Unified Communications, or UC for short, is easy to dismiss as just another marketing term used to gin up interest in new communication devices for your business that are basically just a replacement for the trusty desk phone.
But somewhat hidden in that marketing term is the fact that the UC ecosystem is wonderfully diverse and complex; covering a range of products that are designed to work under a number of different communication protocols and room sizes.
What is UC?
UC doesn’t just refer to, say, a VOIP phone. UC refers to microphone arrays, personal communication devices, USB conference phones, video conference systems, and yes, the traditional desk phone.
The devices under this umbrella all strive for one thing: integrated communications.
UC elements include, but aren’t limited to the following:
Conferencing (audio, Web and video)
Business process integration (BPI)
Software to enable business process integration
Call control and multimodal communications
Speech access and personal assistant
Products designed to work with UC in mind are only getting more inclusive and user friendly, whereas the desk phone has stagnated and desk phone use is in decline. Many of these devices can even be tweaked to work with multiple platforms like UC software (Skype for Business, Zoom, etc.), IP networks, NFC, and Bluetooth™ technologies.
So, how does UC help your business?
One could spend all day perusing different UC options for their business, but when it comes down to it, the real question is whether or not it is worth spending the money. Return on investment is a very important question to consider for any equipment purchase; however that can be hard to measure against a concept like “communication”; traditional ROI considerations don’t really lend themselves to abstract concepts like that.
On the most basic level, a company needs to communicate internally and externally in order to function and create revenue. To that end, why not just settle on desk phones? The answer to that question is simple – the venue for business communication is changing.
The transition from the old PBX (private telephone network used within a company) systems to this explosion of communication options has done more to help businesses adapt and overcome communication challenges than the older phone systems ever did. In fact, I can’t remember the last phone call I had with my traditional desk phone.
Flexibility is paramount for business communications today. You don’t necessarily know what part of the world you might have to reach out to, or what kind of infrastructure they might have. Conversely, you might find yourself operating in an area without traditional infrastructure. At that point, a flexible UC system will ensure that there is no miscommunication between the two parties, as it can be used across a multitude of communication setups without issue. The ROI for clear communication is almost beyond measure; the extra effort and time lost from not using proper UC products can be damaging to a business in today’s market.
Another point to consider is that UC doesn’t aim to cannibalize or replace the traditional phone system; it merely acts as a companion to it. Just today I’ve had three meetings using the Revolabs FLX UC-1000, a Crestron TPS-6X controller for viewscreen and a Barco ClickShare CSC-1 system. This combination highlights the interoperability of UC systems, but also highlights another feature of UC products: durability. I’d also add that all three of these systems are a few years old and are working perfectly in unison.
A local UC ecosystem isn’t just something that a company’s beleaguered IT department has to cobble together, either. Major players are developing UC solutions geared towards any type of setting. AT&T focuses on enhanced mobile communications. Cisco helped lead the charge into UC and offers a broad range of products for conferencing. Revolabs and Yamaha focuses on collaborative solutions ranging from microphone arrays to USB conference phones, and video conferencing solutions. All of these products are designed to effectively “play nice” with other products in this ecosystem.
If there is any takeaway from this blog entry, let it be this: don’t just dismiss UC as a buzzword. UC products are absolutely worth investigating for your company’s integrated communication needs. The inclusiveness and ease of use make them natural fits for almost any environment, especially with desk phone use on the way out. PBX is outdated, something needs to augment it, and UC is just the technology platform to do it.