The Benefits of UC for SMBs: Part 2
Intermedia issued a new white papaer by analyst firm, Osterman Research, on The Benefits of Unified Communications for SMBs. You can download the white paper from our site.
The below is an excerpt from the white paper. Click here to read the first excerpt from “The Benefits of Unified Communications for SMBs”.
Unified Communications Defined
THE LONG-AWAITED PROMISE OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS
For many years, the “Holy Grail” of communications in the workplace has been unified communications – the integration of email, calendars, telephony, directory services and real-time communications in a unified interface. As far back as the 1980s, analysts were predicting the imminent merger of these technologies into a unified system that would offer greater employee productivity, lower IT management costs and enhanced functionality.
Analysts got one out of two right: unified communications would provide the aforementioned benefits. However, they were wrong about the timing – unified communications has taken far longer than expected to become a practical reality. Part of the delay has been the traditionally high cost of offering these integrated technologies.
THE KEY ELEMENTS OF A UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEMS
At its core, a unified communications system should provide five basic capabilities:
1) Email: A standards-based email capability that will either be accessible via Outlook, the defacto industry standard for email clients, or via an Outlook-like interface. Doing so will allow users to hit the ground running with unified communications and will minimize training and help desk costs.
2) Telephony: Telephony capabilities must be available that will allow calls to be placed either through a desktop handset or a softphone capability. Voicemails must also be available within the user interface.
3) Real time communications: Instant messaging capabilities are another important capability of a unified communications system so that users do not have to employ a separate tool for managing impromptu conversations and seeing presence information. This is particularly important from a security perspective so that consumer-grade instant messaging clients can be replaced with the real time communications capability built-in to the unified communications system.
4) Calendars: As with traditional email, calendars are a critical component for any unified communications system. Preferably, the system will allow users to maintain multiple calendars – work, personal, project, etc.
5) Directory services: An important feature for a unified communications system is support for standards based directory services, such as LDAP. Here again, multiple directory support is important so that personal, group and company-wide calendars can be supported.
UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS IS MORE RELEVANT NOW THAN EVER
Unified communications continues to become more important over time for two key reasons:
- The number of remote workers continues to grow over time. For example, a Gartner study found that the number of workers who work from home at least one day per week will increase at an average compounded rate of 4.4% through 20111. Remote workers are simply more efficient if they have access to all of their communication tools in a single, IT-managed interface instead of tools that individuals select on their own and cobble together with varying degrees of success and efficiency.
- While unified communications offers a number of important benefits for both IT and end users, as discussed in the next section, a key benefit is reducing the cost of real estate and related expenses. Because unified communications makes it easier for individuals to work remotely by giving them all the communications tools they need in a single interface, a worker can be anywhere – at home, on the road or at a client site – and be just as productive as when in the office. As a result, unified communications is an enabler for reducing the number of people who must come into an office, allowing companies to rent less office space, thereby reducing their cost of rent, taxes, power and related amenities. This is a concept that is today being used by very large companies like Boeing and IBM, but that can also offer significant cost savings for SMBs, as well.