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Unified communications (UC), the converging of multiple communications platforms into a single system, is changing the business world by giving companies new ways to cut costs and simplify operations. As 2014 draws near, executives and other decision-makers should be aware of what benefits UC might offer for their particular enterprise. To help your company prepare for the coming year, here are five game-changing UC trends to watch carefully:

  • More Mobility: In today’s world, working is not synonymous with being in the office. No matter where they are, employees need and expect to have the same tools at their disposal that they would have sitting at their desks. By allowing calls to be transferred from a desk phone to a smartphone, retrieving voicemails via e-mail and providing a host of other features, UC can help increase mobile capacity.
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): Although this trend is still being resisted in some offices, more and more employees are accessing company information from their own smartphones or tablets. At this point, widespread adoption of BYOD seems inevitable. Gartner recommends that businesses begin to move away from mandating one particular platform or technology and towards designing architecture with BYOD in mind. "It's important to recognize that BYOD is…not the demands of a few errant staff demanding their favorite brand of technology," says Darryl Carlton, research director at Gartner.
  • Social Integration: Social media as a customer service tool is a relatively new phenomenon, but one that is certainly gathering steam. Integrating social platforms gives a business a large quantity of real-time feedback about its products and services. Social media affords any consumer the opportunity to write a review, and those reviews can be used to strengthen business practices. Additionally, social media offers a space to introduce, explain and promote new products and services with the hope of generating sales.
  • Videoconferencing Boom: The desire for videoconferencing is a major driving force for UC implementation. Businesses can save on travel costs by cutting down on the need for in-person meetings, particularly if they have multiple locations across the country. The technology also has the potential to boost employee morale and production by creating a better sense of community, less isolation and more collaboration. Given these benefits, it is not surprising that according to an October 2013 study by Infonetics Research , 87 percent of enterprises surveyed plan to add videoconferencing to their UC architecture by August 2014.
  • Hosted cloud: The hosted cloud is now a viable, cost-effective alternative to private on-site information storage. This technology offers businesses data backup and redundancy, the flexibility to build a plan with features tailored to their needs, and the scalability to alter their plans to meet demand. The breadth of features and advantages UC offers is the primary reason it is one of the hottest topics in business and technology today. So if your business is thinking about moving towards a UC solution, consider that these are only five trends among seemingly endless possibilities offered by this technology. If your business embraces UC now, you will have a leg up on competitors who are hesitant to adjust—and that should make for a very happy New Year.

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