Unified Communications duties are typically attached to the network engineer position. In even smaller shops, the responsibility likely lies with the sysadmin or resident IT pro. With the ever-increasing number, variety, and power of the devices for IT to manage and integrate, the job of Unified Communications will only expand. The capabilities of business communications devices and systems are skyrocketing, and the potential for transforming work has barely been touched.
UCC is a framework, not a technology
Business communications occur via voice, messaging, conferencing, video, and shared workspaces. They can occur at the desk, in a conference room, or at nearly any kind of worksite via smartphones and tablets.
Previously, the original electronic communication technology for end users was the desktop analog phone. Voicemail appeared, adding asynchronous communication to the real-time immediacy of the phone call. Fax machines, pagers, email, networked PCs, instant messaging, cell phones, and text messages followed. Workers soon had a dozen communications methods to fumble against. Couldn’t these work together as one system?
Unified Communications (UC) aims to integrate all the available business communications services to seamlessly support your work, optimizing business processes and increasing productivity. It’s not a technology, but a strategy and framework for interconnecting communication services.
Integrating communications is accomplished by a mix of:
- Manual procedures and training
- Off-the-shelf components: back-end systems including UC platforms and communications hardware; and front-end client devices and software
- Specially-developed domain- and business-specific systems and applications
The improvements that UC brings to processes and productivity may include eliminating device and media dependencies, reducing latency in business processes, improving team and inter-team coordination, reducing travel costs, better managing workflows, and enabling entirely new workflows.
Various companies offer suites of Unified Communications products, including Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Mitel, and Avaya. The term Unified Communications and Collaboration is also sometimes used, as companies offering collaboration platforms have expanded to offer communication services, and the UC providers now offer collaboration services.
The growing importance of Unified Communications
As the number, variety, and power of devices for IT to manage and integrate grows, the job of Unified Communications will only become more significant.
Businesses where voice phone and email once sufficed are seeing the possibilities. For knowledge workers, business communications are evolving into integrated collaboration environments that enable continuous multi-mode one-to-many communication.
For everyone else, streamlined communications-enabled business processes spanning desktops and mobile devices will provide easy access to business apps, shared data, and on-demand collaboration.
Global marketplace and workplace. Gartner notes that companies need “solutions that support their employees’ need to collaborate from anywhere, at any time, and from any device.” Companies need UC expertise if the technology is to alleviate the disconnect when customers, coworkers, and subcontractors are in distant locations and disparate time zones.
The Cloud. Unified Communications is moving into the cloud: Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) – or, when we add Collaboration, UCCaaS. The early adopters of UCaaS were small and midsized business betting on the improved scalability and simpler operations the cloud promises; they’re now also gaining superior functionality due to the faster innovation the cloud enables. Larger enterprises are joining them, as they become more confident about the reliability, performance, and security of UCaaS. Many companies will opt for a hybrid cloud that includes on-premises UC, leveraging their existing investment and gaining flexibility that permits incremental adoption.
All those companies will need expertise in the deployment and operation of UCaaS and hybrid UC, including how to monitor and troubleshoot a hybrid cloud environment. They will also need UC professionals who can address integration and compatibility in a multi-vendor environment.
Digital Workplace Initiatives. Unified Communications is crucial to ongoing and upcoming initiatives to leverage mobile strategy and digital transformation.
Telecommunications has historically been associated with slow complicated upgrades over multi-year cycles. But innovation in business communications is accelerating. The cloud promotes cost-effective and rapid deployment; and APIs, microservices, and bots provide the toolkit for quickly developing and evolving new capabilities that are integrated with existing services and business apps.
Rapid cycles offer the flexibility to develop specialized workflows and apps targeting particular domains and use cases within the business. Innovation in workstream collaboration tools and communications-enabled business processes will determine success in the marketplace, and Unified Communications will be central to that.
Bright and busy future
The capabilities of business communications devices and back-end platforms have grown dramatically and the value of converging disparate systems into a seamless environment that turbocharges business processes and productivity is only increasing. The job of Unified Communications can only grow.