The objective of UC (unified communications) is to strengthen business communication, collaboration and productivity. The UC market boasts a number of impressive offerings, all of which can provide users with a single interface designed to bring together all forms of communication – from text and voice based to video based. The specific needs of your business will ultimately determine which platform you opt for.

Unifying communications just makes sense. Using a myriad of platforms and devices to meet the ever increasing demands of day-to-day business only serves to make daily communications more fragmented and ultimately slower – not to mention the pressure of remembering more than one password. And while the tech jargon and painful acronyms that surround unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) can seem initially off-putting and overcomplicated, the application of these tools will undoubtedly simplify the way in which a business communicates.

“Communication is your ticket to success, if you pay attention and learn to do it effectively.” – Theo Gold

Within the current climate, where video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have allowed employees to operate remotely across all devices, it is likely that those previously unconvinced will reconsider their future strategy.  Such communication tools (in a COVID-free world), not only reduce costs and enhance ROI, offer a level of flexibility to employees which is vital in an unpredictable world which we have witnessed first-hand.

Collaboration, an entity in its own right, has now become almost inseparable from the UC environment and promotes both a progressive and accessible workplace for employees. Functions such as calendar planning, file sharing, task management and reporting help to support a transparent work environment in which employees can task-share effectively. There is no doubt that communication and collaboration now go hand in hand.

As forward-thinking companies make the transition into the world of unified communications, there are a number of factors they will want to consider before choosing a particular platform. At the fore of any decision will be the user experience. Zoom for example, with click-to-join functionality and smart phone or web-browser access, is one of the easiest tools to access on the collaborative market. Ease of use will prove to be paramount for any UC sceptics.

Given that much of the focus of UC platforms is on employee collaboration, platforms that offer those extra bells and whistles such as virtual whiteboards, state-of-the-art camera kits and chat rooms will be hard to resist for those companies in pursuit of a more compelling meeting experience. Amazon Chime is one such platform with their trusty sidekick Alexa on board to offer voice-based virtual assistant support when navigating through the system.

It is this range of services and an individual platform’s specialisation that should form the basis of any decision. One vendor might focus on telephony-based communications, whereas another might focus mainly on mobility and collaboration. A company needs to decipher where their focus lies and go from there.

And just like any other business decision, the practicalities have to be considered. Pricing will vary depending on the actual bundle of technologies purchased and the number of users. Pay-as-you-go pricing is appealing in that it ensures businesses are never paying in excess of their use. Zoom utilises this model and, unlike many of its competitors, allows users to host meetings for free – though in fairness many are providing this in the current pandemic.

If a business is prepared to invest in one of these platforms, they will want to ensure their UC network is secure. Security is proving to be a differentiator when it comes to vendors with some key players providing packaged encryption and VPN, as well as two-factor authentication and Single Sign-On.  The likes of Amazon Chime offers built-in reliability with a network architecture designed to protect even the most privacy-sensitive organisations.

Both businesses and employees alike are beginning to observe the benefits and potential of UC solutions to working. Being able to access and share information from anywhere, at any time and from any device is a powerful tool which offers users a sense of freedom and, at the same time, connectivity boosting both morale and productivity. Companies have a wealth of choice when it comes to platforms – their decision will be led by their needs.

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June 9th, 2020