Unified communication is a system that brings together a range of enterprise communication tools such as VoIP, instant messaging, video conferencing, business phones, and more into one cohesive application.
A unified communications system is best suited for organizations that seek to empower teams to communicate and collaborate better, foster effective use of data, and facilitate seamless connectivity in this always-on smartphone age.
Unified communications systems act as an innovative tool to garner optimized enterprise communications with seamless user experience, enabling people to work together efficiently, anywhere, and on any device. It allows companies to drive collaboration and better interaction among a globally-dispersed enterprise workforce of this digital era.
A unified communications system helps deliver a unified user interface and experience across multiple real-time communication channels such as instant messaging, presence information, VoIP (voice over internet protocol), audio, video and web conferencing, desktop sharing, social media platforms, and more along with traditional tools such as email communication and fax.
Owing to the multi-faceted benefits it offers, unified communications and collaboration platforms are gaining popularity as the preferred choice of enterprise communications for many businesses today. Adopting a sound unified communications system can enable enterprises to not only control and integrate their organizational interactions on a single platform but also to manage their myriad enterprise communications channels efficiently.
Importance of Unified Communications and Collaboration for Businesses
An interconnected system of communication devices and applications on a centralized platform, unified communications forms a vital tool to promote collaboration and productivity in any organization.
Below are some of the key reasons why organizations with teams across geographies should consider adopting unified communications:
1. Drives organizational collaboration
As more organizations promote remote work and governments enforce stay-at-home orders amid the pandemic, collaboration enabled through remote-working communications has become the Holy Grail to organizational productivity and efficiency. Embracing the right unified communications system provides access to all the company’s communication tools for traveling and remote employees while ensuring that every communication is recorded in the company’s system for future reference.
By integrating both real-time and asynchronous communication in a single interface, unified communications systems allow employees to make calls from an official number using VoIP, engage in instant chat or text communication, and send emails from anywhere, all the while maintaining consistency across these multiple channels and locations.
2. Ease of access & improved remote capability
The global economy today demands continued access and functionality regardless of geographical boundaries and time zones. An increasing number of companies are outsourcing their work to remote workers around the world, which calls for ease of access and improved remote connectivity. This is where unified communications provide remote or distributed teams with all the necessary tools to work seamlessly from anywhere, at any time.
A centralized unified communications system can ensure that every enterprise communications application is easily accessible from any registered user device through a simple front-end interface. All the employees need to do is sign in and access the required tool from the UC box.
3. Better administration & maintenance
Another key benefit that unified communications bring forth is the centralized storage of information that simplifies administration and maintenance. Generally, in most companies, the IT departments are already stretched, and adding phone system maintenance to that list makes things harder than they already are. Adopting a unified communications system is one of the easiest ways to address this challenge, allowing employees to access support quickly whenever they need it, rather than having to rely on an already overstretched IT department.
The modern cloud-hosted UC systems or UCaaS (Unified communications as a service) offerings deliver additional services such as sophisticated tools and technical expertise, that can bolster enterprise productivity and efficiency, especially for small and mid-sized organizations that otherwise would not have access to such advanced technology.
4. Help ensure compliance
With an exponential increase in the amount of data created in this information age, several regulatory and compliance requirements such as GDPR were devised to ensure user data protection and privacy. At this juncture, unified communications emerged as a crucial element for streamlining the corporate compliance environment, assisting companies in adhering to the regulatory requirements in their businesses. Centralized integrations and cutting-edge security features offered by UC systems ensure that every communications record can be accessed instantly, thereby empowering businesses to avoid massive fines and protect their credibility and brand reputation.
Unified communications systems are a set of tools and services that allows users to engage in omnichannel communications across multiple platforms and devices.
Below is how this system typically functions:
1. Unified communications primarily works with support from multiple back-end systems which play a crucial role in integrating diverse mediums to equip users with a single front-end interface for their communication requirements. The back-end communication system includes UC platforms or servers, on-premise/cloud-based IP-PBX systems, VoIP-enabled phones, headsets, cameras, and microphones, and multipoint control units (MCU) that facilitates desktop-/room-based video conferencing among multiple participants, and telepresence.
2. Along with a robust back-end communication system, a feature-rich user interface is key. The user-facing technologies comprise robust applications to support voice calling, audio conferencing, voicemail, SMS, instant messaging, email and live chat, along with additional video services.
