Phone, email, instant messaging, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, Web conferencing — in most organizations these remain separate, discrete functions. All of those communications channels are vital, but simply managing them saps productivity and hampers collaboration and customer service.

Today’s enterprise now requires a unified communications infrastructure to capitalize on the benefits of IP communications and information mobility. Unified communications can fundamentally change workplace interactions by seamlessly blending a host of formerly independent communication channels into a flexible, collaborative environment.

A 2008 Gartner survey found that the top three business benefits of unified communications are improved collaboration, productivity and customer service. Those benefits have not changed over the past five years. According to new data from Infonetics Research, unified communications sales are up 21 percent from a year ago, as businesses seek tools to help them boost employee productivity and flexibility.

How unified communications transforms business processes.
Unified communications is designed to eliminate the barriers that have traditionally separated voice calls, email, instant messaging and conferencing in all forms. Once all these communication media are carried over a common IP network, it is possible to manage them from a single point and use them with common devices.

But unified communications also goes beyond traditional communications channels. Gartner has identified three “killer apps” that drive the productivity benefits of unified communications technologies:

  • Contextual presence — including presence information about the individuals and communications channels available to the end-user
  • Flexible media and conference switching — allowing a single interaction sequence to change channels (or media) and increase or reduce the number of participants without ending and restarting the session
  • Intelligent notification services — contacting people with important information, including instructions on the order in which to contact individuals, when someone is unavailable, etc.

Unified communications should also integrate IP communications with key business applications and incorporate social collaboration tools. This enables companies to transform key business processes with improved communication flows.

How to get the most from unified communications.
As the reach and range of business processes continues to increase — involving interactions with partners, suppliers, customers and geographically dispersed teams — organizations should re-examine their corporate communication strategies. Unified communications can be an effective tool for extending collaborative technologies beyond the company network in order to better support today’s business activities and objectives.

It’s also important to ensure that the underlying communications infrastructure is up to the task. End-to-end Quality of Service (QoS) supporting data, voice and video also becomes critical as the emphasis shifts from individual communications solutions to the overarching network environment. Effective management is another key capability in the unified communications environment.

The communications architecture that has evolved over the last 20 years, with its separate, siloed communications infrastructures, no longer meets the requirements of today’s organizations. IPC can help you take advantage of ShoreTel Unified Communications to significantly improve employee productivity, augment business processes and foster innovation.

Are you using unified communications? How has it helped your business?

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