The free encyclopaedia definition of Unified communications (UC) is “Unified Communications (UC) is a marketing buzzword describing the integration of real-time, enterprise, communication services such as instant messaging(chat), presence information, voice (including IP telephony), mobility features (including extension mobility and single number reach), audio, web & video conferencing, fixed-mobile convergence (FMC), desktop sharing, data sharing (including web connected electronic interactive whiteboards), call control and speech recognition with non-real-time communication services such as unified messaging (integrated voicemail, e-mail, SMS and fax). Phew.
The basic definition is "communications integrated to optimize business processes and increase user productivity”. So UC is actually more than just a marketing buzzword and makes a lot of sense to have all these components working together. The increased efficiency in working this way would certainly increase productivity.
One of the key components is “presence” or as mentioned above presence information. This means being able to identify a computer on the network, its location and whether the user is currently available. You can use any number of applications these days, such as Skype, Facebook and Google and know whether a “connection” is online, offline and when they last appeared online – this is presence. It’s almost like looking into their office and seeing they are there.
Messaging is another component of UC, obvious maybe, but the key here is all the messages you may get through email, instant messaging, voicemail and fax can all go into a single mailbox.Now that is efficient. No more having to access several applications or devices to see “if you have mail”. You can access the one mailbox from email or a phone.
Conferencing is another feature whether it is video or web conferencing and it is done in real time. Flexible work arrangements are becoming more popular and so is outsourcing of various task, so your workforce is not necessarily in the one place anymore, they could be in the same city or across the country but you can still see them face-to-face.
The integration with existing back-office applications raises the bar to another level in terms of efficiency. One example is using Microsoft Office, if you need clarification about a document you can see the author of the document and whether they are available and if not leave them a message with your query. Think of your CRM and how that can be integrated!
UC is enabled with Voice over Internet Protocol. Yes, it can be achieved with legacy systems but the cost savings and “simplicity” are achieved with VoIP and in particular hosted PBX. These provide the ultimate flexibility and mobility for a lower cost and possibly no capital outlay.
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