Unified Communication: Your Gateway to Transformation
In the first article of this series, we looked at how the first digital revolution brought about changes in communication. Before email and the internet, business correspondence could take days or longer to reach its destination. Even internal memos took a while to circulate and only reached those who were physically present in the office.
The first digital revolution introduced a growing number of ways in which employees could communicate. It began with email, phone calls, conference calls and faxes, but as soon as mobile devices were introduced, on-the-go calls, texting, chat groups and more were added to the mix.
Inarguably a positive change, it did not come without issues. For one thing, more devices and apps mean a greater risk of cyber threats. For another, silos within the business meant that individual departments and even individual workers had their own preferred communication methods, which, ironically crippled their ability to talk, let alone work, effectively with one another.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) solves these issues. It hands over the hosting, management and maintenance management of all your communications modes—including video conferencing, enterprise messaging solutions, call recording, file sharing and more—to a trusted partner, to ensure greater reliability, efficiency, security and savings.
Gathering all solutions into a single environment gives your team access to everything they need, wherever they happen to be. This results in ‘soft savings’ (savings that are harder to immediately quantify) including higher productivity, better efficiency, improved customer experience, and making your company more attractive to current and future employees.
Take, for example, the virtualisation of meetings. These once required coordinating physical presence, arranging travel and accommodation (for out of town participants), organising a meeting room and emailing pre- and post-meeting reading material to attendees. Participants had to carve out time not only for the meeting itself but for travel to and from the meeting’s location. If a meeting had to be rescheduled, the logistical nightmare starts all over again.
When business communications are unified, shared calendars make it possible to immediately identify times when everyone is available. The agenda and other material can be reviewed in group chats to ensure a more productive meeting. Participants can attend from wherever they are via their computers or mobile devices, and the meeting itself can be recorded for anyone unable to attend.
Getting the right fit
Is UCaaS right for you? And if so, how do you choose the best fit for your company? To get your answer, start by asking yourself what your short-, mid- and long-term goals are for:
1. Smart budgeting
2. Attracting and retaining top talent
3. Customer and stakeholder satisfaction
4. Company growth
5. Long-term partnerships
For decades, new technology adoption came with a fair amount of risk. When communications strategy relied on capital expenditure, it was difficult to predict exact costs. Sometimes solutions did not deliver as promised. An organisation had to acquire hardware and software that would accommodate for expected expansion over the next three to five years. Unexpected growth, upgrades or replacements would incur additional costs.
UCaaS, on the other hand, means that it is the service provider, not you, who deals with the complexities of infrastructure, backend equipment and obsolescence. Furthermore, the as-a-service billing model enables flat fees per user per month. Making communications an operational expenditure (OPEX), gives you control over spending and makes it easier for you to ‘budget for change.’
Tip: UCaaS per-user licensing model should make your monthly payments transparent and predictable. Check with vendors that bills will be itemised and free of surprise add-ons. As a bonus, check whether billing can be customised to speed up processing.
Attracting and retaining top talent
Priorities for job seekers are changing. They want opportunities to learn and grow. They want to be good at their jobs and be recognised for their contribution. When it comes to their company, they want to see the bigger picture.
When you look at UCaaS options, consider what would help you attract the best people and empower them to excel at their jobs. Does the nature of your business require multi-teaming that would be best served by shared virtual workspaces? Will your UCaaS environment have to support an integrated workflow or your BYOD policies? Will it encourage knowledge sharing and learning across your organisation? Find a UCaaS partner that can help you decide on a solution that caters to your specific needs.
Customer and stakeholder satisfaction
Consider current and future needs of everyone you communicate with, from new to loyal customers, from suppliers to partners. How important are speed, capacity, and reach right now? How about years into the future? What devices have to be supported? Once you ask yourself the hard questions, you will have a list for potential UCaaS vendors. What languages does it support? What kind of user information can it gather to enable you to anticipate needs and behaviours?
It is generally accepted that moving to the cloud gives you the agility and breathing space you need to ‘rethink processes and accelerate business change.’ Can you afford a complete and immediate overhaul or do you need a platform that will integrate with your current phone system, software and apps? Should the solution be flexible enough to adapt to future integrations with, for example, artificial intelligence and business analytics? As a cloud-based solution, it should be quick and easy for you to extend your solution by adding new technologies, locations or users as you need them.
As-a-service offerings make your life easier by outsourcing key functions. When it comes to communications, do you have time to work with several vendors or do you need the convenience of working with a one-stop-shop? For example, one with packages that include hardware as well as software (e.g., fixed-line telephones, mobile devices, etc.).
Ask about the nature of the support they offer. Ask potential providers how they protect you from phishing, malware and other cyber-attacks. A reliable UCaaS partner will also take care of maintenance (scheduled and unscheduled) and ensure that hosted apps and software are up-to-date.
Remember, transformation comes in steps or mini-revolutions. When it comes to taking that first one, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from improving communication and collaboration.
More in this series:
1. The Digital Advantage: What is the Future of Business?
2. Revolutionising Business: Understanding the Potential of Digital
3. A Competitive Foundation: Creating a Digital Culture
4. Unified Communication: Your Gateway to Transformation