26 Sep 2012

The unified push

One thing is certain about business communications: they’ve never been more reliant on technology. And between video, telephone, email, instant messaging – and even social platforms – we’ve never had more ways to collaborate. Unified Communications (UC) is behind this change, and interest is immense. Two drivers in particular are creating big demand. The first is the workforce. Staff want to work when and where they choose, and they’re taking up new devices in order to be more productive. “Ask someone to choose between their smartphone or their notebook for a week, and 99% will keep the phone,” says Vaughan Klein, Cisco’s Regional Manager for Collaboration. Converged Communications Consultant with NEC, Mike Rose, says there’s also a generational shift, with ‘millennial’ or Gen Y workers having an impact on the way businesses communicate. The second driver behind UC is business themselves. Eager to get more from their workforce through better collaboration and communication, many are pursuing UC’s efficiency benefits, especially for office-based knowledge workers. “Businesses are asking what’s a sensible way of working,” says Tim Fulton, LifeSize Communications ANZ Country Manager. “So many business processes stall at the point where information needs to be exchanged between people,” Rose agrees. “If UC eliminates those suspensions in even 5% of situations, that’s a large productivity boost.” Adoption of UC is accelerating as the quality and ease-of-use of solutions improves. The experts argue that HD video calling, click-to-dial functions, touch interfaces and less expensive IP networking and unit costs also mean that UC has never been more affordable. What benefits? The benefits of UC are far reaching. Rose says that time savings may appear small at first glance, however when the two minutes someone saves trying to reach a colleague who’s unavailable is multiplied by the number of times that occurs each day and again by the number of staff in the business, the gains become substantial. Efficiency improvements are not just seen in telephony. Cisco’s internal UC efforts for example, have halved the size of Klein’s own email inbox, cutting it to around 70 messages a day. “Email is a necessary but sometimes unproductive tool. UC gives people a choice about how they’ll communicate, meaning that email gets used more when it’s an email that makes sense,” says Klein. He uses UC extensively, working as often as two days a week from a 2,000 acre cattle station in the middle of NSW. Despite the location he says that he’s as productive and connected when working remotely, as in the office. Embedding push-button contact functionality in Oracle or SAP systems, alongside real-time presence information about the availability of that contact, means productivity can also be improved through collaboration-enabled workflows. At LifeSize, Fulton takes advantage of the company’s UC platform to supervise two home-based workers. Video helps to build a team environment by giving them a chance to participate in ‘water cooler’ conversations. “Companies are deploying UC in interesting ways,” Fulton observes. “We see UC equipment being used for HD video production and content creation, for management to reinvigorate weekly meetings, or for recording all types of presentations for later use.” This post is from the article “Enabling the Workforce” published in the first edition of The Buzz. To read more, click here: The Buzz Magazine