This white paper will explain how Unified Communications can play an important role in boosting productivity by offering greater mobility, enabling collaboration and saving employees’ time.With features such as presence, softphones, and video conferencing, employees can use their time more productively and communicate with their colleagues and customers more easily.
Business phone systems and communications solutions have come a long way in the past decade, in particular with the shift towards IP-based solutions offering UC features. As more companies look to move away from their old proprietary phone systems towards such solutions, the demand for Unified Communications (UC) features has grown. As recent research from Software Advice shows, 76% of small and medium sized-businesses are interested in purchasing a UC solution (Software Advice, 2014). One of the key reasons driving the adoption of UC solutions is the productivity gains which can be achieved, for all sizes and types of organisations.
Thanks to Unified Communications it is now possible for employees to participate in a web conference when working from home, receive voicemail messages to their email when travelling, and see whether their colleagues are available to take calls.
What’s more, UC applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated, a trend which is set to increase at an even faster pace with the emergence of WebRTC. WebRTC technology, enables video and voice communications to take place through the internet browser, adding a new dimension to Unified Communications.
This white paper will explain how Unified Communications can play an important role in boosting productivity by offering greater mobility, enabling collaboration and saving employees’ time.
Unified Communications is the integration of voice, video and data into one solution, allowing users to be in touch with anyone, wherever they are, and in real time. UC features include: instant messaging, presence information, video conferencing, and unified messaging.
For businesses and other organisations, adopting a UC solution eliminates the need for multiple communications systems. In turn this optimizes business procedures and boosts communications by simplifying processes, making it easier for people to keep in touch.
As businesses and organisations look to updating their communications solutions, Unified Communications can play an important role in boosting productivity and efficiency by offering greater mobility, boosting collaboration and saving employees’ time.
Mobility in the workplace has become an increasingly important topic within recent years. In a survey from InformationWeek the need to create a more mobile workforce was cited as the second most popular reason for adopting UC (InformationWeek, 2014). Offering employees greater mobility and the ability to work at home is also linked to increased productivity and greater job satisfaction.
However, with the rise of remote workers and the increase number of companies using hot desking, employees need to be able to answer their desk phone from a variety of devices and from wherever they are working. UC enables greater mobility in a number of ways, including the one number concept and the provision of softphones.
With the one number concept employees are able to answer their deskphone from a softphone on their PC, smartphone or tablet from wherever they may be working. Employees no longer need to give out their office mobile number, or worse their personal number because they can take their phone number with them. Considering that 60% of workers carry out work communications outside office hours the one number concept is extremely useful (Ofcom, 2014). This feature is also useful for businesses which use hot desking as it allows employees to move around the office, rather than being tied to a fixed handset.
Softphones are another key feature of UC solutions which enable mobility. Softphones are software applications which allow voice and video calls to be made over the internet. With softphone clients for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, employees can answer their office calls even when they are away from their desk on their PC, smartphone or tablet.
With nearly three out of every four organizations issuing corporate-owned laptops and smartphones to their workforces and others implementing ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies, connecting employees with UC has great potential (Frost & Sullivan, 2014). However, it is important that businesses choose a solution which offers reliable clients for all the different operating systems.
One the most cited benefits of Unified Communications is the presence feature. Knowing where your intended recipients are and whether they are available in real time offers great benefits for businesses.
By being able to view others’ presence information saves time and avoids unnecessary call transfers. If for example you want to transfer a client call to an extension, you can first check and see if that extension is busy and then make the transfer, or transfer it to another extension. This feature is also practical for businesses with multiple offices or for those with remote workers, where it is not possible to physically see whether the person is in the office or available to speak.
The presence feature also allows employees to inform their colleagues about their current status and controls how their calls are handled. For instance, if you are in a meeting you can set your status to away so that calls will be automatically diverted to another extension or to your voice mail. This helps employees communicate more efficiently, thereby increasing productivity. Research shows that half of the companies using a presence feature ‘reported fewer repeated messages, or ‘telephone tag’- with many employees saving as much as three hours per week, or 150 hours per year. With the average U.S. worker earning about $35 per hour, an office with 25 employees can recover more than $130,000 in productive work time annually’ (Cisco Systems).
Another useful feature provided by UC solutions is the ability to convert inbound faxes into PDF format and forward them to a user’s e-mail, without requiring any additional fax server software. Likewise voicemails can be converted to sound files and forwarded via e-mail. This increases productivity by ensuring that employees always have the most up-to-date information- there is nothing worse than missing an important message from a colleague or customer.
Unified Communications features can boost collaboration within businesses by enabling employees to interact more easily across different mediums. Research from InformationWeek shows that 62% of businesses said that improved employee collaboration is a top business driver for UC (InformationWeek, 2014). Features which improved business collaboration include: video conferencing and instant messaging.
With a software-based UC solution it is now possible to set-up video conferences with a few clicks and collaborate with colleagues or customers around the world. Moreover, video conferencing can cut the cost and time spent on business travel, making a significant difference to business overheads. With the emergence of WebRTC technology, as explained below, video conferencing is set to become even more flexible.
Visual collaboration can provide a valuable and effective way of communicating with customers and suppliers, enabling businesses to give product demonstrations and pitches. Being able to discuss face-to-face, in contrast to impersonal conference calls, can boost creative collaboration and enable business to make faster decisions. Non-verbal communication and visual interaction can help create successful conversations.
Instant messaging is another helpful UC feature for businesses. The informality and speed of instant messaging allows employees to share their thoughts more easily and cuts down on unnecessary internal emails. Instant messages can enable more productive collaboration, particularly when brainstorming ideas. Another key benefit of instant messaging is the ability to see a colleague’s presence status. With email, on the other hand, you have no indication of whether a person is at their desk or how long it will take for a response.