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What is Unified Communications

[fa icon="calendar"] 4/9/2016 / by Mark Nelson

Exerts from the ShoreTel White Paper - Demystifying Unified Communications

What_is_UC.jpgHow IP Telephony Systems Enable Businesses To Leverage Fully The Power Of UC

 

UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS

As IP telephony is moving ahead with enormous momentum, most users are still waiting for full convergence and voice-enabled applications. Increased network efficiencies have been the primary benefit of IP telephony to date as enterprises struggle with infrastructure and organizational issues. These first-generation benefits have been considerable, but the focus is now shifting to converged applications, with the initial spotlight on unified communications (UC).

To achieve UC and other next-generation benefits, companies must build the right foundation, eliminate the voice silo, and make telephony a seamless part of information technology. However, UC is a moving target right now, with various vendors using the term in different ways to emphasize a subset of an evolving group of capabilities.

While these vendors naturally see UC from the perspective of their own product portfolios, what users really want is a rich and flexible communications system that meets particular business needs. They should be able to sample from a complete palette of UC capabilities, and not be restricted to a mere subset designed to enhance a particular vendor’s existing products.

Just what is this full palette?

Analysts at industry research firm Gartner have identified 16 features that comprise a complete UC solution:

  1. Telephony
  2. Unified Messaging
  3. Desktop Client
  4. Email
  5. Instant Messaging (IM)
  6. Audio Conferencing
  7. Video Conferencing
  8. Web Conferencing
  9. Converged Conferencing
  10. Notification Service
  11. Personal Assistant
  12. Rich Presence Service
  13. Communications-Enabled Business Processes
  14. Contact Center
  15. Mobile Solutions
  16. Collaboration
 
To get the full benefits of UC, businesses need to build an infrastructure that can integrate the best applications into a seamless UC environment. After all, UC is really about eliminating islands of communication. A communications system that integrates completely and easily into your desktop environment and your business processes can help transform the way you work and communicate.
 

Guide to Buying a Telephone System

UC from the user’s perspective

 
Users have grown increasingly interested in UC, driven by the needs of their particular businesses and constrained by the context of their particular vendor environments. Early UC adoptions include video conferencing and Web conferencing using customer-provided equipment (CPE), secure enterprise IM, and IM with integrated chat and voice. Ultimately, though, a complete, converged, and vendor independent UC environment is about ensuring users have all the collaboration tools they need to improve efficiency and increase productivity.
 
Most recently, tablets have emerged as effective computing devices with network connectivity that makes them attractive for many UC uses.
 
For example, suppose you need certain information for an important bid. With presence-enabled communications, you can locate and communicate with an expert who has that particular piece of information —even while that individual is engaged in a meeting or another activity. Not only can you reach the person, but you can do so using a communication mode that makes the interruption less disruptive. To take it a step farther, not only can you determine if someone is available for a voice conversation, but you can also know if the individual is online with full display capability. If so, you can drag and drop visual information into the call, transforming it into a collaborative Web conference.
 
Despite the clear advantages of UC, many organizations today are still dealing with an inefficient mix of voice and data silos. Errors are introduced as communications move among them, and information gets lost in translation.
 
There are three main communications components:
 
■ Modes: These include real-time voice, real-time data (IM), asynchronous data (email), multimedia communication (video), and collaborative media (start with phone call and add other media as needed, ad hoc).
 
■ Locations: Employees find themselves in a variety of different fixed and mobile locations, including office, home, hotel room, public lounge, and car or other transport.
 
■ Devices: These range from traditional phones to PCs, laptops, and an ever-evolving list of more specialized digital communications tools, most strikingly smartphones and tablets.
 
To effectively leverage these communications components, organizations need a context-sensitive communications system that uses presence and other intelligence to offer a choice among all these types of communications, and do so in a way that is seamless and transparent to the user. From anywhere, users can leverage corporate intelligence to see the best way to reach someone at that particular moment, and then use whichever mode and device is most convenient, without having to hop between communication silos.
 
ShoreTel 5 signs you  need to upgrade your phone system
 
Just as importantly, users can automatically filter incoming communications by assigning priority treatment to certain individuals or organizations. Alerts are sent in real time to users regarding important communications, while other communications are sent to the UC inbox as voicemail or email to be dealt with later. Such capabilities greatly increase the probability of achieving effective communication, and doing so in the most convenient and appropriate mode.
 
Hitachi Consulting is in the business of selling expertise, and has been using ShoreTel’s distributed architecture for years to engage its widely dispersed experts on demand. IT specialists have go-to-market teams of salespeople and consultants who are constantly looking for new business, and who must leverage the knowledge and experience of experts working with existing clients. When a prospective client is targeted, ShoreTel enables Hitachi salespeople to pull specialists from across the globe into impromptu virtual meetings at the drop of a hat, based on their knowledge about a particular industry application and their current availability.
 
Want to find out more? Download the full White Paper Here:
 
Demystifying_Unified_Communications_White_Paper.jpg
 

Topics: Business Telephone Systems

Mark Nelson

Written by Mark Nelson

Helping Companies Leverage Unified Communications to Grow their Business and Increase Productivity

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