How many times have you triple-searched through your emails, your texts and your DMs for that piece of information one of your employees sent you? Not only is this scenario frustrating, but it’s also a waste of your precious time.
Keeping intra-company communications productive and streamlined can be a major challenge for small and mid-sized businesses. This is especially true for companies that have employees working from remote locations.
In this post, we’ll look at unified communications as a potential solution to this problem. More and more SMBs are changing the way they collaborate as new, easier-to-use communication methods replace the cumbersome ways of the past. Let’s get started.
What is Unified Communications (UC)?
A unified communications system integrates voice, messaging, collaboration and other features into a single, integrated business solution. Instead of having to rely on multiple disparate services (such as telephone, email, file sharing, etc.), employees can enjoy integrated communications that help them to be more productive and efficient.
The UC concept certainly isn’t new. Back in the 1980s, business people started using voice mail and interactive voice response systems (IVR) to communicate more effectively. By the mid-90s, unified messaging (UM) was taking hold, and businesses spent small fortunes getting email up and running. The investment proved worthwhile because email significantly improved efficiency and productivity.
By the early 2000s, vendors like Cisco were selling office equipment that could transport voice calls across company networks, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) was taking its place in business communications. In the early 2010s, instant messaging started to replace email in some contexts. Instead of filling up a co-worker’s inbox, you could simply start a short message thread and get your answer quickly.
Video conferencing also started to make gains as a simple way for co-workers to stay in touch and collaborate. While this technology had been used in boardrooms for a few years, it wasn’t quite ready for everyday communications until this past decade.
What is UC used for?
It sounds great, but how is UC used in the day-to-day operations of Australia’s SMBs? It’s helpful to remember that UC takes several real-time technologies and puts them in a framework to improve communication throughout the company.
UC can be used to achieve many purposes, including the following:
- Spreading important information such as company-wide announcements and reminders
- Collaborating on projects
- Posting files so other staff members can access them
- Holding staff meetings
- Holding sales calls with potential customers and clients
- Reviewing past meetings and conversations (which have been recorded and saved)
- Allow employees to access what they need 24/7
- Improving data security
What are the Benefits of Unified Communications?
The benefits that come from unified communications can actually change the way your business operates. Could your SMB benefit from any of these perks?
If you could have real-time access to data sharing, phone communications, video conferencing and messaging from a variety of devices and everyone on your team, do you think you could work more effectively? Not only does UC streamline communication, but it also economises; these changes would touch every department and every employee.
One of the most attractive benefits of UC is that you can take it with you everywhere you go. Attending a conference for a couple of days? You’ll still have real-time access to the conversations, files and meetings going on back at the office.
With unified communications, you don’t have to worry about downtime. If one method of communication is down for some reason, you can switch to another. Building optimal redundancies into your system will ensure that your staff’s work time is always spent productively.
When everyone can both see and participate in the conversation, collaboration increases, and good things happen as a result. If one or more members of your team were away during a meeting, they can join in via video conferencing, and the meeting can be recorded for later review. Files and ideas can be shared, and messaging can keep the conversation going.
Business travel can really eat into your profits, but with unified communications, you may be able to cut down on the trips made by your employees. Instead of travelling to meetings, simply set up a video conference call, and follow the call up with messaging and the sharing of files if needed.
What Should SMBs know about Unified Communications?
If you’re interested in pursuing unified communications for your SMB, there are several important points to keep in mind.
First, remember that technology continues to evolve at breakneck speed, so it’s wise to look for UC solutions that have a track record of successfully keeping up with the latest developments.
Also, think about how your customers and clients will fit into the UC picture. Many SMBs find that their clients and customers appreciate the same kind of streamlined communication that you enjoy having with your team. For example, would your customers appreciate the ability to speak with customer service via video conferencing? Could you improve your relationships with vendors if your communication with them were streamlined?
What Level of Investment is Required?
In most cases, SMBs have to think carefully about investing in new IT systems for their organisations. The great news about unified communications may provide an excellent ROI. For one, you’ll likely see a reduction in some of your current monthly expenses, such as cost-per-minute international calls and monthly communications fees.
You’ll also see savings with lower information security risks, a subscription-based pricing structure and improved business agility. Many SMBs also see a decrease in their IT infrastructure costs when they switch to UC.
Most UC products are highly scalable, such as our CommuniCloud Video Conferencing. If you don’t need to host more than 25 participants, you simply pay $9.99 per month for each host. On the other hand, if your enterprise has grown and you need the capacity for 100 participants to your video conferences, you’ll pay $79 per month for each host. As you can see, the investment level is both modest and scalable, giving you the flexibility and economy SMBs need.