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Unified Communications
Now UC It
UC Mag
David Levy
President and CEO

Objectworld Communications

Unified Messaging: Can You Live Without It?

In this month's column we examine one of the most recognized ways to get started with unified communications, unified messaging. Once someone has experienced UM, they can't imagine life without it and often find it aggravating to work in a business that doesn't provide UM capabilities.


For those of you that haven't experienced UM, here's a typical scenario. You just got back into the office after a great vacation and the "message waiting" indicator on your office phone is blinking. You, like millions of folks out there, don't have UM and grit your teeth when hitting the message button on your phone. "You have 57 new messages," groan. You have no idea who they're from or which ones are important, so you must listen to each message in chronological order. Making notes on each message, you can decide how to handle them and probably want to delete them once heard because serial voicemail management is such a pain. Then it's time to look at your paper faxes, which aren't in any specific order, and who knows if some are missing. Finally, you need to look at your email, a far more pleasant experience because you can at least scan them visually, organize them and deal with them in order of importance. This is life without UM.


So what is UM and how will it change your life? UM delivers your voice and fax messages as email to your email inbox. This means that you get to scan and organize them along with your regular email messages. Moreover, you can access your voice and fax messages on any email client supported by your email system, be it your PC at home or office, while on the road on your laptop, netbook, smartphone, or using a Web browser.


UM improves your life so that now, when you get back to the office after your vacation, all of your messages are stored in one, cohesive place. You can scan and manage all your voice and fax messages the same way as you are used to doing for emails, and of course at the same time so you can prioritize which messages to handle first. With UM, you don't have to deal with messages in chronological order; rather, you can easily get back to any message using random access instead of a blind serial access. Moreover, repeating voice messages or parts of them is easy in a client interface since you can easily replay mumbled names and telephone numbers by just replaying the questionable section of the waveform rather than the whole message. UM just saved you several hours, a lot of frustration, and lets you respond faster with less stress (so you didn't spoil the afterglow of your hard-earned vacation on your first day back in the office). If you're a diligent workaholic you have probably already dispensed with the 57 messages via email on your smartphone while you were on vacation anyway, or you might have used call redirection to send the voice and fax messages for someone else to handle - but that's another UC feature I'll address in an upcoming column.


So why should you invest in a UM solution for your business as the first UC initiative? UM has both hard and soft ROI benefits you should consider. The benefits that generate an easily computed hard dollar ROI are centered on the reduction of telephone calling charges. Because remote users can access messages via a data network they don't need to call in to check for messages or to listen to them, so you save on both the number facilities and long distance charges. If you are using the fax feature with UM there are hard benefits associated with eliminating phone lines, fax machines and maintenance as well as supplies. The soft benefits, those that have a more difficult-to-identify dollar ROI, are centered on human productivity increases.


Numerous studies have shown a user that handles many voice and fax messages can save up to 30 minutes/day using UM. This benefit comes primarily from being able to randomly access and manage messages in one client, accessible from multiple devices and from any location, but also from other features such as being able to easily forward, and archive messages, respond faster to messages, with fewer lost/ignored messages and with better security and less wasted walkabout time for faxes.


Since I haven't found anyone who doesn't love having UM in their work life, perhaps the most compelling soft benefit realized from a UM investment is less stressed, and happier employees - this value is priceless.


David Levy is President and CEO of Objectworld Communications Corp. (www.objectworld.com).


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