Reach anyone, anywhere, any time

Brace yourselves folks, Unified Communications is coming your way. Major software and hardware suppliers are teaming up to make sure that people can reach each other more or less instantly, regardless …

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31st March 2008 at 11:06 am

Brace yourselves folks, Unified Communications is coming your way. Major software and hardware suppliers are teaming up to make sure that people can reach each other more or less instantly, regardless of what device they’re using or where they are physically.

Effective communication between people means that work can be accelerated and collaboration facilitated. Taking the broad view, communication elements include telephone, e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, document sharing, screen sharing, voice conferencing, web conferencing and video conferencing.

You might not want to use them all, in fact email is becoming a bit of a pain and a lot of people are looking elsewhere for more effective ways of staying in touch. But all of the above are part of what’s currently called Unified Communications. (I’ll call it UC from now on.)

It offers a guarantee that the right person can be reached in an instant. Obviously if they’re busy or switched off, messages will be stored in readiness for reconnection. But, with ‘presence sensing’ it will be possible to know if they’re around before trying to contact them. This is an important part of UC.

Obviously, there’s no point splashing out on UC unless you can see a clear business benefit. And that means money – will you make or save more than it costs to implement and run? It’s true that you can cut your carbon footprint too, but that tends to be a side-benefit rather than a primary reason for doing things.

Some recent research revealed that companies are very keen to cut their travel and accommodation bills. They see teleconferencing, flexible working and home-working as ways to do this. Another pressure might come from larger business partners who want to improve communications between your companies.

Whether UC is for you depends on the type of company you are. If you spend a lot on unnecessary travel or you’re wasting a lot of staff time on missed calls and telephone-tag, especially if they’re internal, then some degree of UC might help. If you’re experiencing the same thing externally then you might need to wait until it’s de rigeur among those you wish to communicate with.

For UC to work, directories of people, devices and rules need to be built. This is incredibly sensitive information. Ask your suppliers how it’s to be shared and secured before signing on the dotted line.

In time, I dare say we’ll take this stuff for granted. Companies like BT or Microsoft will be offering functionality as an extension of what they’re already providing you. But, right now, unless your need is burning and your tolerance of risk high, you might want to wait until you can see evidence of UC working in companies similar to your own.

PS You (and your pet techie) might benefit from a visit to Unified Communications ’08 at Olympia on 9-10 April.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. Amy Lee says:

    There are plenty of other reliable companies besides Microsoft and Avaya that offer Unified Communications services, and at a much lower price. Ureach, PhoneFusion and Phone.com all provide the technology to keep employees or small business owners in touch, without any installation requirements.

  2. Mike England says:

    Thanks for mentioning the show in your blog, I am the event manager) there are 3 dedicated features, a networking bar and over 60 free education sessions on UC and VoIP as part of the show – all are welcome.

    I would only add that whilst there are lots of companies out there offering UC and VoIP, recommending companies with zero UK presence doesn’t seem appropriate for a UK focuses small business blog! If you come hope you enjoy the show.

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