How Unified Communications Works

The Role of Unified Communications in Business

A doctor video conferencing away from the work area is an example of unified communications.
A doctor video conferencing away from the work area is an example of unified communications.
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Unified communications aims to overcome the flaws of business communication, with considerable payoff. Many of the benefits to a well-planned UC system are outlined below.

  • Lower expenses -- The initial investment in new technology can seem overwhelming, but existing infrastructure might be sufficient or easily modifiable. Companies can eliminate redundant resources, and some companies, such as Google, even provide some UC solutions for free.
  • Maximize work time -- UC can allow you to work with people based on availability and reduce time wasted playing phone tag.
  • Minimize travel -- Why squander the financial and environmental resources to fly or drive to a meeting that can take place over video conferencing?
  • Access with a single sign-on -- With single sign-on ability, you don't have to worry about keeping track of multiple usernames and passwords.
  • Work anywhere -- UC also lets you keep in touch with the office when travel is unavoidable, when the kids are home sick or even when an emergency comes up during vacation.

[source: Microsoft]

And how does all of this take place? Most old-school professional communication happens via messages, which sit on a phone or computer until they're retrieved. It's convenient for the recipient, in part because messages don't demand an immediate response (or sometimes, any response at all). Senders, however, don't know if the correspondent is unavailable, or if they're simply being ignored. Messages are also dependent on the delivery method: You can call the desk phone instead of the cell phone, and when the message is received, it might be too late.

Real-time electronic communication is intended to reduce or eliminate the lag between a message being sent and received, using functions such as chat, video conferencing and VoIP (voice over Internet protocol -- basically, talking on the phone over an Internet connection). Speech recognition applications can be used with text-based, real-time methods to convert a dictated (spoken) message into text that can be read on the recipient's screen [source: Microsoft].

We've seen what UC can do for a business, but like any worthwhile investment, there are considerations. Continue reading to find out about some of the problems that can be incurred as a result of UC.