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May 16, 2007

Why You Should Consider Unified Communications for Your Business

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor

Business communications is undergoing a rather dramatic evolution. It used to be that voice (phone calls) was the dominant channel. Today business communications has expanded to a broader universe of “messages” which may take the form of e-mails, video clips, and faxes, among others. These messages are becoming available from more locations using more types of devices—from desktop phones to the computers to mobile phones and PDAs.

Underlying this expansion is a unification of sorts: unified communications. You’ve probably heard this term, and wondered just what it meant. You’re not alone; there are a variety of answer to that question. Here’s one from Iwatsu, a company that specializes in unified communications solutions: unified communications is a system that makes voicemails, e-mails, faxes and other types of message available from a single “inbox” on a variety of devices, such as desk phone, cellphone, or PDA.
Unified communications can probably be best understood by examining some of its benefits. Two of those benefits are return on investment (ROI) and productivity.
Most companies today are investing heavily in a wide range of communications applications like mobile access, instant messaging, voicemail, e-mail, and collaboration tools. These investments include both deployment and training. But, the ROI for these individual technologies is sometimes questionable.
Why should this be?
The answer is pretty simple: when IT staff deploys a new communications tool, that technology is managed separately from all the others and requires users to become familiar with yet another process. All too often, these technologies—great as they are—do not work together well as an integrated solution. ROI therefore is diminished by larger overhead, training and maintenance costs.
Which brings us to productivity. Not only does deploying siloed communications technologies threaten ROI, but it also can hurt productivity. This is in direct opposition to the reasons why companies invest in the new technologies to begin with: every company wants a quick return on the resources it invests in, and for those resources to boost productivity.
Enter unified communications, or UC for short. UC solutions address the two topics discussed above: ROI and productivity. These solutions let companies leverage their existing infrastructure (thereby protecting previous investments) and provide an overall, unified system versus several siloed applications. Deploying a UC solution takes less time, and costs less money, than deploying a bunch of disparate solutions.
UC solutions also reduce training costs, since employees only have to learn one system, once. Not surprisingly, UC also positively impacts productivity by providing a simpler, unified interface for employees to access frequently used communications services.
Finally, UC boosts productivity by tying together applications like mobility, presence and messaging. This means employees can be productive no matter where they’re working—inside or outside the office—and that customers can quickly and easily locate the right person to answer their questions.
To learn more about the benefits of UC solutions, please visit Iwatsu’s Unified Communications channel on

Ever dreamed about building the next big IP-based communications product or service? Now’s your big chance to learn how! Hop on over to the Communications Developer Conference site to register and get additional info about the event (May 14-17, 2007 at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara, California)—where you can gain the skills needed to turn your dream into reality. Between sessions at the conference, check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library.

Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.


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