Organizations of all kinds and sizes face challenges in meeting their customers’ demands while operating on tight schedules, with limited staff resources and diminishing IT budgets. After all, “all the time in the world” still means 24 hours every day. More and more organizations are considering “unified communication.” The term means integrating all kinds of communication, real-time and otherwise, into a seamless system that optimizes the processes of businesses or other associations.
Real-time communications include telephone service, voice-over-Internet, instant messaging, call control, presence information, and video conferencing. Non-real-time communication includes voice mail, email, fax, and short messaging services.
What is unified communication?
Digium defines unified communication is a set of products that can encompass whatever communications rely on a TCP/IP network. Unified communication provides a consistent interface for the experience of users regardless of what devices and media types they have available. Most organizations already use some of the various independent elements to make them more efficient. By combining these multiple elements into into a single unified communication solution and integrating them with all their other processes, organizations can realize significant cost savings and substantially increase their effectiveness.
Today’s companies are spread out all over town, or even all over the world. Many use freelancers or allow employees to telecommute. It is difficult enough to gather employees and contractors in one place for physical meetings. Throw customers and vendors into the mix, and virtual meetings become unavoidable. The Houston Chronicle describes the variety of available technology.
For short virtual meetings, audio only technology is the most economical. It can be combined with screen-sharing software for more flexibility. Participants can’t see each other in an audio only meeting. They can’t take advantage of non-verbal cues like facial expression. But sometimes it isn’t necessary.
Instant messaging is also an inexpensive and efficient means of communicating short information. Like audio technology, it is quite adequate for scheduling, providing quick details, or simply delegating tasks.
Use web cameras for a video conference if you need to provide a more personal experience for participants. Video conferences can be as simple as a Skype conversation. You can use more sophisticated tools for formal presentations or longer conversations where people have to get to know each other better.
People usually think of virtual meetings as taking place in real time. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to wrap up loose ends. Or perhaps it is not necessary for participants to interact. They just need information. Use asynchronous technology for these purposes.
Basic user profiles
Information Week adds that you can break your communications solutions into manageable chunks, based on the user profiles in your organization. There are seven different generic profiles:
- Field sales and service workers that mostly rely on mobile phones with plans that allow unlimited voice calls
- Collaboration teams that need to share documents
- Information processors and other administrative workers you can help by embedding communications functions into their primary software applications
- Retail workers and others who primarily communicate face to face
- Production teams, including educators or health-care professionals whose needs include record-keeping
- Phone center agents, whose communications technologies have probably been optimized already
- Corporate staff who, among other things, need video meeting technology
Don’t do it yourself!
A company like Blue Jeans can facilitate unified communication for IT. Because they operate in the cloud, you have no need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware like video bridges to coordinate all of the various devices and operating system your clients will use.
These companies can save your organization considerable money as compared with owning your own hardware. An elastic cloud model can guarantee that that you have exactly the right resources for any use. You will have one size for regular use and can leverage much greater capacity on occasions that you need more. For example, if you sometimes need concurrent meetings, you don’t want to be limited by the capacity of your equipment. On the other hand, you can’t afford to keep more capacity than you need for most of your organization’s operations.
A unified communication solution needs to be completely interoperable. It must be able to accommodate desktop systems, a wide variety of mobile devices, and all of the various web browsers and operating systems that your organization and all of its partners might use. It must be compatible with the communications infrastructure your organization has already invested in. It needs to free the IT department from the need to manage scheduling of your resources. Since the service is cloud –based, it also frees you from the complexity of managing a firewall for network address translation, with all the additional hardware that requires. All of your own endpoints remain secure behind your regular firewall.