Why Phone Systems and UC Are Being Integrated with Business Apps

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ShoreTel recently unveiled ShoreTel TechConnect, a new technology partner and developer program with expanded testing capabilities. ShoreTel TechConnect was created to build upon its ecosystem of more than 1,500 developers and 110 technology partners. ShoreTel is seeking to extend the capabilities of products such as its ShoreTel Connect unified communications (UC) solution by integrating them with business applications. Software developers will be able to leverage ShoreTel’s increased testing capacity, including cloud-based test preparation, to speed time to market.

This initiative by ShoreTel is indicative of a growing trend toward integrating communication into business workflows. More specifically, a software-based, Internet-enabled phone system can seamlessly add communications functionality to business applications, creating efficiencies that boost productivity and enhance customer service.

According to research from  the Unified Communications reviews firm Software Advice, screen pops and click-to-call are the most frequently integrated UC features. A screen pop is a display window that appears on a user’s screen when an incoming call is received, providing information about the caller and the purpose of the call. Click-to-call enables the user to place a call by clicking or tapping a button instead of looking up a number and dialing. These and other UC capabilities, such as call reporting and call routing, are most commonly integrated with customer relationship management (CRM), call center, and office productivity applications.

The integration of an Internet-enabled phone system with business applications has become a virtual necessity in call centers, and there is much value to be gained in other areas of the business as well. When business and customer data are integrated with communications tools, organizations can optimize their processes and workflows. This not only improves productivity but leads to more informed decisions, simpler collaboration, and a better customer experience. It also increases the ROI of the phone system, the UC platform, and business applications. All of these gains can be quantified when the right metrics are applied.

Of course, if the integration is clumsy and non-intuitive, user adoption will be low and ROI limited. It’s important to look for a UC solution that works seamlessly with applications, so that users can come up to speed quickly with no additional training. Therein lies the value of the ShoreTel TechConnect program.

That said, implementing a unified communications solution, integrating communications and phone system functionality with business applications and workflows, and measuring performance are all complex undertakings. The Software Advice study found that “do-it-yourself” integrations are not that common — only 14 percent of organizations relied upon in-house IT teams to handle the project. Most organizations turned to a technology solution provider (42 percent) or vendor (36 percent) to perform the integration.

Nevertheless, UC and application integrations have the potential to deliver tremendous business benefits. Organizations would be well served to partner with an experienced solution provider such as IPC to ensure the seamless integration of UC capabilities and business systems.