Unified communications has rapidly transformed from a novel and trendy movement among certain businesses to a core operational capability in the past several years, with organizations in virtually every industry beginning to implement the tools for a variety of purposes. Beginning with Voice over Internet Protocol business phone services and branching out into myriad other tools and solutions that integrate into one cohesive framework, the UC revolution is now in its highest gear.
Notably, UC has become a more intuitive and affordable trend, enabling widespread adoption among businesses from a variety of backgrounds and possessing a range of internal needs and objectives. With vendors scaling up options to become more comprehensive and integrated, decision-makers are enjoying a stable buyers' market today, allowing a more diverse group of companies to capture the collaborative and progressive power of the products therein.
This has, in many ways, further boosted the flexibility and agility of the average business along with cloud services, and leaders have opportunities to decrease long-term operational expenditures while bolstering capabilities and operational performance improvements in the process. The option to bundle services for savings on each service while reducing the cost of monthly and annual accounts has been a driver of UC demand more recently.
As long as the right management, oversight, support and governance practices are in place, virtually any type of organization can enjoy the benefits and strategic advantages of VoIP, video conferencing, instant messaging and generally unified collaboration platforms. It takes a bit of time, effort and diligent research to truly optimize the UC experience for employees, clientele and the business at large, but it is a worthy task for any company that is ready to enjoy modernized operational environments.
When good UC goes wrong
Curtis Peterson, writing for InformationWeek, recently explained some of the ways in which even the best UC strategies are failing to completely unify the collaboration process, asserting that product and service isolation might be the root cause. One could make an argument that the tenets of UC optimization are similar to those of data management best practices, in that each component must be covered individually with overarching unification measures in place to maintain cohesion as a whole.
According to the author, there is no denying that UC is spreading like wildfire across a range of industries and regions. Peterson cited a study from Forrester Research that revealed the market is supposed to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 15 percent between now and 2018, eventually hitting a $62 billion yearly revenue size. However, he noted that businesses must take several targeted steps to truly capture the power of this trend, and that many of the necessary actions are related to policy, management and oversight.
For example, Peterson pointed out that many companies are keeping each aspect of communication and collaboration siloed or isolated in another fashion, and stated that this is not necessary nor is it best practice. At the end of the day, the whole point of UC is to bring all of the various tools and channels together into one comprehensive environment, rather than simply investing in different products and managing them individually.
The risk of this approach, the author stated, is that it will yield extraneous redundancy that can actually reduce productivity and employee engagement rather than driving these two critical corporate processes. He went on to note that unified interaction should be the goal, using a breadth of tools that are entirely interconnected for the most unified and efficient experience for each employee using the tools and the business as a whole.
What was likely his most important suggestion, though, was that business leaders should work to leverage standing behaviors and preferences when developing the UC strategy, rather than forcing employees to adjust to the new investments.
Steps toward optimization
Reaching any type of optimal environment, regardless of whether the discussion pertains to UC, IT or otherwise, takes hard work and consistent due diligent. Decision-makers should always begin these programs by conducting significant internal research, surveying staff members and company-wide buy-in before making the first purchase.
As Peterson noted, bundling services through a single provider does not necessarily mean that the company can sit back and enjoy a wholly unified communication experience. Rather, bundling will be helpful to reduce the actual costs of the equipment and services while maximizing interoperability and support efficiency, while decision-makers will have to make sure that staff member use and corporate support are at the proper levels.
In many cases, going the UC-as-a-Service route will be critical to optimize the overall comprehension and capabilities of the various investments, as this will put much of the configuration, maintenance and back-end management responsibilities on an external vendor. Then, business leaders and IT managers will be able to focus more on the strategic and front-end aspects of the oversight framework.