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February 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 2
Enterprise View

Unified Communications’ Value to SMBs

The many challenges faced by Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMBs) force them to become more flexible to survive in increasingly competitive markets. This demands increased productivity from employees and optimized operational efficiency from company resources to enable short response times and fast information-driven decision making. As competition increases from larger enterprises, improved employee communications and customer satisfaction become top priorities.

Unified communications (UC) enables individual and group communications that deliver increased people productivity and organizational efficiencies. UC is a crucial strategic technology available to SMB. Mobility, business continuity and enhanced connectivity to office resources are all foundational elements of a comprehensive UC strategy. SMBs are gravitating towards UC without even realizing it. SMBs with a high UC propensity typically operate in a dynamic environment that blends mobile lifestyles into their business process. UC & IP communications options are strong adoption drivers as well. The emergence of more complete SMB-focused UC platforms will further drive awareness. SMBs with more sophisticated communications needs will likely begin migrating to full UC suites.

For the majority of smaller SMBs, email and traditional key systems will likely remain their primary means of communication for the next few years, perhaps enhanced by tools such as Instant Messaging and unified communications.

With investment into UC from major technology companies such as Google and Microsoft (News - Alert), we’ll see an explosion of marketing messages that will educate SMBs on the value of UC to their business. The result will be rapid ongoing adoption of various UC components over the next 3-5 years. This adoption will still be on a component-by-component level, with unified messaging, mobility and presence integration with existing business applications being the most sought-after capabilities.

Demand will grow dramatically as this new investment in the unified communication message will be focused on demonstrating strong linkages to business issues, processes and benefits. Traditional telecom resellers and channel partners need to become business consultants. Selling UC will require weaving the UC story into the SMBs’ day-to-day communications usage and illustrating how business and operational issues are resolved and competitiveness enhanced in specific circumstances by using UC.

Ultimately, the SMB landscape is likely to be radically transformed by UC. In the meantime, vendors and channel partners have a lot of work to do in the areas of educating customers and relating the UC message to their respective businesses. IT

C. Don Gant is VP of Channel Marketing, Iwatsu Voice Networks ( Iwatsu’s IVN’s Enterprise Suite incorporates sophisticated call processing, unified communications and productivity measurement solutions into a cost effective platform targeted specifically at SMB. Contact or visit for additional information.

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