4 Key Questions for Unified Communications

Author’s Note: I recently had the pleasure of hosting a webinar with Gartner analyst David Smith on the value of Unified Communications (UC). Check out David’s presentation on emerging applications and discover answers to the 4 key questions for UC below.

1. What’s driving the importance of Unified Communications?

UC adoption is being influenced by a number of factors. At the macro level, many companies have gotten very good at doing more with less and increasing efficiencies to decrease costs. Economic recovery is allowing companies to consider expanding their business into new markets. While this allows them to explore new business and service delivery models, it also often requires them to manage an increasingly complex Information and Communications Technology environment.

This need to “go global” is also accompanied by needs to “go mobile” and to “go virtual.” Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion in the amount of content available online as well as the devices used to consume it. In the enterprise, increased requirements to support cross-organizational teaming and collaboration is resulting in the proliferation of audio, video, and Web communications. The ever-growing use of enterprise and public social software further blurs the line between being “at home” and “at work.” Finally, the need to support an increasingly mobile and remote workforce requires new tools and capabilities that can only be effectively provided by UC.

2. How does UC enable enterprises to improve how individuals and groups interact and perform?

From collaboration to mobility to what most businesses are concerned with – generating revenue, controlling expenses, improving productivity, and enhancing competitive advantage – UC will change the way many daily activities and processes are conducted.  There are real, tangible benefits available through UC to further power productivity and collaboration. For example, most companies today have a variety of communications tools that are only loosely if at all integrated and limited to specific types of devices. UC gives immediate access to the people and information we need to be more productive and to generate more revenue. UC does this across many types of devices such as PCs and laptops, smartphones and tablets, and desktop IP phones.

In the past, UC was effectively limited to presence and messaging. Today, however, it now includes rich communication tools like video, voice, and document sharing, integrated and all working together seamlessly. UC allows you to communicate in the right way at the right time, whether it’s through instant messaging on a desktop, Web conferencing on a tablet, or taking your “session” with you. Integrating UC with businesses process can provide even more business and IT benefits.

3. What do you mean by integrating tools with business processes?

UC can not only bring multiple communication and collaboration tools together for personal productivity benefits. The same platforms deployed to support user-based UC can also support application-based UC, where UC can be integrated with critical business processes and the applications that support them.  It’s called communications-enabling a business process or CEBP. This approach helps reduce communication delays, optimize business processes for efficiency, accelerate the pace of business, and improves the ability to respond to key issues effectively. For example, you can provide faster access to experts by adding a “click to chat/call” feature to your support website, or shorten sales cycles by enabling automated notifications to “ping” stakeholders during a contract approval process. You can reduce travel costs by collaborating across geographies with video conferencing or improve a customer experience through providing contact center agents with presence information for key experts to increase first-call resolution rates. This of course, leads to more satisfied customers.  Whatever your business may be, there is a way CEBP can not only help you be better, it can help you be smarter, solve problems more effectively, and accelerate projects by bringing people together in ways never before possible.

4. What should enterprises think about when considering UC adoption?

First and foremost, companies should focus on providing enterprise-class UC services and support. As with any other service provided by IT, UC must be available for use and fit a purpose. UC services need to provide secure collaboration both inside and outside the firewall with a consistent, real-time user experience. The freedom to choose different endpoints and devices is very important to many customers – especially those who must provide support for multiple operating environments, including Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, and BlackBerry. Video communication is becoming increasingly embedded into enterprise UC and social media tools are changing the way that people interact with partners, vendors, and customers.  Finally, there is now complete flexibility of deployment options between on-premises, cloud-based, and hybrid deployment models. All of these things must be addressed early in the UC service strategic planning process to ensure maximum value for costs, return on investment, and user satisfaction.

The most successful UC implementations are those that are closely aligned with and best support the requirements of the business. A UC strategy must meet these objectives, beginning with where the customer is today through the deployment and transformation, and into steady-state management of their UC environment. UC solutions should be scalable and versatile but are definitely not “one size fits all.”  That’s why our focus is helping customers best utilize the network, UC platforms, SIP trunking, security, monitoring and management, billing and customer care on a global scale for both fixed and mobile workforce environments.

For more information on unified communications services, tune into the webinar now.

Eric Sineath Consulting Chief Architect AT&T About Eric