The unified communications market is changing. Feature-rich Internet messaging and voice-over-IP telephony were once mostly the domain of CIOs and IT departments, but these services are entering the mainstream, driven by employees’ uptake of mobile hardware through BYOD initiatives and easy-to-use applications, as well as the subsequent entry of these endpoints into the workplace. Costs have declined and the underlying technology has been simplified, making UC, whether delivered through the cloud or on-premises infrastructure, an increasingly attractive option.

“[F]ocus has shifted to the end-user experience, including ease of use, as well as the business value of UC,” observed COMMfusion president Blair Pleasant in article for No Jitter. “There’s a growing realization that the user experience must be intuitive, relevant to the user’s work and tools, and competitive with the experiences delivered by consumer devices and apps. It’s no longer about getting the ‘latest and greatest’ – it’s delivering intuitive and contextual UC solutions, and the business results that are achieved by simplifying collaboration and meetings and enhancing the mobile experience.”

Unified communications market reshaped by consumer focus
The shifts toward intuitive UC user experience comes at just the right time, as UC begins displacing legacy systems. In the past, communications infrastructure was too limited, costly and complex to cater to the end user. Much of IT’s time was devoted to simply maintaining the status quo, with little left over for improving usability or refining the user interface.

With the emergence of cloud computing as well as flexible, highly capable on-premises solutions, all of that has changed. Third-party hosting companies now steward UC technology, optimizing it for day-to-day use by their clients. At the same time, organizations with large call volumes increasingly utilize on-site UC – with installation help from managed services providers – for maximum stability and cost-effectiveness. Either way, businesses and their clients now benefit from amenities such as:

  • Contextual services: Relevant call histories, emails, texts and documents can be retrieved for each conversation.
  • Embedded technologies: Computer telephony integration in integrated into most contact center solutions, and UC is moving in the same direction. It is no longer a standalone services so much as fundamental communications infrastructure.
  • Video meeting rooms: Video conferencing enables better remote collaboration, and with VMRs it is possible for users to connect using a client of their choice, whether they are inside or outside the company firewall.

All of these features add up to a rich UC experience for users and tangible benefits for the organization. Banks, for instance, have deployed wide-area networks and contact centers to better support UC and improve interactions with clients. According to AllAfrica, Comnavig ICT Advisers CEO Olufemi Adeagbo recently identified a well-designed, technologically sound contact center – with features such as UC and video conferencing – as the only way to ensure that business opportunities are realized and brand reputation maintained.

“Imagine a car sale opportunity that is lost because the advertised mobile number is off, unavailable or cannot be answered,” stated Adeagbo. “Imagine the dormant account the bank does not proactively place a call about to understand the issue and reactivate.”