How to Supercharge Your Unified
Communications Strategy

By optimizing your unified communications, you can overcome the barriers to collaboration and drive real business growth. Here are the tips and trends making it happen.

The success of any business hinges on its ability to communicate efficiently, both internally and externally. Yet despite the vast range of tools and technologies available, many are still struggling to meet the demands of employees and customers alike.

Common issues, such as dropped calls, incompatible devices and software, and substandard audio and video quality, persist in many organizations. Unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) aims to address these problems by consolidating the full range of communication and collaboration tools into a single platform managed by a third-party service provider.

With a dependable UC system in place, employees can hold virtual meetings no matter where they are or what sort of device they’re using. UC also provides a better customer experience by making it easier to keep in touch, solve problems, and automate routine operations like call routing. Together, the benefits of heightened productivity and enhanced user experience can reduce costs and drive meaningful business growth.

The popularity of unified communications is increasing every year, reaching a global market value of almost $47 billion by 2020. The pandemic has further accelerated adoption, but even once things do finally get back to normal, it’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay. After all, the need for flexibility and adaptability in business process and technology has never been clearer.

Here are the tips and trends that are shaping the future of unified communications:

#1. Let teams use their preferred tools

While every business leader understands the importance of being adaptable, change for the sake of change invariably ends up causing needless disruption. For example, if your marketing team is used to using Zoom for internal collaboration, forcing them to use Microsoft Teams instead will only result in a drop in productivity. Moreover, chances are your business partners are using their own tools as well, which is why you need to be able to accommodate both of these popular platforms.

Internally, that means deploying a platform that can accommodate all the communication and collaboration tools you use. This way, employees will be able to use the apps that work best for them, without them having to learn something new.

#2. Consolidate your bills to save money

Bringing multiple platforms together doesn’t just improve productivity – it can also save costs. For example, with most telephony and video conferencing service providers, you’ll ordinarily have one calling plan per user, thus you need to purchase plans at a 1:1 ratio, and from each provider you use. If, however, you only ever have a maximum of 50% of your employees using the phone at the same time, you effectively end up spending twice as much as you need to.

By integrating your communications with a UCaaS provider, you can consolidate your bills into one, and pay only for the calling capacity you actually need.

#3. Factor in redundancy to reduce risk

Although optimal reliability levels vary from one company to the next, its safe to say that, for most enterprises today, unified communications have become mission-critical. If employees can’t use the apps they rely on for their jobs, or customers can’t reach you, productivity and profitability will both drop.

With an in-house UC solution, ensuring a high level of network redundancy presents a far greater cost and management burden. However, with a dependable cloud-based solution, you typically have many more options at your disposal, such as network redundancy and automatic rollovers. Service availability will also be guaranteed by the service level agreement (SLA) you sign with the provider.

Implementing a system that lets you use both Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for example, offers redundancy in itself. If one experiences a service outage, you’ll be able to switch easily.

#4. Prioritize security and confidentiality

Unified communications presents some unique security challenges, simply because it brings together a range of disparate technologies. That’s certainly not a valid reason for avoiding it – but it is essential that you consider security and privacy from the outset and incorporate them by design.

A dependable service provider should secure all your communications using industry-standard encryption protocols, such as ZRTP, TLS, and SRTP. This will ensure your communications remain secure even over public wireless networks, where eavesdroppers may otherwise be able to listen in on your calls. Accounts should also be protected by multifactor authentication, while centralized administration makes it possible to instantly revoke access rights on devices reported lost or stolen.

#5. Embrace the era of remote work

The impact of remote work cannot be underestimated, especially in light of the pandemic, which has forced many companies to radically change their workplaces. That said, remote work was already well-established before the pandemic, and it’s undoubtedly here to stay. In fact, it’s one of the main drivers behind the rapidly increasing adoption of UC solutions.

The rise of remote work is an inevitable result of the ongoing shift towards the service-based business model, whereby companies are reducing their reliance on in-house infrastructure and instead adopting managed cloud-based solutions. When rolling out your UC strategy, you should make accommodating remote work a priority. After all, the days of business telephony revolving around a deskphone are now long gone. Rather, your employees should be able to use the apps, devices, and platforms, that they’re used to using, if you want to maximize their productivity.

