As VOIP continues to rise, business communications are entering into an age very quickly where a wide range of digital tools that allow teams to work together digitally in order to get work done effectively. Perhaps you might have heard of “Unified Communications and Collaboration” while you are going about your business activities. So what does the term mean? Various definitions are out, so the question can be hard to answer.
Many discuss these kinds of team collaboration solutions as being the best business communication new revolution, but that might not be the full story. So what is “Unified Communications” and “collaboration?” How do these two things interact with each other? Should your business spend money on a different communication solution? Is the investment outweighed by the risks? What are the potential issues that you might run into? It might be difficult to determine the answer to those questions, however, we can help you.
Let’s discuss Unified Communications and Collaboration, and try to come to a better understanding of the way that modern business communications actually work.
What does Unified Communications actually mean?
A broad range of tools and solutions are covered by “Unified Communications” that are available to your company to use for effectively communicating and working together, all as part of one program that is easy to use. The concept overall is comprised of uniting tools into a universal platform that were independent at one time so that everyone is able to work in a collaborative manner together. Over time, employing Unified Communications can help provide your company with a boost in productivity, to provide you with a quicker decision and increase your communication abilities.
What Unified Communications are is a range of business applications where several communication channels are combined into a single unified platform.
There is not an exact example of what this kind of solution is made of. however, there are several kinds of elements that can comprise a UC platform. There are many kinds of UC solutions that have similar features. However, each individual feature might have a different focus. A Unified Communications solutions offered by a Business VoIP provider might also offer highly functioning telephone services that have texting, messaging, and video conferencing added on as additional features.
Or a provider offering video conferencing service might provide high-quality video that has an additional messaging feature. A real-world example is Skype for Business from Microsoft. Another example of this kind of solution is Spark from Cisco and offers digital whiteboarding along with video services.
The following kinds of functions are often featured by Unified Communications solutions:
- Telephone systems that come with advanced controls for making calls
- Instant messaging that can be used with multiple devices
- Indicators that show who is away from their desks and currently available
- Audio conferencing and online video
- Mobile apps that give users the ability to use their software on their computer and phone
- Web portals or desktop systems running in a browser
- Ability for collaboration
The features can be put together into one program, with a majority of the focus being on the way the software is experienced by the user. Nobody is going to bother switching over if it isn’t easy to operate and learn how to use. It should be easy to switch from one communication method to a different one, it should contain information that is easy to consume, and it should be really easy to use the app. UC applications are very useful since all of the functions work together in one program.
What does Collaboration actually mean?
Before moving deeper into discussing Unified Communications, learning about collaboration is also important. Although there is a tendency for Collaboration and Unified Communications to be mentioned at the same time, usually there is a distinction into between the two ideas. Unified Communications creates new methods that teams can use to communicate, with presence indicators, instant messaging, video conferences, and audio conferences.
However, collaboration has more to do with assisting those teams with working together in order to achieve a unified goal. Those kinds of tools frequently include communication tools, or that might be integrated with existing UC solutions that include these types of functions. Often collaboration tools include some of these:
- Collaborative whiteboards
- Editing and file sharing
- Screen sharing
- Advanced call control
- Live video and audio conferences
It is very easy to see that there is a lot of overlap between a Collaboration and UC platform. Let’s return to our earlier UC example to see how the two intersect with one another. Cisco Spark works as a Collaboration and UC tool, and offers important communication tools like video conferencing, messaging, and presence indicators, and contains collaboration functions as well such as digital whiteboarding and file sharing.
The two ideas are a little different from one another, however, they are combined quite often under the UC & C topic. Check out our guide to learn more about the best Collaboration options to use in your business.
How Do Collaboration and Unified Communication Work?
The focus of UC&C systems is on real-real communications taking place between employees. Examining the difference between texting and email is one way that you can see the difference clearly between Unified Communications and legacy communications. Texting occurs live and has a tendency to flow quickly as if you were talking to the individual in real-time.
Email is more like standard mail, with a recipient reading and responding to a message when they can. The expectation is not to respond in real-time. Many people just read their email a couple of times per day, sometimes at set times, although they will respond to text messages right when they come in.
The process of Unified Communications works by including real-time conversations into your daily workflow. This allows people to collaborate on projects together and share information very effectively. This can be achieved by limiting the amount of fraction connected with slower communication forms such as email. Instead, real-time messaging replaces email so that decisions can be made faster and communication flows more freely and smoothly.
The programs are set up on the top of the platform. Therefore, for example, you make use a web conference tool built on the top of the VoIP platform, which allows users to further their capabilities while on a call. Also, UC solutions try making it easy for users to move from one type of communication to another one.
For example, individuals might be talking via text messaging, and realize they need to have a voice conversation to explain things further. One of the chat members can click on a button and get a video call started from the same program they were using for text messaging. The convenience helps users be able to switch from one app to a different one so they are able to communicate to solve problems even when they are on the go.
Why is Uc&C something your company should care about?
One way that the benefits of this kind of program can be summarized would be stating that the software is able to boost efficiency and productivity within the workplace dramatically. This kind of real-time collaboration projects makes it possible for projects to be completed much sooner, as teams are able to obtain the information that they need quickly. That is only the bare bones of what a UC&C platform is able to achieve for your company. They are great systems that do so much more than just streamline communication.
- Increase efficiency and boost productivity
- Reduce Costs
- Increased Mobility
- Make an Organization More Agile
- High-Quality Customer Service Is Encouraged
- Creates Reliable Infrastructure
- A Solution that is easy to Use
- Boost Security
Downfalls to Watch for
There is no solution that is totally perfect, as everyone knows. Although UC&C solutions are excellent for boosting communication and increasing collaboration, however, there are some obvious downsides as well. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t choose UC&C since most of the systems that it provides are cost-effective, easy to use, and easy to install. However, to get the most for your money, there is some definite downside that your company needs to be aware of.
Although it will depend precise on what you need, using a UC&C solution with means a decrease in cost. However, that usually isn’t the case. Rather than paying a one-time installation fee, your company will need to pay an ongoing subscription charge and the provider might require you to sign a contract. Compared to your current system the programs might cost more.
2. Employees Who Are Resistant to Change
A lot of resistance can come from current employees when you install a new system. Proper training and education are important so that everyone uses the system and so that it works at its best. Employees who hesitate might make it hard to switch over to a new system, even when it benefits clearly provides your business with benefits.
3. Available of IT Support In House
One major benefit of these kinds of solutions is not needing to have an IT department, it also might be an issue to not have any in-house solution. That means whenever tech issues arise, they will likely be completely out of your control.
4. Integration Issues
Usually, UC&C solutions integrate fairly well with the existing business tools of the company. APIs make it very easy for your current optimization tools to be combined with UC. However, not all programs play nicely together.
5. Fewer Customization Options
Whenever you are putting an on-site solution in place, typically your business will work with your provider in order to create a customized system to suit your needs. Whenever you are working with delivered and cloud-based tools, you must settle for whatever is available instead of what you need. That doesn’t mean you can’t customize cloud UC&C solutions. The opposite is actually true.
UC&C can be a great fit for most companies. We are pleased to be able to recommend this type of solution over legacy tools like phone calls and email due to all of the benefits provided by the advanced platforms. However, it is very important to learn about solutions and what is available. Otherwise, you might try improving your business systems and wind up instead with a system that is practically unusable and overly complicated.