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Unified Communications: The Complete Guide

Unified Communications has never been more paramount than it is today, with remote working on the rise and customers wanting to interact through a variety of channels. But what is UC and why should you implement it in your business? Read on to find out out more.

In our complete guide to Unified Communications, we explain what UC is and how it works. We’ve outlined the current market landscape in UC, including how the solutions differentiate for large and smaller businesses, and explore some of the most popular UC solutions today — from Amazon WorkSpaces, to Microsoft Teams, to Cisco Webex and more.

Read on to understand more about:

1. What is Unified Communications?

Unified Communications (UC) brings together all communication channels to help improve business communications, collaboration, and productivity. This includes instant messaging, voice, email, audio, video conferencing, and more.

Simply put, UC streamlines employee communications, bringing together a business’ tasks, projects and schedule for greater productivity. The solution enables you to manage and integrate a range of communication channels to provide a consistent user experience — making day-to-day life easier.

Additionally, UC allows customers to move freely from channel to channel without having to repeat themselves and their reason for interacting every time they switch channels.

UC is a crucial aspect of digital transformation — something that businesses around the world must undertake if they wish to remain relevant and keep customers engaged in our ever-evolving business landscape.


To start streamlining employee and customer communications, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’ for free today.

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2. A history of Unified Communications

The concept of unified communications arose in the mid-1990s, when messaging and real-time communications began to combine. One of the first UC products was POET by ThinkRite (VoiceRite), developed in 1993 for IBM to use internally.

The first fully-fledged UC offering was the Nortel Succession MX (Multimedia eXchange) product, later rebranded to the Nortel Multimedia Communications Server. This service relied on the phone company/vendor partner to manage the PBX (Private Branch Exchange) or key telephone system, resulting in significant recurring costs. Gradually, as the PBX became more privatised, internal staff members were able to manage the systems themselves.

As companies started deploying IP networks in their environment, they began to transmit voice instead of relying on traditional telephone network circuits (VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol). Vendors included Avaya, Nortel, and Cisco. This design required specialist hardware to provide termination and delivery at each site.

From here, IP telephony was born — a software-driven only solution that eliminated the need for switching equipment on-site. Handsets were no longer a digital device hanging off a copper loop from a PBX, but rather ‘lived’ on the network as an additional computer device. As a result, applications could be upgraded or freshly installed on the handset.

Fast forward to today, and the goal of UC is to unify all communication devices inside a single platform to streamline communications both internally and externally. Popular modern examples of UC include Amazon WorkSpaces, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex.

3. How does Unified Communications work?

It’s simple. Unified Communications platforms enable multiple communication services to integrate, while providing a front-end for users.

Unified Communications systems are comprised of two key components: 

A backend communication system, including:
  • A UC platform or server
  • On-premise or cloud-based IP-PBX (Internet Protocol/Private Branch Exchange)
  • VoIP-enabled phones alongside headsets, cameras, and microphones
  • Multipoint Control Unit (MCU), facilitating video conferencing between multiple participants
A user-facing technology platform, including:
  • Voice applications that enable voice calling, audio conferencing, and voicemail
  • Text applications for SMS, instant messaging, email, and live chat
  • Video services enabling desktop or room-based video conferencing
  • Web conferencing platforms for virtual meetings and interactive whiteboards
  • Social networking tools to enhance collaboration

The combination of these components allow businesses to create a greater employee experience, improve productivity, reduce costs, improve efficiency, as well as enhance human resources.

Conn3ct UC Explainer Long
 
To find out more, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’ today.

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4. Why Unified Communications is so important

So why is having Unified Communications in your business so important?

Many business leaders look at the benefits of Unified Communications and label them as a ‘nice-to-have’. But integrated communication solutions are far from a mere luxury – they’re essential. In today’s digitalised world, UC is key to maximising your Contact Centre’s efficiency and productivity.

Meaning the question isn’t whether or not you need UC, but rather, how do you want UC to work for you?

Unified Communications and collaboration go hand-in-hand. One of the key metrics for measuring the success of new technology is user uptake. If users have a poor user experience and have to navigate multiple platforms, they will simply stop using it. Understanding your employees and providing an excellent user experience will maximise user uptake and internal buy-in/efficacy.

UC can help you to better manage teams located in different parts of the world, e.g. annual leave planning and shift schedules for agents. A Forrester study featured in a UC Today article surveyed 260 consumers currently using Microsoft Teams and found that employees can save 45 minutes per week collaborating with first-line workers, and four hours per week through improved information sharing. Additional benefits included an 18.9% reduction in weekly meetings and a 17.7% improvement in time-to-decision.

Transforming your communications into one integrated platform means you pay for fewer services and software, helping you attain leaner solutions and save some money. Managed services providers can also manage this process for you by leveraging their relationship with vendors to improve your terms of service and reduce costs.

