What is Unified Communications and What Does it Mean for SMBs?

178976393The business phone. Quite often we hear, “I own it and it works, don’t talk to me about replacing something that works.” It’s typically the last piece of technology to get updated in the small (SMB) office. SMBs don’t usually replace their phone system until it breaks beyond repair. I mean, why would they? A possible reason? SMBs don’t really understand the benefits of available, newer phone technology. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

In earlier blogs I’ve written about devices no longer being content specific. In other words, I can stream video, make calls, read email, chat and do many other things with either my computer, my smartphone, or my tablet, interchangeably. Think about the black box taking up space on your desk, I’m talking about your desk phone. It only does one thing: voice communication. Older phone systems don’t allow integration of the desk phone into the current technology mix. They become an island of their own, while the technology ship has already left port.

Large enterprises have already made the change to their phone systems and have introduced Unified Communications (UC). UC brings the phone system into the current technology mix and increases the efficiency of communication among those enterprises. Gartner and others are predicting that SMBs will be adopting this technology sooner than later. From the Gartner article:

Unified communications (UC) interest and adoption continues to accelerate in the small and midsize business (SMB) market. While adoption lags behind the large-enterprise market segment, according to Gartner end-user research, UC investment currently registers as a top five SMB networking investment initiative for 2012. Gartner expects the SMB market will increasingly exhibit SMB UC investment momentum as the market matures during the next two to three years.

So what exactly is Unified Communications and how does it increase efficiency?
UC, as hinted above, allows any size business to integrate their phone system with their data network and smartphones. This integration allows users to have many of the functions of their desk phone available on other devices. Here is my personal example:

At Tektivity, when my desk phone rings 4 times with no answer, the call automatically transfers to my smartphone. If I cannot answer, the caller can choose to leave a voicemail. This voicemail is not left on my smartphone or with my cell phone carrier, but is routed back to the office voicemail system. Likewise, all smartphone voicemails are routed to the office voicemail system so all of my voicemails are in one secure location.

All voicemails are converted into .wav files and are attached to an email that appears in my inbox. The email appears on my desktop computer, my tablet, my smartphone, and is accessible from my home computer. I always know when I have a voicemail without having to check the light on my desk phone or calling into the office and entering codes to access my voicemail. Having the voicemail attached to an email also allows me to organize, forward, save, and have immediate access to any voicemail without having to forward through all of the other voicemails I don’t care to listen to.

UC also allows me to use a phone at home that appears as my desk phone; a great way to accommodate workers that have to stay home with a sick child. I can make calls from home and the caller ID is the Tektivity phone number. As stated above, any voicemails are sent to me immediately while I am at home or on the road. Mobility or absence from the office does not isolate me from my desk phone.

I only have two phone numbers on my card, an office number and a fax number. People who need to reach me do not have to make a decision if they should call my office or try to reach me on my smartphone. I do not give them that option, there is only one number they need to reach me.

These are just few of the UC functions I use. The basic concept is that UC allows an SMB owner or their staff to expand the reach of their communications network. I believe the benefits to SMBs are greatly magnified over the benefits of Enterprise companies that have already adapted the technology. SMBs are by nature more nimble. Owners and staff wear multiple hats. Staying in touch and having access to centralized or unified communication is essential.
Next time you miss an important message, or could not be reached at a critical moment from one of your best customers, take a look at your old phone system and ask yourself “how much is it really costing me?”

Gartner Article:  http://bit.ly/HwS7Nx

Unified Communications – What is it? http://abt.cm/XmbzT


Jim joined Tektivity in January of 2010 as the Sales and Marketing Manager. He is responsible for directing the revenue production here at Tektivity including finding new clients, nurturing the existing client base and creating new products and revenue opportunities. Outside of Tektivity, Jim is an active musician and magician.

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