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Why A Business Should Unify Communications

There are a lot of definitions regarding unified communications, but the definition isn’t important. What is important is what unified communications does, and what it does is ensure that all of a company’s communication methods work together. Communications are a slippery thing to pin down, and it seems like a company never has them completely figured out. But by unifying communications, businesses can provide their people with the best possible environment for sharing information and collaborating. As every second is precious in the corporate world, it’s critical that professionals are always talking to each other.

Unified Communications, Unified Workforce

For as long as there have been businesses, there have been attempts to make businesses more efficient. For centuries, corporate leaders have largely focused on making this happen through improving processes and technology. Those are both entirely valid and effective approaches to enhancing commercial efficiency, but they aren’t the only approaches. Although people intuitively understand that communications are important, they haven’t been optimized in the way that processes have. Unified communications seek to correct this. When a company decides to unify its communications, it’s ready to bring its various communicative methods into the 21st century. Surprisingly, there are still many major corporations that rely on inefficient forms of collaboration and outdated communications technology, and this represents a major drain on resources. What does that drain look like?

1. Poorly engaged employees – Disengaged employees are a massive drag on a company’s and the nation’s economy, costing the U.S. about $500 billion every year. Although the popular conception of disengaged employees is that they are lazy or incompetent, the truth is that many of those workers could be brought back into the fold with better, more responsive communication methods.

2. Initiatives and projects that never go anywhere – It is impossible to get much of anything done in the corporate world without tight collaboration between departments and managers. This, obviously, requires strong communications that everyone knows how to utilize. Without dedication to unified communications, those lofty projects are likely to draw out interminably or careen through the budgetary roof.

3. A cauldron of petty office politics – Some people are geared for office politics and only need a single clumsily written e-mail to become contentious. Alternatively, a manager who consistently forgets his tone when addressing coworkers or fails to keep his people informed are asking for resentment. Where friendly cooperation ends, so does consistent productivity. Unified communications injects new life into how people talk to each other and makes it easier for managers to handle tone and content.

All three are detrimental to long-term commercial success, and companies contort themselves every which way to solve the symptoms without addressing the disease. Poor training and instruction, drawn out, useless meetings, hastily slapped together e-mails, impenetrable managers that don’t even try to listen and a general lack of understanding between workers of different ages and background – they are all the same brand of poisonous, toxic miscommunication. Unified communications is the antidote.

The Unified Communication Approach

It’s clear that weak communication can act like a sieve on a company’s finances, but what is unified communications exactly, and what does it do? First, an important axiom – there is no single approach to unified communications. Every business’s and every team’s needs are different and should be treated that way. The only way to properly execute a unified communications initiative is to understand what those needs are and how to solve them prior to installing new equipment. Primarily, unified communications seeks to bring together disparate methods of talking to one another on a single channel, allowing people to communicate in the way they prefer without sacrificing speed, accuracy or ease of use. Although there is no one unified communications solution, there are some A/V and IT technologies that form the bedrock.

1. IP telephony – VoIP technology is quickly rendering traditional phone networks obsolete, as it is much easier to manage and manipulate the data that VoIP systems rely on. VoIP networking means voice and data information can be run using the same lines, which saves money and allows for easier control.

2. Instant and unified messaging – Instant messaging is easy to set up and also provides a layer of telepresence, in that people on the company network know who is active and who is away from the desk. This prevents lulls in communication, as alternative means of communicating can be relied on when people are on the move. Unified messaging captures the heart of unified communications as it provides a single, intuitive interface for users to access their voicemails, e-mails, SMS texts, video messages and faxes.

3. Audio and video conferencing – This is where A/V integrators make their mark. Conferencing technologies are largely the purview of A/V professionals, and they can provide an impressive range of conferencing options for companies. Conferencing is a highly scalable solution, as it can be targeted down to a handful of workspaces and their users, to a fully integrated room conferencing system that is designed to be used in a multipoint, multinational meeting. Conferencing allows companies to immediately connect several teams into a single call, usually with just a few button presses. This offers major advantages in reducing costs and wasted time, as project leaders can talk face to face whenever they wish.

Conferencing has considerable ancillary benefits in that it can mimic a real, in the room kind of conversation. This is achievable as long as the system offers high enough video resolutions and steady framerates. Study after study has shown that face to face conversations improve recall, comprehension and cooperation, as every subtle gesture and voice inflection can be readily discerned.

4. Modern collaboration technology – Collaboration has reached buzzword status, but it does have an important meaning. When collaborating, several individuals are able to alter a single file or contribute to a single workspace, no matter where they are located. Most collaboration is done with everyone present, as this speeds up the process, but modern collaboration technology allows people to contribute remotely.

digital whitewallCollaboration comes in many forms, such as web-based conferencing platforms that allow meeting members to annotate over a single file. But A/V integrators can take collaboration to a new level with the use of interactive displays. Interactive displays are made with impressive whiteboarding and annotating software, along with touch interfaces that emphasize usability. The SMARTBoard, CleverTouch and Google JamBoard are examples of this technology, and they allow for a more graphic and media heavy meeting, which is more likely to keep people engaged.

But interactive displays truly unify people by ensuring maximum compatibility across any device. From any location, meeting members can patch into the meeting from their desktop, their laptop, their tablet or their phone, and interact with the display as they would if they were in the meeting proper.

Businesses must keep moving forward if they are to remain competitive, and one of the fixes that corporations must consider is with their communications. There are obvious, dramatic benefits to improving internal communications, and A/V integrators are equipped with the tools and methods to make that happen.