Choose your UC solution like you choose your laptop

  • UC is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, has to cater to your specific needs
  • The numerous options all look enticing and can leave you confused

Choose your UC solution like you choose your laptopTHERE was once a time where a phone and a fax machine was all that was required to run a business in different locations. With the rapid evolution of technology, organisations nowadays opt for more complex communication technologies to increase business efficiency.
While having a comprehensive communication system can be advantageous, managing it can be a major pain point for organisations. However, with a Unified Communications (UC) solution, which integrates all these communication technologies into a single interface, managing a communication system has become less complicated.
Like the vast variety of laptops in a computer shop, the diverse and numerous options for UC solutions all look enticing and can leave you confused.
In purchasing a laptop, the brand, the specifications, the price, as well as our usage patterns are some of the major factors we consider before making a choice.
Similarly, in choosing a UC solution, you need to consider several variables to ensure that you get the optimum solution for your organisation.

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Here are five questions to ask during your decision-making process:

1) Where in the organisation would I use it?
The first thing you should ask yourself is: Why does my organisation need UC? As an IT decision maker, you need to chart out the objectives you want to achieve through your UC deployment.
These can include improving internal communication processes, increasing employee productivity as well as reducing costs related to business travel.
For instance, if you’re part of a global organisation that wants to reduce travel costs, you would want a UC solution that has a video conferencing component which allows you to hold meetings and events remotely. This would increase employee productivity and reduce costs related to business travel.
It is therefore important to consider your organisation’s needs and the potential uses of your UC solution prior to purchase and deployment. Doing otherwise could lead to suboptimal deployment and a less than ideal return on investment.
2) Should I base it on cloud or on-premises hardware?
The method for UC deployment also should be considered carefully. Like traditional PCs and laptops which store all data on its hard drive, traditional conferencing systems are based on on-premises hardware.
On-premises hardware offers companies the option to retain full control of their network, systems and data, enabling them to have ready access to their equipment in case it requires troubleshooting.
IT managers unwilling to let go of their legacy investments in on-premises hardware can utilise their existing infrastructure to set up UC solutions.
On the other hand, you can also opt to have your UC solutions on the cloud. Cloud-based solutions reduce the need for a large initial investment in on-premises hardware, allowing capital to be deployed in building the business.
Going cloud also means that the IT department is freed up from mundane tasks like helpdesk tickets and can focus on achieving their business targets. Superior data access and greater reliability are other benefits that organisations can enjoy when deploying a cloud-based solution.
According to IDC, cloud-based UC solutions are seeing the strongest adoption from industry verticals like retail, education, healthcare, hospitality and professional services.
In addition, a survey done by IDG Enterprise in 2013 reported that conferencing and collaboration services were rated as the top application which will migrate to cloud.
Whether you decide to deploy an on-premises or cloud-based solution, keep in mind that your UC solution should suit your organisation’s needs and contribute in achieving business goals.
Choose your UC solution like you choose your laptop3) What UC elements does my organisation need?
A laptop could possess advanced features like video editing, quad-core processors and high-end mobile GPUs (graphics processing units). However, an average user would not require anything except a web browser, reliable processor and Office applications.
Similarly, a comprehensive UC solution could comprise audio, web and video conferencing, calendar integration, file transfer systems and more.
However, it is possible that your organisation would not require all the features, considering the varying needs of each department.
For example, the production department of a manufacturing company with factories across multiple locations could benefit from video conferencing. On the other hand, the salesmen in the retail shops would benefit more from audio conferencing.
To ensure optimal deployment, you should customise solutions for each department based on their needs.
4) Will it stand the test of time?
When you purchase a laptop, you wish to utilise it for the next few years, so you consider those that have upgradable memory, large storage and the ability to handle more advanced software in the future.
Equivalently, when choosing the right UC solution, you should consider its scalability and flexibility in terms of meeting your company’s future demands. Will it be able to accommodate more users? Will it allow you to add more functions?
A UC solution which can adapt to the changing environment by expanding or removing redundancies is the best solution for organisations.
5) Will somebody assist me in case there is a problem?
After purchasing a new laptop, we undergo a familiarisation phase where a user guide comes in handy. Likewise, with the implementation of your new UC solution, trainings and resource support are necessary to help users ease into the transition of using a new technology.
An ideal UC solution has to be accompanied by trainings and resource support, so you should choose a UC provider that offers effective customer support.
With the numerous UC solutions available in the market today, choosing the right one necessitates thorough deliberation. It is important to remember that UC is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it has to cater to your organisation’s specific needs.

Considering all the questions above will ensure a well thought out decision and optimum UC deployment in your organisation.

Christopher Franke is senior manager and head of Unified Communications Strategy at InterCall Asia Pacific. Chicago-based InterCall provides global cloud-based unified communications services.
Related Stories:
Unified Communications: It’s not what you think it is
APAC Unified Communications as a Service market prospers: IDC
Embrace API development to boost UC: Tata Communications
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