As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continues to replace traditional phone systems across the business world, the way companies communicate has become much more flexible and personalized. Gone are the days of having a single desk phone with a single phone number that only rings to that line. Now, users have many devices and methods to choose from: a desk phone, smartphone, home phone, laptop, softphone client, instant messaging, fax, email, video conferencing, conference calling, and more. More importantly, users want to be accessible from all of them in a centralized way.
The best way to centralize business communications is through the implementation of a unified communications (UC) solution. As the name implies, UC solutions unite various communications methods and devices into a single system. The best UC solutions even make everything accessible from a single interface or user portal. While UC can be adopted painlessly and quickly, problems can develop if a business isn’t fully committed. Research firm UCStrategies points out that when implementing UC solution, management issues can often get in the way of realizing the true potential of moving from a line-centric to a user-centric world.
“This wide range of capabilities and devices has meant that the traditional line-centric [management] approach doesn’t work anymore,” the firm noted. “[For instance], where change used to happen only when a user moved offices, now a multiplicity of user and business events through the lifecycle that drive change, which can result in ten or a hundred times as many changes.”
Although smaller organizations may utilize fewer business communication tools, UC adoption still can be very challenging, as there are often separate configuration and management interfaces for different tools. These challenges are exacerbated for those companies that have either a very small IT department or no dedicated IT staff.
Many organizations do not have a plan in place to manage this dramatic increase in sophistication or fully utilize the powerful new tools they have at their disposal, and instead simply continue to use the methods they have in the past. These methods include manual processes where trained and experienced individuals perform sophisticated configurations based on business rules for each event after receiving a work request to do so. A particularly difficult challenge to overcome is mindset and comfort. Many employees, including those in the highest levels of management, may be resistant to change or unwilling to learn a new system. They may consciously choose to continue doing things the way that they’ve always been done, without seeing how a few small changes could dramatically improve the way they do business.
Although theoretically designed to eliminate these problems, UC vendor management systems are typically little better; UCStrategies explained that they’re still device-centric and limited to capabilities such as simple directory integration. Luckily, there are ways to ease UC adoption and make it faster and easier for users to take full advantage of the many advanced features that are only possible with UC.
Star2Star Communications has made significant strides in this area through the development of specialized communications hardware. Star2Star’s StarBox® Voice Optimized SD-WAN takes the place of a typical edge device, while also providing numerous additional features like built-in quality-of-service and call control, security, and granular management and reporting.
Technology like the StarBox® makes it possible for an entire system to be managed end-to-end with integration into the full lifecycle of events. Management and integration eliminate a number of problems, including excessively high costs, over-provisioning of resources and licenses, failure to decommission unused assets, frequent updates and cost for minor changes to system integrator-provided solutions, and increased staff overtime.
Other methods can also be utilized to make a UC solution more user-centric. A single, easy-to-use interface that provides access to all features is critical. Accommodations such as key-system emulation that make a system operate more like older systems with which users are familiar can make the transition much simpler. 24/7/365 system monitoring and technical support both reduce the likelihood of problems developing and quickly resolve them in the unlikely event that they occur.
Advanced communications solutions can transform a business by dramatically reducing costs, simplifying processes, improving efficiency, reducing IT demands, and improving how employees connect internally and externally. However, these benefits can be realized only if the solution is deployed and operated in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Organizations need to make sure that they choose a solution that meets their needs and solves their problems, and they also need to commit to making the internal changes necessary to fully utilize it.