The Pros and Cons of Unified Communications
Before jumping right into a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of a Unified Communications (UC) implementation, let’s take a moment to define UC and the facets it includes. Unified Communications (UC) is commonly defined as the integration of real-time enterprise communication services with non-real-time communication services like unified messaging (email, fax, integrated voicemail, and SMS).
Using tools like audio, video, and web conferencing, desktop sharing, IM/chat, presence, and more, users are able to merge a variety of capabilities into one consistent set of experiences across a variety of devices. So now that we have clear understanding of UC, let’s look at the pros and cons of a Unified Communications installation.
Pros of Unified Communications
Better Prioritization of Information
According to data gathered by Chadwick Martin Bailey – a Gold Top 50 market research and consulting firm – on behalf of Cisco, 49% of user organizations save up to 20 minutes per employee daily by reaching workers on the first try.
With Unified Communications, it is easier to prioritize information through the available communication tools, like voicemail-to-email, shared calendars, and direct fax to inbox, that help to integrate and consolidate your data. With centralized, organized information, it becomes much easier for employees to prioritize their tasks, increasing their overall efficiency and effectiveness.
There are so many tools available in today’s Unified Communications implementations -the sky’s the limit! According to a recent report conducted by Software Advice, these are just some of the top functionalities that have been added through recent UC integrations:
- Federated IM/Presence
- PBX Integration
- Voice-enabled door entry
- Paging systems\
- Video conferencing
- Call routing/control
- Security systems
- Screen pops and more!
In the last few years, there has been a significant amount of data reported that reflects the increase in productivity that companies are realizing with UC implementations.
In terms of productivity, a recent Cisco-driven survey found that 68% of user organizations reported productivity improvements between geographically-dispersed functional groups. Additionally, over 75% of user organizations experienced improved employee productivity with the employees spread across geographically-dispersed locations, due to available voice and video conferencing tools. And finally, 67% of user organizations reported increased mobile worker productivity and faster problem resolution.
One of the main goals of Unified Communications is to consolidate work functions so that employees can multi-task more easily and on the go, making them more productive assets to the organization.
With a Unified Communications solution in place, employees will more easily be able to connect and interface with co-workers, clients, and vendors in order to exchange information in a more efficient and effective manner.
And with the additional tools available in the UC suite of products, employees are able to access and share videos from their desktops and across mobile devices – at any time. Moreover, teams are able to work together virtually, from almost any corner of the planet, facilitating improved team interactions.
Savings on Management and Support Costs
The consolidation of management tools for the company’s data, voice, and video networks is a major plus for organizations. Using a single interface to control all networks, there are fewer costs incurred in terms of support hours.
Furthermore, there is also less stress and frustration that will be experienced by your IT support staff. And finally, efficiency will increase as IT spends less time on menial support tasks and more time on implementing solutions that support company growth.
Integration with Existing Applications
According to some recent case studies analyzed by Software Advice, UC system integrations with CRM, Office Productivity, Call Center, and Custom Apps are the most commonly combined software packages. And the ability to merge all of functionality of Unified Communications tools with other productivity tools is a real benefit, saving time and money, and increasing employee output.
Cons of Unified Communications
According to a recent survey from the Aberdeen Group (a worldwide research company that seeks to educate and help businesses to improve their performance), the majority of polled companies’ top concern over UC are the initial, upfront costs. In fact, “73% of companies with more than 5,000 employees cited cost as an obstacle to implementing UC.”
Enterprises considering a UC implementation need to review all possible costs that could be incurred. There may be capital costs in new equipment, but there may also be the cost of additional support staff, training, and ongoing system management.
So it’s important to calculate all possible labor and other operational costs that could be realized across the potential lifespan of the solution. In terms of TCO, though, a UC solution is likely to generate savings overall for most companies.
Interoperability with Existing Systems
Another common concern of many companies looking to implement a UC system is whether or not it will integrate smoothly and easily with the existing infrastructure. It may be that you have legacy equipment onsite, or haven’t yet migrated to a converged VoIP voice and data network.
While this is a valid concern for businesses, there are many cloud-service implementers that offer a hybrid communications system that can merge existing equipment (with few required updates), with the network infrastructure, software, and services offered by the UC provider.
Training Costs and Learning Curve
With any new technology, experts are needed to ensure a smooth and trouble-free installation. It is likely that, at least initially, your onsite IT support resources may not be up to speed on the software and equipment included with the new UC implementation, so the organization will need to invest in some expert training resources.
Ongoing, as UC systems are upgraded with newer technologies, administrators will require continuous training to maintain and add appropriately to their UC skillset.
Resistance to Change
Years ago, our IT department implemented an electronic ‘In and Out’ board, as requested by management to help keep track of employees’ schedules. While it sounded like a good product to implement in theory, its usefulness was tied to the accuracy of each employee setting their status.
As it turns out, there were many in the company that neglected to change their status, rendering the product as ineffective. In a similar vein, your company’s UC installation is only as good as the amount it’s being used.
Engaging with a Long-term Partner
With all of the benefits it has to offer, many enterprises today are looking for a scalable, on-demand, cloud-based Unified Communications system. West provides a platform that delivers a complete package of Unified Communications services and applications, with the capability of transforming how an enterprise works.
West stands out from other UC providers by offering cloud-based UC solutions that enable their customers to thrive. West utilizes a hosted, cloud-based service infrastructure that scales to accommodate any changes within a business. They give you all the communications tools your enterprise needs to work efficiently and effectively – each one hosted and managed by them and delivered as a service over any MPLS network connection.
Learn how the West Unified Communications Platform Works