Putting the ‘unified’ in unified communications, featured by ITProPortal

Phillip Smith
Software Director

Putting the ‘unified’ in unified communications

Moving on from a turbulent 2020 will be more difficult for some enterprises than others – as words such as ‘evolve’, ‘pivot’ and ‘diversify’ are firmly embedded into our vocabulary and new-look business models.

And while technology adoption has exploded, there’s still lots to be learnt when it comes to the digital approach we’re taking – and if we’re really as unified and connected as what we think we are. Our software director, Phillip Smith, first discussed this very topic with IT Pro Portal, and shares his thoughts here…

As organisations continue to pivot their business models to evolve and survive the challenging current climate, there has been no question that technology adoption has seen a huge boom in recent months – and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Coping with the fast-paced demands of staying connected and communicating directly with not only customers, but colleagues too, has led to several firms tapping into the powers of what it means to be entirely digital-first – something they may not have even considered, or were ready for, pre-pandemic.

For most sectors, such a shift in mindset and technology adoption has allowed many modern-day workforces – who have the tools at their fingertips – to be able to effectively hold video conferences, schedule appointments and set up quick-fire chats with team members.

When viewing the latest statistics too, it clearly shows how powerful visual comms platforms have been during a year that challenged organisations across the globe to not only revise their proposition but also continue to operate remotely, in many cases.

And as companies continue to update IT legacy systems, integrate collaborative team apps into their infrastructure and revisit their existing software stack to make necessary improvements, one area that has experienced a huge increase is that of Unified Communications (UC).

For many firms this might have been something of a corporate buzzword pre-pandemic, but throughout 2020, UC has evolved the digital workforce like never before. In fact, it has reportedly led to spikes in adoption of more than 80% during Covid-19 because workforces understood how it could empower their ambitions to become more collaborative – especially when operating in various locations.

In its simplest of terms, UC brings together how individuals connect and communicate – whether that’s via video, audio notes or instant messaging. Businesses are tapping into it as a service in order to interact and address isolated employees or siloed departments.

Dissecting what it takes to become a unified business

However, while it has been summed up simply, UC presents an incredible array of opportunities – many of which enterprises are failing to tap into, or even know about. Because the fact is, UC isn’t solely about helping everyone to communicate – it’s so much more.

Think about this in the context of a modern-day workforce. Employees are faced with hundreds of proprietary systems – whether Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, WhatsApp or Google Meet – in order to speak to colleagues and customers. So, with so many choices, where is the unification in terms of bringing teams together?

With a range of comms tools before them, it can often be hard for many employees to keep track of what information is being presented, stored and shared where. Therefore, and rather ironically, it’s de-unifying the unification process.

That’s certainly the case for much larger firms that have premises all over the world. Many will be operating autonomously in their respective countries but what communicative tools might work for the team in the US won’t necessarily be the first port of call for their European or Asian counterparts.

If everyone was using one system, then there would technically be a case for true unification. But in reality, workforces aren’t doing this.

Additionally, unification isn’t just a problem for multi-national corporations, the problem exists on an inter-company level too. For example, a team of less than 50 individuals might have a sales manager engaging with an enterprise, and using its preferred UC system to do so. However, when that employee interacts with other firms – using alternative forms of communication such as phone calls, emails, Zoom and Slack – how can organisations effectively keep track of their activity?

Could system integration provide the way forward for enterprises?

For the companies that are aiming to achieve a true UC experience, a way forward could be to begin by bringing every piece of collaboration under one roof. Enabling colleagues to stay connected, as well as communicate and operate in a more streamlined way via integrated tools from one laptop to the next, helps teams to reach more of a unified understanding.

Of course, piecing together a mix of technology isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach as each organisation will have their individual obstacles to overcome – from revamping legacy processes and pivoting business models to remain ahead of the curve – but it can truly empower employees and their enterprises to take advantage of what UC represents.

Not only that, but adopting a genuine approach to communication enables leaders to far greater understand their workplace analytics – where they can begin to build up a picture and truly analyse how productive their employees are. By equipping managers with actionable insights, via unified intelligence, they’re in a stronger position to solve problems, make business-critical decisions and control budgets and time, as well as encourage further staff training and engagement where required.

There is no doubt that senior figures of any organisation have challenging times ahead and it’s often difficult to understand which tool is going to be the best fit for their enterprise. But by taking the necessary steps to unify their communications, that can instantly help to bridge the gap between disparate departments and further motivate employees to work more collaboratively.

With any company-wide decision comes hurdles, but also opportunities. And if there was ever a more pertinent time to make a vital choice – one which allows leaders to utilise data that supports how they can diversify their business models and evolve all-important continuity strategies to positively move beyond a crisis – it’s right now.