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What are Unified Communications?

Unified communcations are an integration of communication methods such as e-mail, instant messaging, video conferencing, phone calls, and other online conferencing tools. Through unified communications such as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management), if done right, the software can allow businesses to communicate more effectively, while improving productivity.

Unified CommunicationsMicrosoft Unified Communications service in particular offers business users the ability to utilize familiar user interfaces, such as the Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and Collaboration client. Through familiar communication tools, businesses are able to cut costs by reducing the time it would take to train users on new technology.

Another example of a unified communication tool that allows seamless messaging and collaboration is Office Communications Server. Instant messaging tools that can connect legacy software with instant messaging, texting, e-mail, and voice capabilities can significantly reduce the cost of communication and getting information, when and where it is needed. The cloud-hosted version of Office Communications Online offers a less expensive monthly subscription model of $2 per user per month to utilize Windows Azure Servers for hosting the communicator software. 

Is CRM successful more so than it has been in the past?

CRM historically has not been implemented effectively. However, companies have begun to recognize the importance of unified communications as tools that provide a competitive edge in the marketplace by uniting the workforce and staying in communication. Instant messaging and web conferencing tools are becoming evermore present as communication tools in work environments that are not always conducive to on-site meetings.

Instant messaging tools also offer employees to communicate information quickly as well as to collaborate on projects. Customer service representatives are also increasingly utilizing instant messaging tools, since it is much easier to answer multiple queries at a time while still being able to provide the customer with the answers they need.

What are the benefits of unified communications?

A significant increase in communication is the more obvious benefit, but the business benefit is an increase in identity and presence. Being able to contact the right person at the right time can have a significant impact on whether future communication will be possible or welcomed. Some features of unified communicaitons include the ability to:

  • Transition seamlessly between email, IM, voice, and video conversations
  • Deliver email/voicemail/fax into a single inbox
  • “Anywhere access” from Mobile Devices
  • Use a familiar Outlook experience on mobile devices (Exchange ActiveSync, OWA, OVA)
  • Provide “VPN-less” access to e-mail, IM and SharePoint
  • Collaborate with audio/video/web conferencing from within the Office
  • Bring together geographically dispersed teams

How do I apply unified communications to my business?

Being able to effectively communicate with customers and clients the way they want to be communicated to is a key necessity for any business. Having access to the right information at the right time can be the different between closing a business deal or having to put out a fire, since faster collaboration leads to faster solutions.

Whether it is project efficiency needing improvement or customers needing questions answered quicker and by the right department, unified communications is a tried-and-true technology trend that creates significant improvement in sales, teamwork, productivity, and efficiency. When deciding whether unified communications are a right fit for your business, the first step is to ask the questions specific to your business' needs in regards to staff and customer communication methods:

  • Does your business need to improve the productivity of individuals and/or teams?
  • Are there a lot of travel-related expenses for team training or meetings?
  • Does the customer service, sales, and marketing side need to stay connected and collaborate on effectiveness of different campaigns?
  • Does productivity through communicaiton seem like something upon which your organization can improve?

Answering yes to one or more of the above questions could mean that unified communications is a potential solution for your company. Another useful way to determine whether unified communications is a right fit would be to compare your company to other companies that have used unified communications as a solution. Reviewing case studies involving various implementations is a great way to discover similar business cases to ones you might be facing and the results behind the solutions they utilized.


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Technology Trends

Cloud Computing
Online Applications
Social Networks & Software
Document Management & Collaboration
CRM 2.0
Unified Communications
Web 2.0 to 3.0
Business Intelligence
Virtualization/Green IT
Enterprise Mobility

Related Links

Microsoft Unified Communications
Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0
IT Strategists CRM Blog
ektron Sitecore Microsoft Silver Certified Partner