Far from being just a marketing and technology buzzword, unified communications (UC) refers to the integration of devices, applications and communication methods to develop collaborative and productive methods of communication.
This could include a combination of real-time communication services such as instant messaging, voice over IP (VOIP), video conferencing and interactive whiteboards or non-real-time methods such as email, text messages or voicemail.
Ultimately, unified communications will bring together various communication methods to create consistency across devices and platforms to streamline business processes.
If you’re looking to boost efficiency and productivity through unified communications, discover some top tips that can help you make the transition:
Start with Discovery
Businesses today are fragmented, with multiple offices and remote workers which makes it harder for people to communicate, and often results in multiple tools and point solutions. The first step in a successful Unified Communications implementation is a thorough Discovery phase to understand who your users are, their business requirements and their communication habits.
What tools do they have in place to deliver conferencing, video, messaging and voice?
When are the contracts up for renewal?
The best technology in the world will fail if it doesn’t enable your users to work when, where and how they want – so take this in to consideration from the start.
Build a business case
Unified communications can offer great benefits to businesses, such as cost reductions, enhanced business continuity and greater security. However, it could prove a costly and time-consuming project if you’re not properly prepared for the transition. Inefficient adoption could increase potential security risks too. Start by developing a business case for unified communications and consider what benefits you could realistically reap.
It’s essential to get clear on your business drivers for the project. What are your Unified Communications priorities? When you know the drivers behind the project, you’ll have an easier time building your business case to gain management support – as well as explaining the project and the benefits to the users to improve adoption. Don’t look at technologies until you define your business drivers first!
Get support from the top
Unified Communications is all about changing the way people work, so you’re going to need senior management support for a successful Unified Communications roll-out. When presenting the project, emphasise the increase in business responsiveness and employee productivity, cost reductions in travel, infrastructure and call charges to show the return-on investment.
Is your network up to the task?
Integrated voice, messaging and conferencing may be more network intensive than your old systems. Before you select any technology, you need to understand if your network will be able to handle the increased activity. Voice communication is business-critical, it has to have high-availability and resilience to enable the business to work. Plan and prepare in advance, spend time finding experts to conduct a network assessment to ensure you’ll be able to use the new system to its fullest once in-house.
Review your existing processes and systems
Assess your existing infrastructure to highlight the current communications processes within your business. How these could be improved, what additional methods could aid the business and what do you hope to achieve with unified communications? By having a clear overview of your existing systems, you can identify barriers, determine your specific needs and tailor your approach.
Create a delivery plan
Since Unified Communications integrates voice, messaging and conferencing, it tends to be a complex project to deliver within the business. It’s critical that you make a roadmap at the beginning, so that you can roll out the new technologies in phases and feel confident that you haven’t forgotten key components.
Create a migration plan
Developing a structured plan for adoption will enable you to monitor and manage changes. Converging your communication technologies could become a tangled web if you fail to clarify what’s being integrated and any methods that are being introduced. A migration plan will then help you to develop a phased approach to unification before you get started.
Transform your network
The final step is to implement and rollout the activities that will transform your network and your business. As you manage change, it’s important to consider that you’re changing both business processes and technological processes. Phasing your rollout will help you to mitigate risk, error and substantial disruption. Avoid confusion by ensuring staff are aware of, and prepared for, the changes that will take place and the expected rollout time period.
Could digital technology help you to boost productivity and profits?
Unified Communications ensures complete connectivity for your business, enabling users to communicate and collaborate no matter where they’re located or what device they’re using. However, the idea of replacing and upgrading business-critical systems of voice, messaging and conferencing can seem daunting. Will Unified Communications work for your organisation? Will you actually save money? And will your users actually use the new systems?
Know who will manage Unified Communications
Once you’ve completed your Unified Communications implementation, you need to know what happens next. Who will manage the system? Don’t assume you have to hire experts in-house. A Unified Communications Managed Service provides experts on-demand, guaranteed up-time and SLAs and monitoring of your business-critical systems. It lets you focus on your areas of expertise, while ensuring that your Unified Communications system is in experienced and safe hands.10. Consider a single supplier.
Consider a single supplier
A Unified Communications solution can be complex with lots of moving parts and when something goes wrong, who are you going to call? Consider working with a single supplier, who understands the end-to-end solution, and provides a single point of contact for all questions and issues. A single supplier also makes the implementation process easier, allowing them to focus on delivering a complete solution from system design and network architecture to call tariffs and hardware, rather than you project-managing multiple vendors.