Unified communications solutions from one strategic partner deliver business value in unexpected ways.
Business communication and collaboration tools have enabled organizations to continue operations as employees have shifted to remote work. Online chat, instant messaging, video conferencing and file sharing have supplemented email to facilitate decision-making and business processes.
However, many organizations have implemented these tools in an ad hoc fashion without an overarching plan. Various departments, teams and even individual users have selected and used different tools, creating a patchwork environment that saps productivity and hinders effective communication.
These issues go beyond user frustration. Communication issues can cause organizations to lose customers, miss major deadlines or terminate employees.
Despite the risks, many organizations are hesitant to invest in a unified communications (UC) platform — particularly if they have an aging phone system. If employees are working offsite, why go to the trouble and expense of a major upgrade or replacement given that free or low-cost cloud-based tools are filling the gap?
However, organizations must be careful that their focus on costs does not make them blind to value. The right UC platform helps organizations reduce costs, increase revenue and enhance efficiency.
The Big Picture
As the name implies, UC solutions combine multiple communication tools into a single platform with one user interface. Today’s UC platforms integrate voice, email, messaging, and audio and video conferencing. Enterprise-class tools will have a robust mobile client and enable document- or project-based collaboration.
A number of factors go into the cost of a UC deployment. With a traditional onsite system, there will be upfront investments in hardware and software licenses. A cloud-based UC platform eliminates many of these costs, although desk phones and other equipment may still be required. However, a cloud-based solution has an ongoing monthly subscription that must be included in the TCO calculation.
Network readiness also must be evaluated. Mobility, collaboration and video conferencing applications have greater network overhead than apps such as email and instant messaging. Implementing UC may require upgrades to improve bandwidth and performance. A poor network design could negate many of the benefits an organization expects to realize from the UC solution. The increased network engineering and monitoring requirements result in increased TCO.
The Value Proposition
However, the potential long-term operational savings, productivity benefits and competitive advantages of UC can easily offset upfront costs. A more thorough analysis of TCO metrics is needed to establish a clear cost structure.
A UC solution from a single vendor can reduce operational costs simply by eliminating redundant services. Additionally, UC helps organizations increase revenue by improving sales team collaboration. Improved closing rates and accelerated product development and delivery can further boost the top line.
Productivity gains are more difficult to quantify but no less important. By eliminating the need to coordinate links and access codes for multiple tools, UC saves a significant amount of time each day. Additionally, many organizations see the time required for meetings reduced.
Businesses today require multiple communications technologies to operate effectively. Unified communications systems can integrate, coordinate and manage those technologies for maximum benefit. With so much at stake, those considering a UC system should avoid the temptation to make a decision based solely on costs. By looking at the big picture and analyzing long-term operational savings and other business benefits, organizations will be able to calculate TCO and make the smartest possible decision.