UC makes it easier for employees and managers to communicate, which means a happier, more content workforce. It also helps to improve the onboarding process, both of which will help you to adapt and employ effective retention strategies. High employee turnover can dampen employee morale and increase HR costs.

Discover exactly how UC can benefit your business by downloading our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (and How to Get There)’ today.

5. The Unified Communications market

The Unified Communications industry is rapidly evolving. The need for additional, flexible communication channels such as instant messaging and video conferencing has never been more important, with business uptake only increasing. And now in today’s global climate,  businesses are increasingly empowering employees to work from home.

Discover why there’s no better time than now to introduce unified communications in your business.

Businesses that fail to adapt and unify the broad spectrum of channels available risk frustrating end-users — whether that’s employees, customers, or both — not to mention falling behind their competition. All in all, Unified Communications is a crucial aspect of keeping up with the changing communications landscape.

However, by implementing UC in your business, you can benefit from an improved user experience, business growth, and operational efficiency.


Unified Communications market trends

While the driving purpose of Unified Communications solutions stays the same conceptually, the underlying technology, feature set, and business benefits are constantly evolving and improving for the better.

Five key Unified Communications future trends anticipated to deliver increased efficiencies, improved customer and employee experience, and enhanced collaboration, including:

globe-2
The rise of global SIP
at
Business communications becoming more complex to deploy
data
UC provisioning becoming increasingly cloud-centric
machine-learning
More artificial intelligence in everyday communications
collaboration
Increasingly considering EX (employee experience) as much as CX (customer experience)

 

To learn more about the Unified Communications market trends taking the industry by storm, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’ today.

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6. Unified Communications solutions

Unified Communications is a broad topic, and with multiple Unified Communications solutions on the market, it can be difficult knowing which to choose. And with a range of Unified Communications suppliers and providers out there, how do you know if you’re making the most of your budget?

Whether you work for an enterprise or a smaller business, we’ve outlined the key factors to look out for when considering implementing a UC solution — including when to go cloud-based.

7. Unified Communications for enterprise

Unifying employee communications across an enterprise poses a unique set of challenges, with people likely spread across multiple locations and diverse environments.

To serve thousands of employees — from remote workers to global staff — traditional communication channels like email and voice calls simply don’t cut it.

For enterprises to truly benefit from UC, they need a powerful platform that integrates seamlessly with numerous applications, devices and hardware solutions throughout the company.

To meet the changing needs of a multi-generational workforce — in a time where remote working is increasingly considered the norm — UC provides the following benefits:

  • Simplifies onboarding
  • Reduces costs
  • Facilitates innovation
  • Improves the customer and employee experience

 


 

To discover the benefits of UC for enterprise in more detail, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’ today.

8. Unified Communications for small businesses

For small businesses, Unified Communications allows organisations to maintain a tight-knit team through video calling, instant messaging and more.

Having a powerful UC system in place also allows small businesses to collaborate more easily and support each other on projects where needed to maximise company resources.

Not only will the right UC solution tie different applications and services together, streamlining communications, but it will significantly minimise costs too.

Any small business needing to innovate quickly can redivert funds elsewhere and maintain a flexible, agile approach. Overall, UC helps small businesses keep their teams running smoothly with minimal investment — especially if you opt for a cloud-based solution.

More specifically, with the right UC solution in place, small businesses can experience the following benefits:

  • Enhanced productivity
  • Encourages collaboration
  • Reduces office space costs by providing the ability to work remotely

 


 

To find out more about the benefits of UC for small businesses, download our guide, ‘The Benefits of Having Unified Communications in Your Business (And How to Get There)’.

DOWNLOAD NOW

9. The cost of Unified Communications

The cost of implementing Unified Communications in your business will depend on a number of factors. This might include your company size, the type and number of services you want to integrate, and whether your chosen UC is on-premise or cloud-based — with a cloud solution being the most cost-effective long-term.

Although implementing a Unified Communications solution in your business will require initial investment, transforming your communications into one integrated platform means paying for fewer services and software in the long-term.

Managed services providers can facilitate this process for you by leveraging their relationship with vendors to improve your terms of service and reduce costs. The released funds can then be reinvested elsewhere in your business.

The benefits of Unified Communications are many — but whether you’re looking to augment your solution, or you’re new to UC entirely, knowing how to adopt it successfully and cost-effectively can be a challenge. At Conn3ct, we can support your journey to get the very best of your UC solution — enhancing the customer experience at every touchpoint.

10. Unified Communications products

With so many different Unified Communications products on the market, it can be difficult knowing which to choose.

If you’re considering a number of UC solutions at present, but don’t know which Unified Communications software to implement, you’re not alone.

To help you make the right decision for your business’ unique needs and budget, we’ve chosen a handful of the most popular modern UC solutions and outlined each Unified Communications product’s key features.

