When looking to modernize an enterprise phone system, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) may be the first solution looked into. This technology replaces the traditional telephone network connections by using the internet to route calls. But unified communications (UC), is an integration of real-time enterprise communication services such as instant messaging (chat), presence, mobility features, audio, web and video conferencing, desktop sharing, data sharing and a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and technologies that rely on a VoIP foundation. According to Gartner's ‘User Wants and Needs’ survey in the fourth quarter of 2015, approximately 66 percent of midsize enterprises expect to invest in UC solutions during the next two years due to the real-time communications and collaborations strengthening customer connections and increasing productivity.
“Today’s leading cloud-based UC providers give organizations the flexibility to add new services and features employees crave to make them more mobile and productive users”
Together UC and enterprise networks help organizations increase employee productivity and collaboration, reduce complexity and reap benefits from the full value of mobility. However, before deploying a UC system, it is important to consider the following three factors to guarantee its success.
Assess the Network
Long-duration VoIP testing is the only true way to confirm that a site is ready for a hosted phone system. Going into a deployment blind can be avoided by being able to confirm network readiness or discover any potential issues that could impact installing UC for timely trouble resolution. Many network readiness tools on the market today test and evaluate bandwidth via one test completed during a single moment in time, rather than during different times of the day over the course of a week. Look for a tool that simulates voice calls and takes voice quality measurements over an extended period of a week or longer, evaluating both peak and nonpeak utilization. The best tool will be simple to use and it will provide a summary of information that is easy to understand, including any poor internet connections, latency, jitter, incorrectly configured routers, or internal networks that may have a flawed design. Moving beyond VoIP, the tool can be helpful to verify performance of any bandwidth-intensive and time critical conferencing, and also be used to manage a network long after deployment. As the organization grows, the tool can be used to show what they can expect to see with the additional network traffic in the way of voice quality, and even what can be done to make it better.
In the 14th annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications, Gartner places great emphasis on the user experience as the vehicle for integrating the communications services. UC solutions that are straightforward to use and manage with interfaces that are intuitive and easy to use will promote greater adoption and satisfaction by employees across the organization resulting in seeing immediate value and power of the system. A UC solution with an intuitive, centralized online dashboard will empower employees giving them access to all of the features and manage their preferences and settings without ever touching a phone or stepping foot in an office. For example, employees can determine colleagues’ availability, or presence, at a glance, program speed dials, retrieve voicemail messages and record voicemail greeting, set up call-forwarding or mobile twinning within a moment’s notice to ensure that they never miss a call. Administrators can add new users with the click of a button when onboarding new hires. This ease of access and ability to self-manage streamlines the use of technology, reducing hassle and increasing productivity.
With the growing need for mobility and the popular BYOD trends, support for mobility is a critical component to every UC offering. With the best UC solutions, everything is stored 100 percent in the cloud. This means that individual user profiles are not attached to any device, allowing phones and workspaces to be shared interchangeably and the entire organization to be connected no matter where employees work from. With cloud-based systems, the employees designated phone number, extension, contacts, voicemail and speed dials follows them with any device they log into, along with UC features important to collaboration like chat, presence and video conferencing. This is a significant advantage for business settings where employees are mobile throughout an office or travel outside of the office. It offers the ability for employees to keep productivity high by being able to use any desk phone or smartphone anywhere to make a video call, share documents and make collaborative edits, while the organization saves on equipment costs. Hot desking and softphones are advanced features to look for and are especially helpful for multiple locations, employees who share workspaces and those who are required to work from different areas within a given site. Hot desking gives employees the ability to log into any company phone that is tied to the system and make it theirs in a matter of seconds by typing in their extension and password. So the phone shows their speed dial buttons and settings instantly, and even gives access to their voicemail, while soft phones empower employees to make and receive calls on their mobile device using their business number.
When paired together, UC and enterprise networking support can enhance the enterprise communications strategy and offers optimal security. Today’s leading cloud-based UC providers give organizations the flexibility to add new services and features employees crave to make them more mobile and productive users and instantly to meet the demands of their business. In addition, by relying on a third party expert for securing and encrypting communications, enterprises can liberate IT organizations so they can focus on more strategic projects.