Is Unified Communications Right for Your Business?

As your business grows, communicating quickly and efficiently becomes both more important and more difficult. The whole point of a Unified Communications (UC) system is to alleviate those difficulties, but how effective are they really?

Before we dive in, let’s first take a moment to understand what a UC system actually is.

Unified Communications is commonly defined as a combination of real-time/non-real-time software, services, and equipment that is fully integrated and centralized.

Still a little confused? Don’t worry, even Wikipedia uses the caveat of unified communications being “an evolving set of technologies” to avoid having to present a concrete definition. Basically, UC is supposed to combine all the ways your company communicates both internally and externally into one platform with one provider. This allows for phone calls, emails, video conferencing, calendars, and more to be accessible on a single system.

Now that we have a better handle on both the “unified” and “communications” parts of UC, let’s explore whether or not switching to one is the right move for your business.

Pros

Strong Alone, Stronger Together

The biggest benefit of Unified Communications is increased productivity. A study by Cisco found that 68% of organizations reported productivity improvements between employees at different locations after implementing UC. So not only does UC offer the modern features to easily connect your team anywhere in the world, companies are enjoying the benefits.

Easier Collaboration

If your office is anything like ours, one of your biggest challenges is deciding on the right communications tools to: 1. Get your messages to the right people quickly and 2. Make it convenient for them to reply no matter where they are.

With UC, your communications ecosystem is built from the ground up to work together. Tools like instant messenger, efax, voicemail-to-email transcription, shared calendars, etc., are all at your fingertips so you can prioritize the right channels for the right situations without worrying about separate programs or logins.

Sure, you can find multiple point solutions that provide those capabilities individually, but getting them to play nice together requires substantial time and expertise. By having everything on one platform, you consolidate your data and make it much easier for your team to communicate quickly, prioritize tasks, and increase their overall efficiency.

The Whole World is Your Office (as long as there’s wifi)

Mobility features like softphones, SMS, and Follow Me forwarding let you stay in touch even if you’re on the road or working from home. Virtual audio and video conferencing features give you all the tools you need to host professional meetings off-site. No matter how far away they are from the action, satellite offices and remote employees can both look and feel like part of the same team!

More Bang for Your Buck

The core component of any UC is a cloud-hosted phone system, which means there are very few setup costs and virtually no maintenance required on your end. That scary, undecipherable PBX box in your closet that’s always breaking down and needing to be manually updated? You can just throw that out. Updates or fixes are applied remotely at no additional cost, freeing up your internal IT team (if you have one) or removing the need for expensive IT contractors (if you don’t).

Scaling also becomes noticeably cheaper since new extensions, phone numbers, and entire call routes can be added with one quick call to your provider. Besides just giving you more features, UC allows you to pick the tools that fit the unique needs of your business--and makes sense for your budget. With FluentStream, you’ll never get locked into a plan or long-term contract. We win when you win. And that means we work with you to make sure your phone system is always perfect for your current situation, no matter how often that situation changes.

Cons

Higher Short-Term Costs

We discussed earlier how UC have low setup and maintenance costs, but a survey by Jabra reports that "73% of companies with more than 5,000 employees cited cost as an obstacle to implementing UC.”

This seems strange, especially since cloud-hosted systems scale much more easily and inexpensively than traditional analog setups. But the thing is... when larger companies talk about costs, they aren’t just referring to the monetary investment of switching phone systems. They’re also considering the costs of providing training, replacing outdated hardware, and time wasted as employees adapt to their new communications tools. In those cases, it’s true, UC does cost more in the short-term.

However, for companies with less than 5,000 employees (read: basically all of us), those non-monetary costs are negligible to the point of non-existent.

All Routers Were Not Created Equal

Another concern for businesses switching to UC is connectivity issues. According to Ann Finnie of the Logitech Blog, "network services aren't keeping the pace to meet the needs that increased connectivity demands. 17% of the participants worry over their network capacity and list a lack of WAN bandwidth--and the cost to upgrade it--as their most pressing concern."

Older networks do have the potential to negatively impact call quality, but as long as your communications provider does their due diligence and sets up proper prioritization and QoS on your router, the phone system itself should be a non-factor.

VoIP calls only require 80 kbps of bandwidth (35 when compressed), so the real test for your current setup is when the rest of your new unified communications features are activated. Don’t stress too much about all the numbers and acronyms though, because FluentStream gives you an in-depth assessment of your network and then walks you through the whole setup process directly to address any issues. We’ll even call your ISP on your behalf!

Embarrassment of Riches

Regardless of how many bells and whistles it has, any communications system is only as valuable as the employees using it. People are naturally resistant to change. Getting an entire company on the same page is a herculean task in its own right. Clear explanation and detailed training are necessary to convert any foot-draggers, but that means team members will have to take time out of their day to better understand UC and all the new features at their disposal.

Transitioning from one phone system to another can take just a few days. But transitioning your company’s workflow from “just a phone service” to an entire communications ecosystem will take much longer.

Those exact worries are why FluentStream provides all our new clients with a dedicated onboarding professional to answer any questions you may have and give any training your team may need. Once your account is live, the support continues with free access to our 24-hour client experience team. Put us to the test and contact us today! We’d love to build you a unified communications system that fits your exact needs.