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Unified Communications Increasing In Popularity, Necessity

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The consumerization of IT has been a significant driver for change in enterprises. Now that employees are more equipped than ever to handle advanced computing operations, they are finding continued applications for mobile devices in the workplace. But with this comes the expectation that organizations will support consumer-grade devices in the workplace, not only to prevent rogue IT operations but to foster a sense of unity.

This is where the term unified communications comes from. UC initiatives have proven to be viable for companies that are looking to increase their flexibility and improve the agility in which people reach each other. In fact, according to InformationWeek, 70 percent of businesses have either completely transitioned to unified communications are planning to deploy these kinds of systems within the next two years. 

This figure comes from the recent "2014 State of Unified Communications" report written by Michael Finneran and conducted by InformationWeek. The results of the study are markedly different from the one conducted last year. There has been significant overall growth in the number of unified communications initiatives being undertaken since last year, regardless of where deployments are selected to be handled.

Keeping Up With The Times

The difference in the number of organizations looking to obtain effective UC is indicative of a cultural shift. Now that consumers have seen what their devices can be capable of when used for personal reasons, they want to experience those same features at work. But while enterprises have long possessed the channels that can potentially make up unified communications networks, they have - historically - not been very good at getting them to work together.

But that is changing in a big way. According to the InformationWeek study, 62 percent of businesses are pursuing UC in an effort to improve collaboration between employees. In order for staff members to work better together, their communications connections have to be interoperable in modern ways. Should a voice or video meeting be taking place, for example, text-based messaging should also be available within the same interface in case useful URLs need to be shared. 

"'[U]nified communications' might be the least-descriptive moniker ever seen in the technology field," Finneran wrote. "Presumably it was meant to illustrate that in a UC environment, a single click in a contact's record can launch a voice or video call, an email, a text or even a multiparty conference with Web collaboration."

Finneran went on to add that collaboration is a stronger term for what is going on, rather than communication. This is the kind of next-level teamwork that is indicative of forward-thinking businesses in this day and age. In fact, 36 percent of companies believe unified messaging to be the most beneficial feature of UC, making it the most sought after of all inherent functions.

Selecting An Infrastructure

Businesses are all different, regardless of what their function is. No given company is going to have identical internal operations to one of their direct competitors. As such, enterprises are going to have to examine which route to go for a UC deployment - system replacement, system adaptation or hosted cloud communications.

Each one of these methods has its advantages that make it viable. Some organizations still have fully-functional legacy circuits that they wish to keep using in a modern way. Others have architectures that have outlived their usefulness or have been poorly maintained over the years. In these kinds of situations, the argument shifts toward building a new network or opting for one that is made available remotely.

If an office phone system has to be uprooted, it may make the most sense to go with hosted cloud UC. This will not only speed up the transition, but prevent certain kinds of headaches down the road. Because a team of trained professionals is handling the general upkeep and security matters associated with the infrastructure, in-house IT will not have to be bothered with it, leaving them more time and energy to complete more company-specific tasks - like figuring out how this technology can be leveraged in new ways, for example.

Attitudes Held Of UC Increasingly Favorable

The majority of those organizations investing in cloud UC are finding few major difficulties in using these new assets and enabling them company-wide. The InformationWeek study found that companies are, on average, not concerned with network performance, have found no barriers preventing full adoption of services and are able to provide complete access to resources for at least 76 percent of their staff members. 

As more organizations realize that they are able to experience the benefits and ease-of-use that comes with UC systems, these figures will only increase. Modern unified communications represent the needs of a new breed of employee. The current incarnation of the workforce is reliant on their personal devices, almost to a fault. It is important for businesses to take note of this and figure out how they can make it work to their advantage. 

Regardless of what buzzwords or terminology might be used to describe the goal in mind, or even what plan of attack is ultimately selected, how well UC can be leveraged by those who need it most will be the ultimate signifier of success and progress. 

"Whether it's 'unified' or 'universal,' 'communications' or 'collaboration,' what matters is what it can do, and most importantly, how it can make people more productive to justify the cost of deployment," Finneran wrote.