Your business communications are a mess
But is Unified Communications the answer?
How often do you get frustrated when you can't reach someone? You try their desk phone, then their mobile and perhaps their home office number, then give up and either leave them a voicemail or send them an email or text message. Then when they don’t get back to you as quickly as you would like, you get annoyed at them for not being responsive.
There are numerous variations of this game, and it often plays out into classic telephone tag, convoluted and confusing email chains as in desperation you ping the next best person to the one you really need, or simply abandoning the communication attempt because the original reason for making contact has timed out or been overtaken by events - all of which leads to even more frustration and annoyance.
Yet not once do we direct our annoyance at the ludicrously complex and fragmented systems we are all expected to use as the foundation for our business communications. The number of fields that need to be populated in our address books over the years has proliferated horribly – internal extension number, external DDI, switchboard number, home office number, business mobile number, personal mobile number for emergencies, email address, instant messaging address, Skype ID, etc.
The reality is that working with this complexity is hard, whether you look at it from the perspective of trying to figure out the most effective way of reaching someone, or from the point of view of keeping on top of your own incoming communications by cycling through your email inbox, SMS inbox, voice mail for your desk phone, voice mail for your mobile – even the cache in your IM system, as people who sent you a message while you were offline figured you would pick it up when you next logged in.
Sure, we can all come up with coping strategies and tactics based on diverting phones to each other, setting up forwarding rules, alerts and so on, but it's all very clumsy - and in the case of forwarding your desk phone to your mobile or vice versa, unnecessarily expensive.
And this question of cost brings us to the business implications of fragmented communications, from wasted time through artificial delays in business processes and business decision making, to missed opportunities and increased risk due to lack of responsiveness.
So why do we seem to just accept this situation unquestioningly? If anyone designed a communications system to work the way most organisations do now, we would think they were mad or incompetent.
The problem, of course, is that this fragmentation has snuck up on us over the years, and as we have added each new business communication mechanism and end point device into the mix, we have crept closer and closer to the tangled mess we have ended up with today. If you throw video communications and various forms of conferencing into the equation too, that are all increasing in popularity, then it can only get worse if we don’t do something about it.
So what is that something?
Well, lots of people are arguing that what the industry is calling "Unified Communications" is the answer. It's a term we are seeing pop up frequently in marketing messages from communications players like Cisco, Avaya, Nortel, etc, and more recently from the software giants, Microsoft and IBM. But figuring out what's real and what's not and working through the practicalities can be a challenge.
The good news is that our latest primer has been designed to get you going here. We wouldn't claim that it is the definitive Unified Communications implementation handbook, but for those who want a no nonsense grounding in the topic so you are better armed to read all the vendor literature and perhaps start thinking about how to deal with that communications mess, it's a pretty good read.
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