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Unified Communications Comes of Age

by Dave Moorman

Unified Communication (UC)—the convergence and integration of communications technologies to optimize business processes—is a concept that has been making the rounds in technology circles since the mid-1990s. However, today’s UC is light years ahead of the original definition.

UC got its impetus during the transition of business telephone systems from landline-based PBX systems to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol—phone calls over the Internet). The idea was that since email and instant messaging (IM) traveled over the Internet, those communications could be integrated with telephony. This would enable someone in a company to reach another staffer, either in real-time or at a later date, by whatever means—email, IM or voice—was most expedient given that person’s location and availability (this function is called presence). In reality, some of these solutions worked well; others barely worked.

Today, the core concept is basically the same, but the way it is implemented has changed dramatically for the better. Companies now have UC systems that integrate voice, email, instant messaging and video very successfully. These location- and task-aware systems deliver communications based on a recipient’s location and designated method of delivery based on the situation and communication type. For example, assume the system knows the recipient is in a meeting, If a message is non-urgent; it will deliver it via email. Urgent issues generate a text message or desktop pop-up.

UC platforms incorporate video conferencing and other collaboration tools and, perhaps most importantly for productivity, business process integration. In other words, UC is no longer about finding a particular person. It can also be about finding any of several people who has knowledge of a particular issue, feature, product, etc.

The search can be database driven as well. For example, a customer calls into the company’s phone system and is identified by the integrated CRM (customer relations management) platform as a repeat purchaser of bulk widgets. If the customer’s representative isn’t available, the system could send that customer to email or voicemail—or it could refer him to another representative in the bulk widgets department, based on the likelihood that the customer is low on widgets; his total billing with the company over the last year, or any other criteria the firm establishes.

From connecting company personnel with subject matter experts to finding a last-minute presenter for a Webinar, UC can be an incredible driver of business productivity. To learn more about UC and what it can do for your firm, please give us a call.

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