For years now, one of the most complex and time-consuming tasks any IT department could take on was the on-premise implementation of a Unified Communications (UC) platform. In fact, several years ago, I wrote a full feature article dedicated to the challenges of implementing UC.
Adding on to this problem was the fact that some organizations weren’t all that convinced of the need for a platform that tied together all of their communications systems, from voice to email to messaging to real-time video. For those businesses that were UC skeptics, their good old fashioned PBX was just fine, after all — work was getting done.
Fast forward to today and most of these prejudices seem, at best, quaint, and at worst, irresponsible to the effective growth of the business. Today, most organizations understand the need for powerful and reliable communications systems that integrate all modes of communications and connect employees, partners, and customers quickly, easily and wherever they may be.
That last point, wherever they may be, is key to the growth of UC that we’ve seen recently. That’s because the rise of the mobile-first workforce has opened the eyes of many businesses regarding the need to bring effective communications to any user, on any device, no matter where they are. A worker in the field has just as much need to access voice, video, messaging, and collaborative tools as an employee in the home office. And Aberdeen research has shown that the number one IT pressure on businesses (listed by 71% of all respondents) is the demand for increased mobile access.
And there was one other very key factor helping to drive deployments of UC — namely, the rise of powerful and full-featured UC platforms based in the cloud. While early UC-as-a-Service offerings were sometimes focused on small business, with limited functionality, recent years have seen more capable cloud-based UC systems that are every bit as powerful (if not more so) than classic on-premise platforms. And for organizations looking to take advantage of the growing need for UC, especially as it pertains to mobile and video, cloud-based offerings greatly reduce the cost and complexity of implementing UC, allowing them to deploy quickly and with minimum disruption to their operations.
In Aberdeen’s research into unified communications, we’ve found that the top two reasons organizations deploy UC is to improve collaboration across the enterprise and to reduce communications cost — and a cloud-based system helps them to easily reach both of these goals.
But more importantly, unlike on-premise UC systems, which need to be upgraded or even repurchased in order to meet emerging demands such as increased mobile access and better video communications, cloud-based UC systems are constantly evolving and incorporating new capabilities which can be immediately leveraged by their customers.
This is especially true when it comes to mobile access to all elements of UC, especially real-time video. Tools such as FaceTime, Skype, and Google Talk have made modern users not only comfortable with mobile video — it has actually become a preferred mode of communications. And these modern users expect to have the same level of communication in the tools they use at work.
And businesses that leverage these mobile-video capabilities in their UC platforms gain a number of benefits. In our research, we’ve found that businesses using mobile-video collaboration are 2.5 times more likely to reduce travel costs, twice as likely to improve customer service, and nearly twice as likely to boost employee training and development.
Today, businesses can much more easily leverage the mobile-first and video enabled capabilities of UC, without the high cost and complexity of yesterday’s systems. By embracing a cloud-based unified communications offering, smart organizations are, well, communicating to their employees, partners, and customers that they mean business when it comes to staying connected.