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What is Unified Communications?

June 4, 2019 / Evolve IP

While researching business phone systems, collaboration, remote and hybrid working solutions, you probably come across the phrase “Unified Communications” a lot. But what is unified communications (UC)? What are the key business drivers and benefits of this solution? What are the top 10 questions businesses should be asking themselves to determine which UCaaS solution best fits their remote and hybrid working strategy? This blog post will help you understand the nuances around Unified Communications and what it means in today’s age of digital transformation.

What is UC?

Unified Communications or UC is everything that a modern business needs today to communicate and collaborate with their employees and customers. UC refers to a streamlined, often cloud-based, solution that brings video, chat, conferencing, file sharing and more together in a single platform along with voice services.

How? By bringing the voice communications to the Internet via VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol. With VoIP (commonly pronounced ‘voyp’) the human voice becomes an analog data packet that can be transmitted via the Internet.

Thus, UC takes all of the tools the business uses on a given day and deploys them in a single service for easy user adoption. For example, employees can link their own cell phones (if you’re a BYOD, bring your own device office) to work phones and transfer calls seamlessly, to wherever they are, via UC, which also includes IM (instant messaging). At the same time, workers can work out of a single, unified inbox that collects email, fax, voicemail transcriptions and more — in one place.

UC Components:

UC integrates (or “unifies”) the phone system with multiple enterprise communication tools with the goal to improve end-user experience, increase productivity and to provide users with the flexibility to work from any location, on any device.

UC can be deployed on-premises, in a private or public cloud. The rise in remote and hybrid working has accelerated the adoption of cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based UC, also known as Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) frees businesses from the hassle of managing the IT infrastructure and datacenters. With UCaaS you partner with a vendor who can help customize your UC solution to your needs, integrating the platform with your existing applications and unique networking solutions.

A UCaaS platform is a suite of tools that includes the following features and more:

  • Instant Messaging and Presence (IM&P)
  • File Transfer
  • Email
  • Text Messaging or SMS
  • Audio and Video Calling
  • Video Conferencing (with multiple participants)
  • 2-Way Desktop Sharing
  • Call Center Controls
  • Voicemail
  • Mobility
  • Screen sharing
  • Calendar and Scheduling
  • Ability to integrate with devices such as phones, headsets, cameras, microphones, video conferencing solutions
  • Ability to integrate with Collaboration tools such Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex
  • Ability to integrate with CRM and Contact Center (CCaaS) solutions

Key Drivers of UCaaS

The pandemic has changed the way we work. We now live in an era where work is no longer tied to a physical location, phone or screen. This rise in remote and hybrid working, has given rise to a vast majority of communication tools that has overwhelmed most IT teams and employees. This is why, most businesses are re-evaluating their existing UC solution and are looking for a vendor that can deliver a long-term UCaaS strategy.

Here are the top 3 business drivers that we come across during our customer interactions for UCaaS:

  • Unify, Consolidate & Integrate: Businesses are looking for a single, consolidated UCaaS solution that can seamlessly integrate with other collaboration and CCaaS solutions while delivering a unified end-user experience.
  • Simplify Communication & Collaboration: Solution must be easy-to-use by staff, and should allow for simple and scalable management. This will enable employees to communicate and collaborate efficiently and improve productivity.
  • Supports Remote & Hybrid Working: Businesses need a solution that is long-term and supports remote & hybrid working i.e. it can support hybrid deployments and meet unique PBX needs of the business.

Benefits of UCaaS

The right UCaaS solution improves employee productivity enables better communication and collaboration. Employees can connect with their co-workers any time to collaborate on a project and solve customer issues faster. It improves employee engagement and customer satisfaction. The seamless integration between the telephony solution and other cloud solutions such as CCaaS and Microsoft Teams enhances user experience and visibility. UCaaS technologies reduces travel costs, provides employees the flexibility to work from office, home or on the road and use the device of their choice such as a desktop, mobile or laptop computer.

Top 10 Questions to Consider when determining the right UCaaS solution for your organization

Like most businesses, if your organization is looking for a modern UCaaS solution, here are the top 10 questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do your employees use multiple/different collaboration systems today? If yes, have you considered adopting a single collaboration solution such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex etc.?
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your collaboration solution?
  • Does your telephony or UCaaS solution integrate with your collaboration software for a seamless experience? If not, then that’s where the market is headed.
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your phone system? Here are the top few that we’ve seen customers typically choose to support their remote workforce: Call recording, Receptionist Applications, Contact Center Features, CRM Integrations, Calling, Number Porting, Global Presence, Ability to support multiple handsets, Basic and Advanced UCaaS features listed under ‘UC components’, Administration portal to configure and manage telephony, voicemail, call center & conferencing functions
  • Does your UCaaS solution support the unique PBX needs of your remote and/or hybrid working business?
  • Are your employees phone calls / agents customer calls being recorded?
  • Do you have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy? If not, and employees don’t have a work laptop to bring home, it’s a great time to investigate one.
  • How will your employees access applications hosted on-premises?
  • Will you remotely support the at-home equipment? Will your existing support hours suffice?
  • Where are the support boundaries drawn for personal equipment? Is this solely the employee’s responsibility?

Evolve IP’s Unified Communications delivers award-winning collaboration and crystal-clear voice services that integrate with the applications you’re already using today, on any connected device. So, if you’re curious about what we can do for your business, then reach out to one of our Technology Advisors and #JoinTheEvolution!

Categories: Unified Communications
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