What is unified communications?

Unified communications is a system that allows users to access data and communications such as voicemail, email, text, chat, phone and mobile, from one device.

How does it work in practice?

It allows you to do all your work from just one device. For example, have your office phone calls forwarded to your mobile phone; emails sent as a voice message to your mobile phone; or even voice messages sent as emails.

Why do I need it?

It really can simplify your work life, on the basis that you will be contactable regardless of where you are and whether you are using a phone, mobile, PDA, laptop etc.

It saves people having to somehow find out where you are and what device they should use to communicate with you. Ultimately, it makes sure that you can respond to customers (and others) immediately without the typical ‘time lag’ that may occur if someone is trying to contact you by email and you don’t have access to your laptop.

Is it something that I can install myself?

No, unless you are extremely technically competent! If your unified communications system is poorly installed, you could lose all methods of contact and as a result your business could suffer.

How do I find the right supplier to buy from?

Conjungo is a great starting point because it will let you search for a supplier according to your location, company type, size and whether they have the right accreditations. Furthermore, Conjungo is completely unbiased, lists most of the major vendors’ resellers, and it’s free to use.

What’s the downside of installing unified communications?

Potential pitfalls always exist, for example, if for some reason the system fails. However, your supplier should be able to advise you as how this can be resolved if this occurs.

How do I know the technology will not be out-of-date in a few years?

You need to be realistic! In a few years time it will be surpassed by new and potentially better technology. That’s the normal way with technology!

You can buy a TV or satnav and find that it’s been superseded within a few months. That doesn’t mean that you have to upgrade every five minutes because clearly what you’ve purchased is set to last a considerable time.

With technology such as unified communications, it’s a good idea to ask your potential supplier if the system will be soon out of date (in our experience suppliers will tell you anyway), but make sure that it will be compatible with future developments and can meet your future growth requirements. If you worry too much about that then you’ll never buy! This is a technology that is relatively mature, its use and benefits have already been proven, and so you can be confident that it will work for you too.

What happens if I’m not happy with the supplier I’ve chosen?

If you’ve done your homework this is unlikely to happen. If for some reason you can’t get the support you need from your supplier, speak with the main manufacturer as they will be more than keen to make sure that their reputation is not ruined. It happens, but these days it’s thankfully very, very rare.

How do I measure whether the system I’ve purchased is making me money or saving me money?

Most suppliers will be able to outline or give you case studies that outline what return on investment (ROI) you should expect.

Depending on the technology, it may provide savings, increased revenues or sometimes both. Unified communications has the potential to provide both because you can close more business as you will be more accessible and potentially save money by lowering costs of communications. For example, many organisations reduce their mobile phone overheads simply because they can re-route calls to the nearest possible landline of the person they are trying to contact.