Facebook, Instant Messenger, Skype, and Outlook – those are communication tools we are quite aware of nowadays since communication, respectively social communication, has turned out to be a centre element of our generation and the current Web 2.0. What I would like to do in this post today is to move the discussion on communication up to a business level.
Respectively I have to mention that over the past few years, a social technology called Unified Communications (UC) has evolved to provide powerful and affordable business communication capabilities. How does a Unified Communication system work?
It collects various real-time communication services such as telephony, instant messaging, and video conferencing with non real-time communication services such as e-mail, SMS and Fax. In other words, UC transforms them into a unified communication interface. Just imagine you are in a business meeting: If a Fax is coming in at your office, you are not only able to receive the notification on your Smartphone or Laptop. You can also directly see what is written in the document. At the same time, you can rely on presence information to see who of your business partners currently is online. If necessary, a videoconference can be convened after the meeting.
Let’s dig into the benefits of UC
UC turns out to be pretty crucial for its ability to cut complexity costs, which means costs that incur by not sufficiently using certain in this case communication resources. Ramon Ray, author of Technology Solutions for Growing Businesses, confirms that “being able to respond to customers as soon as possible boosts your customer service, responding to vendors or employees in hours and not days boosts productivity.” Still many companies deny the advantages unified communication systems can offer. Authors of Waging War on Complexity Costs Stephen A. Wilson and Andrei Perumal criticize:
“Few companies have earnestly tackled the issue of complexity costs. They may view their complexity as an intractable problem. Many do not fully appreciate the size of the prize that can be won by engaging in this war. But as we explain in ‘Waging War on Complexity Costs’ (McGraw-Hill), complexity costs are the biggest single determinant of your cost-competitiveness.”
Wilson and Perumal underline the importance of UC systems by mentioning the example of Motorola. It is being said that the company had faced two years of a war on complexity and finally managed to generate savings of $2.6 billion in operating and material costs. At the same time, Motorola had reduced inventory by $1.4 billion and capacity by 40% as fewer factories and distribution centers were needed.
The battle against architectural complexity
Apparently Motorola belongs to those companies that are considered being large. Those firms can easily cover the costs of architectural complexity of any UC system. Especially those small and medium enterprises (SMEs) complain of not having the capabilities to implement a costly Unified Communication system. Bennie Langenhofen, managing executive of Tellumat Communication Solutions and expert in this field, however argues that “UC can benefit organizations of all sizes, if architectural complexity is eliminated.” Therefore, developers of UC systems have to vary the architecture of their platforms according to the needs of companies of all sizes. Accordingly, Bennie Langenhofen makes a few proposals for changes that would fit well to the needs of SMEs. He says:
“Companies of all sizes [with particular significance with SMEs] want the following from UC:
- Reliability: SMEs are particularly dependent on fail- safe solutions;
- Ease of use, training, deployment and management to sui SMEs’ modest skills base;
- Low total cost of ownership to suit SME budgets
- Full- featured functionality as the standard to let SMEs run with the big dogs, and
- Scalability – upwards, outwards and downwards to leave room for growth without being over- engineered.”
He then recommends warmly to customers to pick a vendor not offering complexity of architecture, high total costs of ownership or a limited choice between a full range of devices. Ramon Ray affirms that low UC platforms are already on the market and can now even be implemented in small and medium size businesses.
Align the business process to Unified Communication tools
Still, we have to keep one thing in mind. Unified communication itself is not the key factor for success and cost reduction of any UC project. In Tips for a successful unified communications strategy Shervin Fathinia of Voice and Data states the importance of developing a solid UC strategy that aligns with the overall organization’s business processes. Before implementing a Unified Communications tool one should already set strategic goals – from initial specification to both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ benefits to measurable productivity savings and finally to end- user training.
After all I think implementing a UC system sounds quite promising. Nowadays, the hoi polloi communicates over a humongous network of communication tools. Smartphones are connected to Facebook, which itself is connected to music provider and so on. The more connected we are, the better. Same applies to business. I am really eager to see if at the time I start working, I will have to deal with a complex UC System.
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