What businesses should know about Unified Communications

by Rikus Jansen, head of EOH Voice and Unified Communications

An exciting new world of work will soon be upon us – influenced by two major trends.

Hyperconnectivity will allow people to work from anywhere at any time – work will go to people, rather than people going to work.

Millennials will come to dominate the workforce, which will change to accommodate the new ways of communicating and working that they will bring to the workplace.

Taken together, these trends will have far-reaching effects on all organisations.

The importance of unified communications

Unified communications enables businesses to employ a less fragmented approach to communication, allowing them to access and manage their internal and outward comms more easily.

The breadth of applications that UC covers is relatively wide, and growing to accommodate new methods of interaction. UC can incorporate email, instant messaging, smartphones, landlines, fax and social media outlets.

Unified communications tools are also capable of handling both audio and video content, which is why they are increasingly being adopted by businesses located across a broad spectrum of industries.

UC can make a huge difference to the productivity and reliability of a business and its employees. Rather than having to manually collate different strands of communication, UC lets staff seamlessly continue working across whichever medium they feel is most relevant.

The impact of IP telephony

In order for UC to work, all of a company’s communications must be in a digital format, so that it can be transported over a network connection. With instant messaging and emails, this means that UC will not have a major impact on the medium itself, as these were already processed digitally. However, telephone audio signals have traditionally been analogue, so switching to UC will have an impact on a company’s telecoms infrastructure.

UC thus brings some advanced telephony features into the workplace, one of which is Presence. This feature lets clients, customers and colleagues know when an employee is available and on which particular communication channel they can be reached. Staff can also use the comment system to inform the necessary people as to their availability. This makes contacting the right people a much simpler and efficient process.

Reliable communication is vital for all businesses, but a recent survey indicates that 85 per cent of all missed calls do not ring back. UC, therefore, can help complete sales and improve customer retention.

There are other UC telephony features that could prove useful for your business.

Short-number dialling lets businesses working across a multitude of locations, foregoing area codes, and multi-device ringing makes it much more likely that employees will receive intended calls.

Scalability, flexibility, plus improved business productivity and efficiency

UC is easily scalable, particularly when compared to traditional communications infrastructure. All data is processed and stored using a single server so upgrading your communications hardware and software is a simple process should you need to expand or downsize.

With UC employees can access their business communications wherever they are, providing they have an Internet connection and their user credentials. This means that staff can be more flexible, remaining productive even when out of the office.

In fact, employees can seamlessly transition from one medium to another without disruption. Unified Communications, for example, lets employees start conversations on their work phone, before transitioning to their mobile, should they need to leave the office.

By enabling employees to work more efficiently in a world where more and more communication channels are opening up all the time, UC brings structure to the workplace. Whether you opt for UCaaS or choose to manage your own infrastructure, there are plenty of benefits to be had for organisations willing to embrace Unified Communications.

UC really pays off when combined with a strong bring your own device (BYOD) policy. It can make teams more flexible while keeping costs down.

Another attraction for businesses is that UC systems can simplify billing and systems administration, and potentially lower the overall costs of conferencing by combining disparate services through one vendor. UC can also give businesses predictable bills, so they know what their monthly spend will be.

A word to the wise

Before adopting Unified Communications, however, businesses should be aware of some potential hurdles. UC can place added strain on an organisation’s network infrastructure as a result of the increase in digital data. Companies should ensure they have the necessary bandwidth to accommodate all of their phone calls, for example, or they may experience a fall in quality.


Rikus Jansen is a Unified Communications specialist. He entered the South African technology space in the late 1980s, pioneering 3D animation and video effects in the broadcasting industry. This led to a career in corporate ICT outsourcing. He co-founded Ensync Voice Solutions, a unified communications company. After merging the Ensync companies with the JSE-listed ICT provider, EOH, he now heads up the EOH Voice and Unified Communications business, which is one of the leading communication providers in South Africa.