If you are involved in a business, you may be hearing the phrase "Unified Communications" or "UC" being thrown around. If you're someone like me, you're thinking, what the heck is that and how does it help me? If you are, allow me to answer those questions for you.
To really understand how Unified Communications can help you, it is critical to know what it's all about. Where does it come from? Who created it? What is its history?
Unified Communications doesn't necessarily have an inventor. That is, it wasn't created by one person so much as it developed over time into what it is today. The very origin could be considered the telegraph. It has evolved so much since then. In 1876, the telephone patent came about - awarded to Bell (but contested by historians). Switchboards were used to route calls up until the 1950s (think "Hello, operator?"). In the 1960s, businesses hired in-office switchboard operators that would connect internal calls. This developed into an automated process in the 1970s. In 1993, the first audio/video conferences on the internet were created.
Now, there are whole systems (like UC!) that are IP based and end up being cheaper, more efficient, and make businesses more connected than ever.
Knowing the history that created Unified Communications is educational, but doesn't necessarily help you answer the question: what the heck is it anyway?
In short, Unified Communications is a system that integrates multiple communication methods within a business. It's a digital connection system that connects all separate channels into one cohesive and cloud-based system. It combines a variety of things such as the business phone system, voicemail, instant messaging, chat, fax, conference call bridges, video conferencing, email, web applications, CRM systems, etc. into one system. Basically, everything that you would imagine for each individual employee is taken from its clunky hardware form and converted into software via IP.
Hearing this, you're probably wondering: Where is it then? Where am I able to use it?
The beautiful thing is that, because it is a digital system, it is anywhere and everywhere you want it to be. That is, you have one central location, then because it is digital, you can work off-site and still be connected. Everyone is connected wherever they may be.
Okay, so it's a digital system with little hardware that developed over time and that can connect me anywhere I am; when would this benefit me? Why should I get it?
This is a big question - why should I get it? When you invest in UC, you are bringing all of your devices together. Connect your employee's devices (think phone, fax, email, instant messaging applications, etc.) using one phone number, IP address, and one complete platform. Why should you invest in this? There are many reasons that I have condensed into a few broad categories.
It is secure. Because it is digital, all calls and information go through an encrypted internet connection. This means your data is safe and secure.
It is cheaper! Unified Communications allows you to tailor your package to what you need. Everything is customizable, allowing you to decide which features work best for your business. Prices are reduced because you are trading in clunky hardware for a unified software application. This also means that you don't need to worry about buying new hardware, making modifying and scaling up your technology much simpler and cheaper - UC grows with you and your business.
It connects all employees together. Packaged as a digital platform, everything is connected! Instant messaging helps to keep your employees connected with immediate responses and easy file transfer. Customized call routing makes transferring calls across the organization as easy as one click - this even applies to other company locations! Presence indicators built into many instant messaging platforms allows you and your employees to see if others within the organization are inactive, available or in a call/meeting - this eliminates phone tag and keeps everyone on the same page with who is available and when!
Improved collaboration and efficiency. These are byproducts of Unified Communications. Face-to-face meetings, travel time, and delayed replies through email are all things of the past. It is easier than ever to stay connected - you can substitute meetings and associated travel with video conferences, delayed replies with instant messaging, and internal paging with presence indicators.
Typically businesses invest in Unified Communications when they are interested in creating efficiency, saving time and money, and are moving into the modern technological era. Investing in UC is investing in the future of business.
Now that you know the history of Unified Communications, what exactly it can do for your business, and why a company should invest in it, I want to take a moment to let you know what the outcome is of utilizing UC. Some trends that businesses are seeing come from using UC include:
The rise of EX. Employee experience (EX) is much like the idea of customer experience (CX). Connected continuously and having instantaneous feedback, employees are becoming the most productive individuals they can be and simultaneously improving the company's efficiency. It is a win-win situation.
o understand more about EX and how Unified Communications can help, check out this article:
The Rise of Employee Experience and How UC Can Help
5G. With the development of more efficient and all-encompassing IP systems, there needs to be development with wireless communications networking. Welcome aboard 5G - changing network speeds, reducing latencies, and affecting all wireless devices.
Disaster Recovery. Being a fully online system, Unified Communications needs protection. This is where disaster recovery comes in. This is the ability to keep your business up and running with critical communication lines even in the event of an unplanned outage that would otherwise leave your business completely crippled.
Presence. This enables you to see where others are. It is much like a status update, allowing workers to see when others are in a conference call, at their desk, available, inactive, etc.
SD-WAN. Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is essentially how UC works. It is where hardware is removed and replaced by software. So, it is monitored and managed from one central location, which can lead to greater stability and performance.
AI. Artificial intelligence is the future. Platforms utilizing AI to enhance in-call services will lead to better customer experience and overall productivity. With AI, transcriptions, security boosts, and authentication is an effect.
The Unified Communications market is projected to surpass $60 billion by 2025! So there's still one question left here, right? Should I buy it?
I hope you feel like your answer is YES. Yes, you should. Unified Communications is the future of business success.
After reading this article, I hope you feel like you understand UC before you are ready to act. Sometimes, doing what is right isn't easy, and I empathize with you. Switching out your old systems for new ones is a process that may take some time to get used to but is extremely advantageous for your company's efficiency. UC has been implemented by many businesses, but there are still many who have yet to switch. Go forth and forge your own path toward the future, hand-in-hand with Unified Communications. Have a bit of some serious fun along the way - it doesn't have to be all business all the time! Optimize and enhance your employee experiences with a new system, faster communication, and a more connected environment.