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Enterprise Communications Rely On Experience

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Unified Communications Picks Up Momentum, Despite Enterprise PBX Troubles

Enterprise office phone systems are no longer tethered to the traditional land-line connections that they once were. This trend means that organizations of all sizes now have the opportunity to implement solutions that can be accessed virtually anywhere, at any time and on any device. Not only does this make employees more efficient and available to both customers and colleagues, but it also boosts user experience.

The experience of using collaborative tools contributes to the overall effectiveness of those solutions. In fact, user satisfaction is often the driving factor behind changes in the workplace, including the proliferation of mobility and enterprise VoIP systems. Because there are many aspects of user experience, decision-makers need to assess their current operations and determine whether making any minor changes will result in new opportunities before they pursue more extraordinary initiatives.

Still, the ability to integrate numerous collaborative tools within a single platform is often considered one of the best ways to streamline interactions and boost the overall experience - for customers and employees alike. These needs have led to the development and adoption of unified communications systems, which acts like a shining beacon in an otherwise stagnant enterprise phone system market.

The Push Toward Unification

Unified communications is widely considered to be the future of collaboration. This was highlighted in a recent Infonetics Research report, which found that the global market for enterprise PBXs fell 9 percent in the second quarter of 2013 from the previous year to generate only slightly more than $1.8 billion in revenue. In fact, the shipments of all varieties of PBXs, including pure IP PBX and hybrid solutions, declined.

Conversely, unified communications was able to grow, suggesting that businesses are still in pursuit of innovative collaborative strategies that make it easier to interact with colleagues and clients.

"Slower demand and competitive pricing pressure delivered a one-two punch to the enterprise PBX market in the first half of 2013. The slight recovery we saw late in 2012 hasn't extended into the current year. Telephony spending remains stagnant as businesses rely on existing solutions. On the other hand, unified communications is still on fire. Worldwide UC revenue grew 34 percent in the second quarter of 2013 from the year-ago quarter," said Diane Myers, principal analyst for VoIP and unified communications at Infonetics Research.

While the unified communications market may be experiencing significant boons now, enterprises need to continue prioritizing user experience to keep this trend alive.

It's All About Experience

While there are a number of characteristics that go into judging how effective a business phone system is, user experience is almost always at the top. After all, how can people collaborate with one another if they don't appreciate or understand the platform they are using?

A No Jitter report highlighted how users want their communication tools to be built into the solutions they use on a regular basis. Looking at the consumer landscape provides an excellent example of this capability. Most smartphones, for example, allow individuals to search for something on the Internet and call a prospective business directly from the browser, rather than having to close one app and open another.

Individuals also want these applications to align with workflow and best practices, as having to circumvent safety policies for the sake of convenience is never the best idea. No Jitter highlighted how this philosophy has always been important in the contact center, but is beginning to branch out to different departments as more people throughout the workplace become engaged in customer communications.

The mobile movement has had a particularly heavy influence on the way employees collaborate in general, as individuals can use smartphones and tablets to essentially "house" all of the critical applications need to effectively communicate, No Jitter stated. The need for mobile strategies has been pushed by bring your own device, which allows individuals to use personal devices in the workplace. In truth, however, BYOD strategies are just the beginning.

CompTIA highlighted this occurrence, noting that the consumer has been among the chief drivers and benefactors of mobile initiatives. At the same time, these strategies introduce some complexities when companies try to implement a unified communications system that works well with all operating systems and device types.

As the enterprise communications environment continues to shift and evolve in the coming year, the trend to unify everything through a single system will likely gain momentum. Forward-thinking executives need to plan ahead and ensure these strategies align with objectives, meet user experience demands and can adapt to emerging trends, including mobility and the cloud. Rather than investing in old phone systems that may not necessarily meet the needs of the workplace anymore, decision-makers should branch out and reach for innovation.