At a time when employees are as technologically advanced as ever, using varied communication vehicles, devoting longer hours to work, and staying in touch using a variety of devices, there is a disconnect between being plugged in and being effective.WORK EFFICIENCY A Fonality study found that for companies with knowledge workers who average an eight-hour workday, nearly 50 percent of that time, (almost four hours a day) is spent trying to contact people, find information, schedule meetings, dealing with unwanted communications, duplicating information, and other tasks that could largely be eliminated by a strategic approach to unified
Unified communications, or UC, is built on an integrated platform to support andenhance the wide range of communications functions necessary in today’scompetitive work environments. Voice, data, and video communications are allmanaged on a single IT infrastructure that is accessible through in-officeequipment, laptops, and a range of mobile devices.Employees, clients, and other authorized parties can transfer calls, share screens,send email and instant messages, and access applications and data seamlessly,regardless of where they are located. UC systems are quickly scalable toaccommodate fast-growing companies and those that have peaks and valleys intheir communication demands.
UC Applications: Phone is Just the Beginning Phone UC offers the functionality of the most sophisticated phone system. The business can receive unlimited inbound and make unlimited outbound phone calls and maintain standard functions such as call forwarding, hold, paging, intercom, and voicemail, among others.DataUC systems provide traditional email, chat, Internet access, and applicationsupport just like any other computer system. However, because UCintegrates traditional phones and other devices, including smart phones,tablets, and computers, phone calls may trigger a voicemail prompt andvoicemail prompt and allow the employee to return a call by simplyclicking on the message.
UC Applications: Phone is Just the Beginning Video If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video is invaluable. Video communication between workstations improves productivity while giving employees and clients the relationship-building “face time” they need. However, instead of footing the bill for expensive trips and meetings, you’ll be saving money on your communications infrastructure because UC supports robust video conferencing.CollaborationA good UC system keeps employees informed of co-workers’ presence and preferred method ofcommunication. By checking the system’s dashboard, employees can usually see whether the colleaguesthey need are available and whether it’s best to communicate by phone, chat, email, or anothermethod.
Considering UC: Whats In It For Me? In evaluating UCs impact on real-world settings, consider this: A company with 50 knowledge workers earning salaries between $40,000 and $100,000 migrates to UC. Downtime is reduced and the IT staff is al lowed to refocus on activities that benefit the company’s bottom line. A modest, two-hour-per-day gain in efficiency results in an annual productivity gain of nearly $1 million.As a company grows, its employee-to-IT professional ratiobecomes more unwieldy. A Fonality report illustrated that whilea startup might have five or seven employees per IT professionalto help manage IT challenges, when the company grows to morethan 100 employees that ratio could be as much as 40employees to one IT professional. At 500 employees, each ITstaffer might be responsible for the technology needs of asmany as 152 people.
Considering UC: Whats In It For Me? Real case studies show how UC helps small businesses: Case Study VariQ is an IT firm based in Washington, D.C. President and CEO Ben Edson turned to UC when he needed the ability to transfer calls between his small network of employees and contractors working in various locations. He tried free conference call services, but was put off by the advertisements. UC offered the solutions he was seeking—including integrated conference calling—with a whopping 35 percent savings. Now VariQ’s network of 45 employees and contractors stay connected primarily through voice, conferencing, and chat functions.“UC makes us look, to the outside world, like a cohesive organization, and allows us to workanywhere at any time. That’s a huge advantage for small companies.” - Ben Edson, VariQ
Considering UC: Whats In It For Me?Case StudyVeteran Corps of America is an information technology products and servicesfirm in Illinois that gives disabled veterans a vehicle to find meaningful work.Soon after its launch, the founders concluded that its rudimentarycommunication system of cordless telephones, an answering machine, andcomputers was creating a choke point and inhibiting the company’s growth.Veteran Corps needed an anytime, anywhere communications platform, co-founder William Wheeler said. “With [UC], as long as someone can operate a computer, we can put the equipment in their home, and they’re fully linked with our system, no matter where they are. That lets us create job opportunities and grow our business.” - William Wheeler, Veteran Corps
Considering UC: Drafting a Plan As they evaluate UC and its ability to reduce costs and enhance communication, collaboration, and productivity, businesses should initiate a process that ensures the investments of time and resources have sufficient returns. That process includes:Evaluating the current state of communications. Conduct a thorough audit of your company’s communicationneeds, and cross-check them with the functions the UC provider offers. Use this phase to set the goals you wish toreach and identify the markers for success to help you set goals for the system implementation.Building user buy-in. The success and ultimate ROl of your UC implementation isn’t going to lie with yourmanagement, tech team, or even the provider. It’s critical that employees—the people who will be using the system ona day-to-day basis—believe in it. So, building employee buy-in is critical.Vetting the technologies. Some businesses may be comfortable outsourcing email hosting but may be uneasywhen it comes to outside hosting of their phone systems. Your team will need to evaluate which technologies are bestkept in-house and which can be outsourced. Your provider should help you evaluate your site and the existingtechnological capabilities to ensure that the site is ready for a UC implementation.
Considering UC: Drafting a PlanAccounting for cost savings. A key driver for a UC plan is cost. Small and midsize businesses usingUC strategically can enjoy significant savings that can be reinvested in other areas to grow thecompany. For example, a UC system that centralizes inbound calls and uses the company’s datanetwork for connectivity can save a company 20 to 30 percent over legacy phone sys tems.Developing a migration plan. Your UC provider should be able to give you a clear understanding of thetraining, downtime, and other effects the migration to UC will have on your company. Be sure to allowample time to roll out com ponents of the system, test them and gather feedback from your cross-func tional team to ensure that the rollout is going as planned and meeting expecta tions.Identifying opportunities for growth. Among the core benefits of a UC system is its ability toseamlessly grow with your business and offer a variety of options as your business needs them. As yourbusiness grows, conduct periodic evaluations of your system’s effectiveness and look for ways thatenhanced functionality might be able to improve it and facilitate further growth.
Considering UC: Whats In It For Me? Real case studies show how UC helps small businesses: Ability to meet current needs. The UC platform needs to support the techno logical functions your employees need and use each day. Your provider should have excellent customer support and give you a reliable roadmap for rolling out your UC platform with minimal downtime.Features to better support in-house and mobile workers. As you consider UC providers, look at other features the UC platform has and evaluate how those might help your company streamline or be moreeffective in its current communication practices.Flexibility and scalability. Your UC provider should work with you to develop solutions that meet theneeds of your business, based on its current size and communications practices, but that don’t includeexpensive add-ons that your employees won’t use. Look for a provider that has tiers of service andcan easily upgrade your company to the next level when growth demands.
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