What – exactly – is unified communications?

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What – exactly – is unified communications?
This article first appeared on Best in UC. As a technology services company, our most difficult job may not be what you would expect. It’s not the installation of new products or designing effective solutions. It’s not even finding new customers. The toughest part of our job is defining what we do. Because eventually, almost all of our potential customers get around to the same question: what – exactly – is unified communications? Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. Unified communications has been defined in many different ways by various companies who sell related products and services. That has made is difficult for everyone in our industry to explain, in a simple manner, what our customers will get when we install a unified communications solution. It’s time to create a definition that’s easy to understand. Let’s get to it, without too many confusing buzzwords or lofty, meaningless terms. Unified communications is not a single product or service. That’s what makes it so difficult to explain. Rather, unified communications is the act of bringing together the information you need to do your job effectively. Before I blow your mind with a long list of technologies, let’s talk in terms of practicality. Consider the average information worker at the average business. On a typical day, this person spends a great deal of time simply managing the inflow of information to various locations. He probably has an overflowing email inbox. On his desk is a phone, upon which the red “you’ve got voicemail” icon is always blinking. Next to that office phone is another phone – a mobile one. Or perhaps two phones – one for work, and one for home. Each of these has text messages captured in its memory, as well as a separate voicemail box. But wait, there’s more. Perhaps his company encourages the use of instant messages on the computer. Or, he might still have an old-school fax machine, real or virtual. And don’t forget social media, video conferencing, and so much more! Do you feel overwhelmed by this worker’s communications vehicles? I sure do. And that’s why I encourage companies to embrace unified communications. With unified communications (UC), you throw out your legacy PBX phone system. In its place, you install a much less-expensive VoIP solution, through which voice and data communications can be consolidated and simplified. E-mail, voicemail and instant messaging are brought together into a single location, making workers more productive. This also create opportunities for mobility, since many UC solutions allow all communications to be accessed by PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. In short, UC streamlines communications by tying together all the disparate parts and making it much easier for everyone to do business. Even if team members work on different kinds of technologies, they can collaborate with one another more effectively. In addition, UC greatly enhances customer service. Advanced features make it simple for customers to reach out – and receive – the information and help they need. For example, phone calls can “find” and “follow” workers, whether they are in the office or abroad with a mobile phone. As technologies continue to expand and improve, the functionality of UC will only grow. Right now, UC solutions are being extended to accommodate video conferencing capabilities – both internally in workgroups and externally with customers. Don’t let the technical-sounding name fool you – or scare you away. Unified communications is as simple as this: saving money, improving efficiency, and creating new and better ways to work.

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