3. Most unified communications and collaboration systems allow easy integration with existing business tools and applications such as CRM software, thereby enabling employees to access historical data and initiate customer interactions directly from the CRM interface. Organizations can also execute integrations with third-party collaboration tools such as Slack or Webex, which allows businesses to communicate with external vendors or partners via a unified interface.
Unified communications systems break down the barriers to efficient collaboration and allow businesses to remain truly productive, even when teams are geographically distant. Now, let’s delve deep into some of the key benefits that organizations can harness by adopting unified communications and collaboration in their organization. Unified Communications as a Service has seen a strong uptake in adoption with the global UCaaS market expected to touch $97.7 billion by 2025, data from Grand View research indicates. In addition, the pivot to the cloud has become a key enabler for the Unified Communications market, allowing mid-sized companies to plug into cloud-based Unified Communications solutions and scale businesses.
1. Boost efficiency & productivity
Unified communications simplify and save time on logistical and operational tasks, making it easier for people to focus on value-adding work. For example, allowing employees to route incoming calls to their preferred device office phone, mobile, or desktop minimizes the possibility of missing important calls. In conjunction with video conferencing and screen sharing, it also helps eliminate the expense and delays of physical meetings without compromising message clarity, quality of interaction, or security. When employees are not limited by geographical or time constraints and are equipped with cutting-edge communications tools that promote work from anywhere, it boosts their morale and results in increased overall productivity.
2. Reduce operating costs
As unified communications systems are scalable and can easily be integrated with existing architecture, organizations can optimize and reduce their business costs. In addition, the growing penetration of cloud UC systems today ensures that companies need to implement only the resources that they need now and scale up as they grow, which largely reduces recurring operating costs.
Owing to the minimal acquisition costs, faster deployment time, and lower ownership costs that hosted UC or UCaaS systems deliver, organizations with limited capital investment resources can streamline their communication services and ensure better collaboration among various teams. Besides, cloud UC systems allow businesses to easily garner high-end features and cutting-edge tools, at a fraction of the cost needed for traditional systems.
3. Improve service reliability
Unlike many of the legacy architectures, unified communication systems deliver the utmost reliability across geographical boundaries and time zones, ensuring seamless, omnichannel communications. In a fast-paced world where quick responses are the general expectation, UC systems allow employees to answer vital calls instantly, wherever they are. Consequently, this enables businesses to ensure ‘always-on’ availability for driving their profit margins by providing better customer service.
4. Improved customer services
Apart from delivering better security, reliability, and performance for enterprise teams, unified communications and collaboration can also be leveraged to offer personalized experiences for customers. Implementing innovative UC systems in your organization can ensure that the right service touchpoint is always available to customers and clients and that teams are well-equipped with the right tools to deliver enhanced customer support at any time and across diverse channels and platforms.
5. Leverage data insights
Real-time data sharing provides a unique advantage for businesses in any sector, and unified communications perfectly facilitate this component of modern business. With a proper UC system in place, executives can make use of a wide range of communication channels to quickly share data among colleagues, superiors, and third-party vendors in real time.
Enterprise teams can also leverage unified communications systems for documentation, which enables them to derive accurate data on the number of leads generated, the most effective communication channels for starting a conversation or closing a deal, and more. Such a close review of communications equips organizations with meaningful insights and analytics to make better business decisions.
6. Increased business agility
Unified communications allow companies to ensure better control over their growth strategy, enabling them to be agile and scale with dynamic customer expectations. Many existing UC solutions offer a range of highly adaptable services that companies can use to build their real-time analytics, contact centers, business phone strategies, and more. In this way, enterprises can boost their competitive edge and keep up to date with the latest technology without incurring heavy expenses.
Top 10 Unified Communications and Collaboration Trends for 2020
Unified communications serve as a crucial investment opportunity for streamlining enterprise communications, augmenting productivity, and delivering seamless user experiences. Here are some of the top trends that are going to shape the unified communications and collaboration market in the year 2020.
1. Increased adoption of Cloud UC
The future of modern communication infrastructures is going to be cloud-based. With the growing accessibility of the internet, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) has become a more viable and cost-effective option than maintaining in-house networks. As the maintenance and management of on-premises solutions are becoming more expensive and challenging, businesses are shifting to UCaaS solutions to streamline critical business functions and enable quick access to their data, audio, and video communication through any internet-ready device. Moreover, because everything is stored on the cloud, disaster recovery and business continuity are better addressed.
