What Is Unified Communications?

By: Marco
February 14, 2022

Tucked within the current Age of Information is a far quieter, but just as significant revolution taking place in how we communicate. While human beings have invented various means of sharing ideas through increasingly complex language systems, each subsequent communication tool, no matter how sophisticated, has had a pesky, inherent design flaw.

While communication, at its most basic level, is necessary for multiple human beings to share and collaborate while performing complex tasks, communication tools do not always collaborate and share well with each other. Before the pandemic, this flaw could be effectively mitigated by having employees work in close physical proximity to one another. It didn't matter that landlines and cell phones didn't play nicely with each other, because the two were used at different times, for reasons that were clearly understood.

But once the pandemic hit, this flaw became one of many that suddenly proved impossible to ignore. Work was no longer confined to a specific desk, phone or computer screen. In fact, for the better part of the past few years, work was no longer possible at that specific desk, phone or desktop computer. But the need for effective, efficient communication across organizations was greater than ever.

Some companies still long for the day when everyone can return to the office, and rely on the same simple communication tools that have always been flawed. Other companies have embraced an entirely new set of tools with some fairly impressive functionality. And while any Managed IT Services company should find that commendable, using three or four…or ten different apps to communicate and collaborate can be cumbersome and frustrating for employees. And that's exactly where Unified Communication enters the equation.

Unified Communication And Related Terminology

Unified Communication, or UC, is the connection of different communication systems, including collaboration tools, for use in the digital workforce. The acronym UC&C is also frequently used, which stands for Unified Communications and Collaboration. 

Unified Communications

When leveraged to its full potential, UC removes barriers between enterprise teams, and allows employees, no matter where they're located, to access the same information and the same set of tools. UC includes messaging, video conferencing and voice calling, and can support multiple channels of collaboration, file sharing and app integration.

As UC systems include a wide range of hardware, software and other forms of  communication technology, there are a lot of terms and acronyms that you might find helpful to know. The most common ones are listed below. But don't worry…there's no need for you to commit these to memory, and a good provider should be able to walk you through how each one of these technologies would specifically benefit your business.  

Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) – A cloud-based service designed to align multiple communication channels and media types.

Cloud calling, or cloud telephony – A UCaaS platform that offers voice services through a third party.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – Automated, pre-recorded messages that allow people to access information at any time, without the need for dedicated staff.  

Private Branch Exchange (PBX) – A business phone system that routes calls, and therefore reduces the cost of having multiple phone lines.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) – Enables the transmission of phone calls over the internet instead of traditional landlines.

WebRTC – A free, open-source standard that allows apps and web browsers to facilitate real-time communication.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) – A signaling protocol that enables real-time sessions that can include voice, video and messaging applications.

Public switched telephone network (PSTN) – A landline or traditional circuit-switched telephone network.

Integrated Services Router (ISR) – A networking device that routes information between digital networks.

Quality of Service (QoS) – A suite of tools that help a network prioritize applications and traffic.

So…Do You Need Unified Communications?

If your teams have been frustrated by missed communication, repeating similar conversations on multiple platforms, and a lack of sufficient choice regarding how they can connect to information, UC can help. If your employees are like most, who strongly dislike toggling between many different apps throughout the day, and are irritated by their inability to communicate instantly on the same app that, say, organizes workflow, UC tools can also help with that.

With UC, employees can use any device they choose to access the information and tools they need to be productive. UC also allows them to communicate and collaborate more quickly, allowing them to be more responsive to customers, and freeing up their time to focus on more sophisticated tasks. And because UC reduces a significant employee pain point (too many tools that don't work well together), it also boosts employee satisfaction and helps your organization combat talent attrition.

And if that all seems a bit too optimistic, there are recent stats to back this up. 86% of employees and employers state that a lack of effective communication and collaboration is the top reason for workplace failure. And as it so happens, companies with effective communication are 50% better at reducing employee turnover.

Just like in life, a little communication often goes a surprisingly long way.

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Topics: Phone & Collaboration