Read on to find out how Amazon WorkSpaces, Microsoft Teams, and Cisco Webex can benefit your business.

11. Amazon Unified Communications overview - Amazon WorkSpaces

Simply put, Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) to help streamline your digital communications solutions to a single, secure platform.

With cloud-based technology, Amazon WorkSpaces eliminates the need to manage complex hardware inventory or on-premise Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) – making it an ideal solution to activating your business’ remote working.

Amazon WorkSpaces offers a full-spectrum package with simple-to-use software integrations, giving you the option of running Microsoft Windows or Linux.

12. Microsoft Unified Communications overview - Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that combines chat, video meetings, file storage (including collaboration on files), and application integration. The service integrates with Microsoft Office 365 and features extensions that can integrate with non-Microsoft products.


Why Conn3ct for Microsoft?

As a Microsoft Gold Communications Partner, we offer a comprehensive range of services to help you implement and maximise Microsoft Teams for your business. To learn more about our skills and capabilities, click here.

Our unrivalled network capability, SBC managed services and telephony offering place voice connectivity at the forefront, making Conn3ct x Microsoft the perfect pairing. To learn more about our skills and capabilities, click here.

To discover how we can help you implement Microsoft Teams in your business, book a free consultation with one of our experts today.

13. Cisco Unified Communications overview - Cisco Webex

Cisco Webex offers a video conferencing service, allowing you to create and join meetings remotely in a matter of clicks. Instant access to participants’ background information helps to further streamline and enhance the user experience.

With functionalities including screen sharing and meeting recording, collaborating on group projects has never been easier.

Cisco Webex also provides team collaboration tools to help speed up projects, build better relationships, and solve business challenges.

With Chat, Meet, Whiteboard, Schedule, and File capabilities, Webex provides all the tools your team could possibly need. Better yet, Webex Teams keeps your information safe using cloud security.

To discover how Conn3ct can help you implement Cisco Webex effectively, book your free consultation now.

14. How Conn3ct can help

If you’re in need of a digital transformation solution, Conn3ct can help. We work in partnership with you to unify your teams and provide greater value to your customers using our industry knowledge, resources and expertise.

Customer Experience Revolution

At Conn3ct, we understand the importance of digital engagement, and the increasing demand on businesses to be more connected with their employees and customers. 

No two users are the same, and with a multi-generational audience base, the need to provide both traditional telephony and IVR systems and digital communication solutions — such as social media messaging and web chat — is greater than ever. By combining these approaches, we can help you create a unified, consistent experience for your employees and customers through digital transformation — without sacrificing the need for a more flexible, tailored service.

SET Approach

Drawing on over 30 years’ experience, our tried and tested methodology — Stabilise, Enhance, Transform — offers an in-depth consultation of every aspect of your clients’ needs.

Stabilise

Stabilise

Our unique proprietary monitoring and automation toolsets stabilise your existing estate, improve efficiency and performance, and make immediate cost savings.

Enhance

Enhance

Tell us your challenges. We listen and learn so that we can enhance what is already in place with best of breed adjunct technologies.

Stabilise

Transform

Our unique, truly vendor-agnostic approach allows us to deliver a fully customised, best of breed solution at your pace and in line with your budget.

Through our unique blended operational and technical consulting programme, and vendor-agnostic method, we can define your plan for digital transformation and evolve your Contact Centre technology. We work in partnership with key stakeholders to develop clear outputs at every stage.

SBC Managed Service for UC Cloud Transformation

Our SBC (Session Border Control) Managed Service helps businesses save by turning capital into operational expenditure — making it ideal if you want to simplify your telephony and Contact Centre systems while reducing costs.

At Conn3ct, we consult with you to fully understand your existing estate and future requirements in detail before recommending solutions for a Unified Communications platform for all users.

Our solutions leverage technology from: 

  • Session border controllers that support connectivity into Microsoft Cloud UC, as well as integration into legacy PBX systems and ISDN connections. 
  • Proactive availability and quality monitoring and reporting across advanced unified communications estates including Microsoft, Ribbon, Cisco, and Avaya. 
  • Managed Services — bespoke solutions to complement your own IT and Telecoms teams.

Global SIP Service

Employee collaboration and multi-channel customer engagement are strategic imperatives. Now more than ever, businesses are reviewing the quality of their global communications and the cost of improving or replacing legacy systems. But where do you start when planning a long-term strategy for their phone and Contact Centre systems — possibly your most business-critical IT investment.

Conn3ct can take your business on a journey to improve communications globally. Our global SIP service is delivered across the world’s biggest voice network, offering unmatched PSTN replacement opportunities and a simplified platform for a centralised transition to cloud communications.

Through our global SIP service, your business will experience the following benefits:

  • End-to-end Managed Service. 
  • Improved performance; reduced complexity. 
  • The ability to leverage your legacy investment. 
  • The ability to scale with demand. 

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