2. AI and ML integrations
Though AI and ML integrations are the newest additions to UC systems, there is plenty of evidence that it can help organizations streamline their operations. By leveraging AI and ML, businesses can improve employee productivity and collaboration using data analytics of user behavior and corporate communication patterns. Customer service applications of unified communications are also beneficiaries of AI and ML, with speech-to-text capabilities, intelligent decisioning engines, and virtual assistants or bots.
3. The proliferation of AR & VR
AR & VR technology is redefining customer experience technology and has already found integration in many cross-vertical applications such as healthcare, entertainment, and more. AR & VR technology holds the potential to drive innovation in the UC environment by turning overlying information into visual content in real-time and letting staff truly ‘experience’ collaboration. Even though still in nascent stages, AR & VR technology has the potential to change the UC game.
4. IoT-powered mobile workforce
As the first quarter of 2020 has ended on the verge of a pandemic, we are witnessing a shift in the definition of work as a space rather than a place. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, worldwide employees are forced to work virtually, conduct meetings, and file reports from their homes. It is the proliferation of smartphones and increased enterprise adoption of futuristic applications and devices running on IoT, which has made this unification possible. Moving forward, companies need to train employees to use mobile and smart devices to boost their communication and collaboration possibilities wherever they are, without any threat of data loss or security vulnerabilities.
5. Virtual meeting rooms
Virtual meetings or video conferencing have already been adopted in many companies to save time and resources, deliver clear messages, and keep executive boards updated with the latest developments within the organization. Virtual meeting rooms enable people to communicate efficiently in real-time over the internet using integrated audio, video, chats, and application tools regardless of their location. The growing global trend towards remote working and distributed office setup compels enterprises to invest in virtual conferences and other unified communications systems in their organizations.
6. 5G connectivity
The emergence of 5G connectivity has advanced network architecture and brings home the speed that the world demands today. Owing to its high-end features, 5G equips UC systems with exceptional capabilities in terms of data speed, capacity, and low latency, delivering a series of benefits including improved HD video streaming, AR & VR integration, enhanced collaboration, and improved VoIP services across multiple locations. This empowers businesses to leverage staff video calls in 4k, introduce virtual tours into video calls, and many more.
7. Smart devices and wearables
An exponential increase in the global use of smart devices and wearable technology including watches, fitness trackers andclothing, have unearthed a gold mine for the unified communications landscape. With the ever-increasing adoption of smartphones in business, companies are gradually turning to smart devices as a key driver for adopting unified communications in the workplace, and plan to invest in smartphone apps for optimizing their business processes.
8. Blockchain integrations
The global trends in the UC market today indicate the increasing use of blockchain to accelerate the migration of mobile numbers to different service providers, and integrating workplace communication channels is the latest trend. As blockchain serves as a decentralized ledger that can provide standardized access and routing lookup for all operators worldwide, companies are investing in this emerging tech to optimize the mobile number portability (MPN), local number portability (LNP), do not call (DNC) registries of their office phones, mobile phones, as well as their VoIP phones.
9. Embedding CPaaS and APIs for workflow optimization
Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) provides businesses with a comprehensive framework for their unified communications requirements, rather than investing in separate apps and tools for different functions like video conferencing, calling, and messaging. Moreover, the growing demand for ease of access and centralized management in the UC landscape persuaded organizations to embrace CPaaS and APIs into their existing business tools. This can propel the integration of instant messaging, video calling, or appointment reminders on the company’s systems, rendering superior user experience for the employee and customers alike.
10. Enhancing data security
In this data-driven world, companies continue to collect user information whenever they can to provide personalized customer services and stay ahead of the competition. Besides, the rapid proliferation of cloud computing and the increased pace of technology adoption have raised concerns regarding data security and privacy as well. As a result, companies are mandated by regulations to build-in data security and privacy protection in their UC architecture to secure user information, as well as to earn the trust of their customers. Pointing critical investments in security systems to ensure data protection, messaging encryption, fraud prevention, security controls, and network flexibility is another key trend that is going to shape the UC market this year.
The future for unified communications is exciting and offers great opportunities to corporates that want to give teams a competitive advantage. As distributed and remote workforces become the norm and global organizations build vendors and customer bases in far-flung places, the demand for unified communications to save cost and time while driving productivity will only grow. The 10 technology trends impacting UC are only going to make the space more interactive, engaging and powerful.