The benefits of Unified Communications

By Nigel Sinclair Thomson, CEO of 1toGo 

In the last article we looked at what unified communications is.

Today we’ll be looking at the benefits that unified communications can bring businesses and their employees.

Unified communications assists businesses to improve their competitiveness and hence bottom line in multiple ways.

These include:

  • Improved relationships with customers, supply chain and other business partners

Regardless of where employees might be at the time, unified communications increases the probability that they can be contacted on the first attempt. If this isn’t possible, unified messaging (which is a component of unified communications) increases the probability that employees will receive messages time­ously. In addition, the use of real time collaboration tools like instant messaging creates a stronger community between organisations and their business partners than is possible using asynchronous tools such as email.

  • Improved internal collaboration amongst staff at headquarters and remote offices as well as home workers and ‘road warriors’

Employees working outside of an office environment often complain that they feel ‘forgotten’ by the organisa­tion. On the other hand, office based workers find it difficult to reach these remote workers. Unified communications reduces the perceived distance between workers in an organisation.

  • Improved response times

Given that workers are able to be contacted by the most appropriate of multiple methods, unified communications reduces the time spent attempting to contact deci­sion makers and waiting for responses.

  • Improved access to knowledge workers and experts

The use of presence enables the availability of subject matter experts to be communicated throughout the organisation. This increases sales opportunities as it enables contact centre agents or sales account staff to solve customer queries by instant messaging with available subject matter experts regardless of their location while the customer remains on the line. Should the expert not be able to resolve the issue without speaking to the customer, the contact centre agent or sales account staff is able to escalate the call to a three way conference between herself, the customer and the expert.

  • Improved employee productivity

Unified communications reduces the time spent by workers trying to contact other workers in the course of their duties. This improves productivity (particularly that of mobile workers) by freeing up time for staff to undertake additional responsibilities and improving the output of a given staff complement if the free time generated is used productively. Productive use of free time is of course a management issue, not a unified communications issue and hence unified communications cannot by itself guarantee that time savings resulting from the introduction of unified communications will be used productively. Given that salary costs are often a large proportion of the operating costs of businesses, productivity improvements can have a material impact on an organisation’s bottom line.

  • Improved business processes and reducing ‘human latency’

The integration of communications with business processes and enterprise applications enables triggers from the ap­plications to initiate communications automatically. Examples of these include:

  • Automatic notification of the relevant staff if equipment fails
  • Automatic notification of suppliers in the event of inventory shortages or stockouts
  • Automatic notification of the relevant staff if the quality of production deviates from predefined ranges
  • Self-service patient booking systems in the healthcare field with automatic voice or SMS reminders to patients to reduce ‘no shows’.
  • Reduced costs.

Organisations with multiple branches and multi-building campuses can share infrastructure and PSTN links across their branches.

In addition, in a time of rising fuel costs, web and video conferencing reduces the need for car and plane travel. Apart from decreasing travel costs, this reduces an enterprise’s carbon footprint now that organisations are becoming more conscious of the impact that human activities have on the environment.

  • Reduced time to market of products and services

Unified communications enables shorter product development cycles and project timeframes thus reducing time to market and value.

  • Attracting and retaining qualified staff, particularly those from the tech savvy ‘Millennials’ or ‘Generation Y’

Staff entering the workplace participate in online communities and use tools such as instant messaging in their private lives. They expect to find these tools available to them in their workplaces. It’s thus important for businesses to be able to offer their employees a stimulating work environment in order to attract and retain their services. This is especially important for SMEs which often cannot afford to provide staff with benefits such as health insurance and pension fund membership that larger employers can afford. Unified communications assists these businesses to provide their employees with the tools to which they are accustomed in their private lives.

Nigel Sinclair Thomson is CEO of 1toGo, a value added mobile Cloud unified communications service as well as the CEO of Zwana Unicom, the Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia Distributor for CommuniGate Systems' carrier grade unified communications solutions.

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