The way business is conducted has changed around the world. Modern workforces are no longer limited by physical location, or on-premises data centres and hardware that make accessing business critical files or information impossible when out of the office.
Thanks to technical advancements and the digital transformation of many business networks, employees can now connect with each other and with central databases from anywhere. It would not be uncommon today for one business team to be dispersed across the globe, working together on a daily basis using Unified Communications (UC) tools. UC tools allow colleagues to communicate with each other seamlessly regardless of their location through voice and telephony, meeting and web conferencing tools, unified messaging and instant messaging platforms, and various other applications.
In fact, 70 percent of the global workforce works remotely at least once a week – meaning that the majority of today’s employees are reliant on unified communications tools to do their job to some degree.
However, effective unified communications go beyond just deploying a tool and waiting for your employees to make the most of them. In order to reap all of the benefits and cost savings of unified communications, organisations and IT teams must implement these programs with a holistic, strategic approach.
Benefits of UC for Employees and Cost Reduction
Before delving into what must go into a holistic unified communications strategy, let’s explore the cost and employee satisfaction benefits organisations stand to earn when taking this approach.
- Collaborative Environment: An effective unified communications system creates a seamlessly collaborative environment, giving your employees access to each other and business resources from across the organisation, regardless of where they are physically. This can simplify tasks, review processes, and approvals across departments. Moreover, the accessibility that enables this collaborative environment gives greater flexibility to employees, allowing them to work remotely as needed improving morale and retention
- Productivity: The ability to easily communicate across teams from anywhere and interoperability across existing systems also improves productivity. When communication is simplified, business processes are inevitably streamlined allowing teams to accomplish more in the same amount of time
- Efficient: Having notes, files, and communications accessible in one location allows teams to work more efficiently, getting through reviews and approvals faster to speed time to market
- Cost Effective: First, it is important to note that all of the aforementioned benefits (collaboration, productivity, and efficiency) also function to make unified communications tools and processes cost effective. However, beyond these long-term cost impacts, modern unified communications solutions such as UC as a Service (UCaaS), can offer advanced cost savings. UCaaS, just like many SaaS solutions, allow organisations to get all of the benefits of unified communications systems without the heavy up-front infrastructure costs. Furthermore, UCaaS solutions reduce overall operating costs, as well as the expenditure of manpower to deploy and maintain solutions
A Holistic Approach to Unified Communications Strategy
In order to attain these benefits that lead to cost savings, enhanced employee satisfaction, and improved productivity, IT teams must deploy their UC programs in accordance with these steps:
1 – Advisory and Discovery: This is the first step in the process on the road to effective unified communications, and it goes well beyond just finding a UC tool for the lowest price. For this reason, it can be helpful for IT teams to work with a third-party managed service provider to assist in defining the process. This first step requires thinking about the long-term goals of your organisation and how unified communications will play into these goals. This will help solidify your UC vision and determine what features you need out of your tools. For example, say your business goals are to open three international offices over the next ten years. This will dictate which solution you select, and can mean that choosing the least expensive tool that meets only your current needs, can actually hurt your ROI. During this step, IT teams should work together or with their UC advisory team to answer questions such as:
- What are our long-term goals?
- What features do we need out of our UC tool to achieve these goals?
- How will prospective tools integrate with our existing systems?
- How will we define success for the deployment and long-term use of the tool?
2 – Delivery and Deployment: Just as the discovery phase is not as simple as finding the cheapest tool, the delivery phase is more than just implementing it. Delivery begins with deploying the tool within the network while considering the existing infrastructure. This might mean retiring old tools that this new solution will replace, or integrating the new solution with existing ones. This will require strong understanding of the UC vision established in the advisory and discovery phase. Next, IT teams or their advisory partners will have to test the tool to ensure smooth implementation. Finally, IT teams will have to work with advisors and lines of business to get employees to actually adopt and use these tools. Adoption is a common challenge with UC deployment, and will likely be one of the most time-consuming aspects of the process. However, if employees ignore the new capabilities in favor of older tools or their own processes, they will not get the full flexibility and productivity benefits, while the organisation will miss out on ROI for the tool
3 – Manage and Maintain: Once the tool is deployed and in use across the organisation, IT teams must establish the processes and team members to regularly maintain and update software and hardware solutions. Regular up keep for this technology is essential to long-term ROI and consistent day to day operations
An effective unified communications strategy stands to offer immense benefits to your organisation in terms of employee satisfaction and cost reduction through UCaaS, productivity, and efficiency. However, in order to achieve these benefits, IT teams must take a holistic approach to their UC strategy, identify core business needs, focusing on deployment and adoption, and maintaining the tool in the long term.
Guest Blog by Dietmar Kraume, Director of UC Technology at SoftwareONE
Dietmar is a proven expert in IT and telecommunications and has been at home in the industry for more than 25 years. Among his professional positions are companies, such as UC Point, BORGWARE, Hewlett Packard, Webcall Germany and CREALOGIX Unified Communications. At SoftwareONE, Dietmar is responsible for the company’s technological UC services continuously exploring the latest trends in communication and collaboration to develop state-of-the-art communications products.