Harnessing the power of unified communications

2 February 2018

In the world today human interactions are ever-changing and complicated. Teams in the workplace are malleable and dynamic, and so, therefore, it is routine to work with colleagues in different locations.

Enterprises have a responsibility to support their employees, and the astute organization will invest in communications solutions that are truly collaborative, and those which unite telephony, video messaging, and mobile – and indeed, any emerging communication channel.

As businesses grow organically, their communications systems tend to form piecemeal, according to needs that have arisen at particular important junctures. Working with a particular client, for instance, might suggest that a particular messaging platform would drive efficiencies; further down the line, a different solution might be leveraged. As this process continues, the enterprise finds itself with a variety of communication software & hardware methods, and despite the existence of some level of open standards, the different solutions rarely work together seamlessly.

With a truly unified communications solution, systems integrate in real-time: voice, video, data. And, in an ideal world, they come together in a single user interface.

People work smarter when communications capabilities are embedded into their everyday work patterns, so finding the unified interface for an application that truly improves productivity will lead to a solution people happily use every day.

The old adage of computing is that no one ever uses a solution in order to make somebody else’s life easier! The take-home from this is that simple access, an approachable graphical user interface, and overall ease of use leads to the highest adoption levels. And the better the adoption rates, the better and faster the decision-making processes, the lower the travel costs, telephony costs, and associated expenses.

It was only a few decades ago when face-to-face meetings, sometimes after significant travel, or telephone calls, were how collaboration was achieved. However, interactions with customers, colleagues, and partners are by necessity much more fluid than ever before. Competitive pressures also mean that interactions need to be quicker, but also be capable of reaching out globally.

When email first arrived in the workplace, the playing of email tag was understandable; in fact, in some ways, it was the “modern” version of telephone message tag! But losing time while a team organizes its communication means lost sales, decisions based on incomplete or misleading information, unhappy customers and disgruntled staff.

Any business owner or entrepreneur will know that hiring the right people is the best way to achieve a distinct advantage. But the question remains, how to use the best people from around the world, but still respond as effectively as if everyone were sitting it in the same building? How is a corporate culture built with offices on multiple continents, and with employees spread between partners facilities, customer sites, and branch offices?

All organizations are under pressure to reduce expenses. At the top of the list of avoidable costs are travel and telephony. Unified communications mean that organizations can face down the following common challenges:

-keep kilometers traveled down to an absolute minimum for internal and external meetings

-prevent high mobile phone costs while roaming and reduce inflated hotel access charges

-reduce overall costs of telephony, hardware, and software

-obviate the need for expensive PBX upgrades

-stop, or at least reduce, the charges associated with hosted web conferencing systems

-cut back on real estate costs and reduce associated maintenance by enabling personnel to work from home or remotely.

To surmount these challenges and more, enterprises are seeking a fully unified communications solution. Here at Tech wire Asia, here four solution providers which we consider to be worth your attention.

AVAYA

Avaya’s range of solutions enables enterprises of all sizes to achieve their goals, be that a more efficient collaborative system, better communications or an increased efficiency in the integration of communication platform and workforce desktops.

In today’s mobile business environment, mobile messaging is as important as was the telephone alone in decades past. Avaya’s resilient yet cost-effective mobile solutions can either be built on its own technology or they will integrate seamlessly with third-party applications which might be already embedded in the enterprise, such as Microsoft Exchanges Message Store.

The emphasis with the California-based company is on achieving maximum efficiency either with new systems or with existing communications systems, whether those are in the cloud or on their clients’ premises.

End users ease of use is continued in management and administration facilities, which lower infrastructure costs and allow rapid deployment across the enterprise. The ease of installation and the power of Avaya’s system means that from day one, organizations can begin to innovate, perform and reliably communicate across all channels.

Once inside the Avaya environment, existing channels can be optimised or new ones added, according to business requirements, rather than the technology dictating which methods of communication are used internally or in customer-facing roles. In this way, Avaya allows business to dictate to IT, not the other way round.

To read more about Avaya’s solutions, click here.

GENESYS

Genesys’s solutions bring together what the company considers to be the four elements of a truly competitive customer service platform. By combining call, chat, video, and metrics, the company (which is headquartered in California), offers a cloud-based system which purports to pull together these disparate elements.

Pure Cloud Collaborate allows enterprises real-time collaboration tools and this typically, in most installations, combines with Pure Cloud Communicate, a traditional IP telephony service.

Pure Cloud Collaborate brings together the broad spectrum of applications which teams tend to end up using to collaborate with one another at work. The platform unites video conferencing (for use internally and customer-facing), instant messaging, and document management as well as file sharing. In the past, these systems have each had their own specialist applications to achieve. And Genesys’s products bring these very different technologies together in one place.

The company has good support for companies that wish to use these solutions in a more open manner, with a range of APIs and API-like services for enterprises who wish to use Genesys’s systems as a part of their own solution: webhooks can be utilized, as can data queries from the IVR (interactive voice response) using an external web service.

CISCO

The name Cisco will, of course, be familiar to anyone who’s had even more than a passing interest in technology over the last 20 years. The San Francisco-headquartered company still dominates the world of networking, with a range of products which are still considered to be the de facto standard networking kit.

The company produces three separate ranges of IP telephony situations, with the Cisco Business Edition 7000 being the largest, down to Cisco Business Edition 4000, which is designed for businesses with up to 200 telephones in use.

The Cisco product suite for unified communications is three-sided, with IP telephony just one part. The Unified Communications Manager brings together:

Cisco Jabber: covers telephony, conferencing and video capabilities and is truly cross-platform, with clients available on Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android. The application comes with a full web SDK to allow enterprises to develop their own solutions.

Cisco Unity Connection allows access to voice messages held and managed in various storage silos.

Cisco WebEx, helping to organize and manage all meeting activities across an extended enterprise.

As well as offering solutions based on its own, rock-solid hardware, Cisco also offers a range of cloud-based services such as cloud calling and unified communications as a service (UCaaS). Being a large concern, Cisco’s solutions are fully scalable from just a few nodes on smaller concerns’ workers’ BYOD devices, right up to the multinational enterprise’s use of wildly disparate communication methods and geographies.

MITEL

Mitel’s solution is suitable for just about any type of organization. Their UCC (unified communications and collaboration) systems can either run on client’s own hardware or can be run on Mitel’s metal. The full power of their solutions is also available as a service, on a subscription basis, meaning no long-term commitment or upfront capital expenditure is involved.

Mitel breaks down the silos of different communications and brings together voice, video, group chat and collaboration within a single application. All communications are encrypted with AES technology, meaning that end to end, the UCC conduit is safe from the prying eyes of competitors or those wishing to exploit security holes.

The company can supply a range of call center management solutions which move the traditional call center (which was voice only) into the unified communication sphere, allowing better interaction between companies, their customers, and partners. Channels include integration with a host of popular social media, whatever the geography.

The call center management architecture has a range of open APIs, and can “speak” ODBC, VXML, and so on, and comes with prebuilt toolkits for various integrations including a range of CRMs and WFMs.