This article originally appeared in the August 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine.
The rapid and widespread adoption of modern connectivity is a testament to our basic human need and desire to correspond and stay in touch. Whether by e-mail, voicemail, instant messaging, text messaging, mobile phone or satellite phone – or whatever new method of talking to each other should emerge in the coming decade – we will always need to communicate.
And it’s great to have so many new tools and platforms to do it with. But if you’re anything like the millions of people who are finding themselves juggling multiple e-mail addresses, IM accounts, phone numbers and the like, you’re asking if there’s a time to say “when,” and you’re searching for a coping strategy.
Aside from the usual office telephone and e-mail systems, Americans are increasingly doing their business on the move. In the mobile market alone, more than 45.5 million people in the United States own smartphones, according to figures released earlier this year by ComScore. Smartphone technology is the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. mobile phone market.
We’re talking about nearly 234 million subscribers. That’s huge, but more intriguing than the massive adoption of this technology is the industry competition and variety by which the basic act of communication is available – Microsoft's Windows Mobile and Palm's WebOS, Google’s (News - Alert) Android and the iPhone. And let’s not forget about the BlackBerry.
Competition is great, of course. But in the process of one-upping each other and advancing modern communication tools, these providers create different platforms and seem to try their hardest to ensure that each of their individual devices and platforms won’t necessarily play well with others. Imagine being that IT guy with a third of his colleagues on iPhones, a third on Windows Mobile, and another third on Android (News - Alert). And what if that guy with Windows Mobile is working on a Mac?
That’s where the unified communications solutions come in. It’s about connecting the dots: connecting your people; connecting yourself to your people; and, of course, connecting yourself and your people to your customers.
With a UC solution, employees can have one phone for everything and a single IP extension for wherever they are, eliminating the need for expensive landlines and VPNs. And technology today can readily integrate existing infrastructure with seamless LDAP, Active Directory and users’ contacts, whether they use Macs or PCs. This simplifies system administration and lowers total cost of ownership.
This kind of solution increases employee productivity by fully integrating mobile, remote and distributed workers. Easy conference calling means no more dialing in from home or hotel landlines. Visual voicemail and call recording brings messages front and center, so employees don’t have to call the office to retrieve voicemails left on their desktop phones. Advanced presence-based call routing, call reporting and call recording features reduce missed calls and replace notes jotted on sometimes vanishing Post-it notes.
Some companies, such as Verizon (News - Alert), have introduced cloud-based UC as a service. Teo recently has made available a premises-based UC solution that can be adapted to suit the individual systems of a company or organization.
It could be that another industry player will develop a different innovative approach to unified communications. But whatever the method, the objective is the same: wrangle the dozens of different high-tech tools before the gains in communications efficiency become dwarfed by the complicatedness.
UC is becoming more important to organizations today as they realize that it’s more cost effective to manage a unified solution than it is to manage different systems – even if they decide to narrow the number of platforms down to a handful. Anyone who truly solves this problem with simple user experience and streamlined administration features will be emerge as the hero to IT departments around the world.
In the end, bringing our modern communications technology together under one roof will open the log jam and keep us all up-to-date and in touch with each other and our customers.
Thomas Beck is business strategy executive at Teo Technologies (www.teotech.com).
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Edited by Stefania Viscusi