#6. Invest in artificial intelligence

The rapid evolution of AI and related technologies is transforming business technology, and communication and collaboration are no exception. For example, Microsoft Teams recently updated its platform to use AI to automatically filter out background noises, such as typing, in real time. Natural language processing (NLP) has already been in use for some years as well, revolutionizing the efficiency and usefulness of automated attendants. Yet another area where AI is proving its value is data analytics, which helps business decision makers make better sense out of increasingly huge data sets.

AI will continue to play an increasingly important role in the development and implementation of modern UC solutions as a way to simplify and automate various routine tasks. As such, those using UC platforms integrated with AI already have a significant competitive advantage.

#7. Use remote management tools

Perhaps the biggest challenge of rolling out an effective UC strategy is maintaining security, compliance, and interoperability across disparate infrastructures. Since every device, protocol, and application is a potential entry point for cybercriminals, it’s imperative that you have a way to effectively manage and monitor your converged network. Your goal should be to minimize and consolidate any single points of failure to safeguard your business communications.

With an all-in-one communication and collaboration platform, administrators can keep a close eye on their systems and data. This is especially important in the era of remote work, where there’s a need to monitor devices outside the network, such as those belonging to employees. With a high-visibility, managed approach, you can monitor communications around the clock to proactively guard against risks like data breaches and unauthorized access attempts.

#8. Reduce your reliance on hardware

In today’s increasingly service-based economy, businesses are migrating their operations to the cloud in a big way. In doing so, they can reduce their reliance on hardware and on-premise systems and all the cost and management burdens that come with it. In the case of UC, that might mean reducing reliance on deskphones and company-issued mobile devices to instead allow employees to use their own devices for work.

Migrating to UCaaS doesn’t have to mean doing away with your existing infrastructure either. For example, SmartChoice lets you use your existing business number on your mobile device or desktop app. You can also integrate your PBX system to maximize your investment without having to make disruptive and expensive changes.

#9. Get ready for 5G mobile networks

The rise of fifth generation mobile networks will truly usher in an era of ubiquitous connectivity to the point it will heighten customer and employee expectations alike. Although it may still be a few years before 5G sees a practical impact on the way we communicate, its far greater bandwidth and capacity will undoubtedly help accelerate the rise of remote work and cloud computing.

Thanks to much higher speeds than 4G and the likelihood of the elimination of data caps, 5G will also mean bandwidth-heavy operations like video conferencing can finally become viable over mobile networks.

Another exciting and completely new feature of 5G networks is the ability to set up private 5G networks, which is rather like having your own mobile carrier. That way, businesses will be able to create and manage their own networks and converge all their communications while supporting complete workforce mobility and security.

#10. Overcome resistance with training

Even the most forward-thinking among us tend to be resistant to change, especially if we can’t see the value in it. The adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ still holds strong for many of us, but it can also hold us back.

No employee wants to continuously adjust to new tools and develop new habits, unless they can see what’s in it for them. The same applies to customers, many of whom aren’t interested in hearing excuses from employees about how they’re getting used to a new system and can’t serve them to the standard they expect.

Despite resistance to change, it’s important for every business to develop a corporate culture of innovation through ongoing training and awareness. As with any other system or strategy, you should make clear the end user benefits of unified communications in your organization and take every possible step to maximize the end user experience. That way, you can fuel a cycle of continuous learning and improvement that adds value to your business and keeps your employees, and your customers, happy.

How can SmartChoice help?

SmartChoice offers an all-in-one UCaaS solution that reduces costs and enhances efficiency through seamless integration and built-in redundancy. This includes direct routing services, which offer an integrated approach to business communication.

With direct routing, you can consolidate your call paths and only pay for the calling capacity you actually need. It works with both Microsoft Teams and Zoom to provide greater flexibility and interoperability in today’s increasingly diverse business technology environments.

SmartChoice is a technology company based out of New York City with a unique portfolio of solutions including UCAAS, collaboration, software and analytics, dedicated contact centers, security, infrastructure, and managed connectivity. Through its unsurpassed white-glove service and 24x7x365 U.S. based support, it has grown to become one of the largest award-winning PBX/SIP providers in North America.  

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