The promise of UC
Innovations in unified communications, with focus on expanding use cases, has the potential to bring in more organisations into the UC fold
Unified Communications (UC) is an increasingly important investment for organisations looking to improve productivity and responsiveness while reducing their IT costs.
The convergence of voice, video, and data communications around a shared IP-based infrastructure - allowing users to easily make a call, send a message, or join an audio or video conference - is bringing benefits to businesses of every size, industry, and geography, notes observes Wael Abdulal, Senior Manager, Collaboration, Cisco UAE. “Information has been at our fingertips for a long time, but UC enables the sharing of this information to create knowledge and value,” Abdulal says.
Unified communications is in fact giving way to collaboration, delivering on the promise of seamless communication from conference calls to text, audio, video and virtual white boards all on one interface.
One example is companies integrating their UC environment with call centres to improve customer service through the ability to trace communications end to end and to see the entire picture of the customer interaction.
Dispersed teams with geographically distributed organisations could significantly improve the collaboration between virtual teams and overcome inefficiencies that distance and time create, observes Hatim Amro, UC Practice Lead, MENA and Turkey for Orange Business Services. “Knowing when co-workers are available helps you reach them more quickly and via their preferred contact method, making the team more productive. They can hold effective meetings from anywhere, reduce business travel and improve work-life balance,” says Amro.
And it’s not just for internal projects where UC has a vital role, Amro says. UC can improve effectiveness with partners, suppliers, vendors and customers, creating a better overall experience.
UC, in whatever format, is today much more influenced by technology trends.
Unified communications evolution is now closely linked to the ability to leverage the continued growth in mobile devices entering the business environment, observes Abdulal. With mobile growth rates set to remain sturdy for the foreseeable future, the dependence on tablets and smartphones is only set to increase. “As the BYOD trend continues to take hold at organisations across geographies and industries, we see mobile devices playing an increasingly prominent role in enabling a variety of business communication channels. And as UC vendors innovate to better serve the growing base of workers who spend more time on tablets or smartphones than at desks, they will also need to give greater focus to enabling people to customize and personalise how they use their own devices for work – making flexibility and ease of use even more essential,” Abdulal adds.
HD video can also become a reality everywhere, creating a more interactive end user experience to better service customers and improve the workspace environment with further investment in telecommunications infrastructure, says Amro.
Challenges remain however on the road to a widespread UC utopia.
For one, there is no such thing as plug and play in the UC space yet, Amro says, although there’s growing simplification of the end user interface. “However, back-end systems still remain complex due to the integration of different platforms to provide the UC,” Amro says.