a thorough understanding of your business goals and how UC can play a role in attaining these. This can help you identify the right package for your organization and avoid paying for unnecessary features.

If your organization aims to reduce capital expenditure, a cloud-based UC solution will better suit your needs compared to an on-premise solution. Having your UC solution on cloud means that there would be minimal infrastructure cost involved, as most cloud-based UC platforms  operate on a per user per month basis. Going cloud also means that you can account for your communication costs as an operating expense and eliminate the need for a substantial capital investment.

It is also important to look at the bigger picture and see what UC can do for your organization. UC allows employees to easily connect with one another and effectively work together as a team, resulting in improved access to information, reduced travel expenses and even streamlined work processes. It can also play an important role in helping solve human latency, or the delay caused by having to wait for someone to act on the issue at hand.

The point here is that the right UC platform, when deployed and utilized correctly, could result not only in improved collaboration, but also ensure a healthy bottom line.

Myth 4: UC providers offer the same solutions

A resounding no – not all vendors offer the same products and services. Some even claim they offer a UC solution when they are just providing standalone telephony services. It is therefore equally important for IT managers to know what to look for in a UC provider.

Here are some tips – look for a provider that truly understands UC and offers all the key elements of a UC solution. Check if they are able to integrate the new solution to your existing applications and infrastructure, add new functionalities and users when the need arises, as well as provide extensive sales and technical support. It is also important for them to have a simple pricing model to ensure that add-on features do not blow up the cost of your UC solution.

UC solutions offer a lot of potential when it comes to enhancing an organization’s communication and business processes. However, the benefits of UC can only be fully realized when the right UC solutions are implemented, which can only be achieved when IT decision-makers fully grasp what UC is and what it can do for the company.