The benefits of a Unified Communications service

If you know anything about unified communications, you’ll be aware of its potential to transform your business. But what exact outcomes can you expect from deploying a unified communication solution, and how should you measure them? Here, we dig a bit deeper into the benefits of unified communications to show how companies can make the transition to a more efficient and collaborative way of working.

Broadly speaking, the multiple benefits of unified communications can be grouped into two overarching categories:  worker productivity and total cost of ownership. When implemented correctly, a UC solution has the ability to massively boost user productivity levels while also achieving a significant reduction in technology expenditure.

User productivity – more than just saving time

The time saved by employees using unified communication and collaboration tools is one of the most well-documented benefits. UC features like presence mean that users always know whether a colleague is available to communicate. A user can instantly find out whether the person they wish to contact is available, out of the office, in a meeting or travelling between sites. This cuts out ‘telephone tag’ and drastically reduces the amount of time users spend trying to contact others and leaving messages for unreachable colleagues.

Another typical feature of a UC solution, the ability to seamlessly move between different communications channels, is also a major time-saver. Users can escalate instant messaging exchanges into phone calls, or convert a phone call into a web conference, with a single click. This can drastically speed up the decision-making process by enabling users to select the best channel for their discussion in real time.

Research conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey – and reported by IT Business Edge – found that 49% of user organisations said they saved up to 20 minutes per employee each day by reaching workers on the first try (due to the presence function). In addition, 54% of organisations saved the same amount of time per employee daily by escalating IM chats into phone calls.

However, a UC solution does more than simply cutting minutes off everyday communications. There are other productivity benefits, both direct and indirect, that also need to be considered. In a 2011 white paper, BT stated that an integrated communication and collaboration framework can reduce absenteeism in the workplace by up to 60%. It also observed a string of additional benefits stemming from increased productivity – enhanced brand reputation, improved client satisfaction and higher levels of employee engagement. According to BT’s research, the latter can also increase employee retention by as much as 20%.

Financial benefits

Of course, increased user productivity should have a demonstrable impact on your bottom line. But there are several areas in which the financial benefits of a UC deployment are particularly clear. In some cases, you’ll notice a crossover between the productivity gains and financial gains, such as travel cost reductions.

With a suite of web and video conferencing applications, UC can significantly reduce the need for business travel and potentially remove it altogether in some areas. In the Chadwick Martin Bailey research, 64% of user organisations reported cutting travel costs by more than 10% as a result of unified communications, while BT’s findings indicated that travel expenditure can be reduced by as much as 30%. Whatever the true figure, UC has the scope to deliver a double-win for your business: your employees spend more time working and less time travelling to and from meetings, while you pay out less on transport costs.

It’s worth noting that frontline savings may not be your primary motivation for implementing a unified communications service. The benefits of the solution in terms of user efficiency and productivity will more than justify the investment in the long term. However, businesses still running outdated legacy telephony networks will also reap the immediate rewards of converging voice, video and data on to a common IP network. By centralising your infrastructure in this way, operations, administration and maintenance become streamlined. The result is major savings on line rental, as well as significantly lower annual maintenance and support costs.

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