Unified communications (UC) is helping employees be more productive, collaborative, effective, and efficient, and having a positive impact on the business. It brings all these different ways of communicating into a single interface, and boosts productivity through business process integration.

“What makes UC so compelling, is that it amplifies communications both inside and outside of the business, allowing employees to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, customers, and third-party partners, more effectively, irrespective of their location,” says Rikus Jansen, Head of Voice and UC at EOH Network Solutions.

However, with a wide variety of solutions available, it’s crucial to develop a strategic UC strategy that meets the critical needs of your specific organisation, he adds.

He says there are several things to consider before choosing a UC provider. “There’s no such thing as  ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to UC – every organisation has different requirements and expectations from their UC platform, and how it will help meet their business goals. In this way, the components of each specific UC solution will differ.”

Much in the same way that there is no single UC solution, there isn’t a single UC vendor. Multi-vendor integration and interoperability is key to the success of any UC implementation. The varying UC components will come from a range of vendors, including switch vendors, desktop vendors, customer relationship management (CRM) and application vendors, mobility vendors, and so on. “Ensuring that all the elements of the UC solution work seamlessly and well together is crucial. Knowing where your technology comes from, and who is providing it, will remove several challenges,” Jansen says.

“Remember, that UC is made up of a myriad components, it’s not a single product or technology. UC solutions are made up of a plethora of previously siloed elements or components that change how work is completed for users, groups, and the business as a whole. There are several possible elements to a UC solution, including mobility; software clients and smart apps; call control and switch integration; presence; messaging, including IM, voicemail, email, SMS; conferencing and collaboration.”

Before choosing a UC solution, businesses need to have a thorough look into who is backing the technology that their telecommunications partner is trying to sell them. “There has been a lot of movement in the industry, with many mergers and acquisitions over the past few years. This can have a significant impact on the distribution channel, research and development, product longevity, Gartner positioning and suchlike. Businesses must ensure they know what they are getting from the start,” Jansen says

“In the case of EOH, our chosen vendor; Mitel is the one doing the acquiring, and that is important for our clients to know. With all the movement in the industry over the past few years, such as Avaya filing Chapter 11, Toshiba Telecommunications and ShoreTel being acquired by Mitel, then Snom, Polycom, Broadsoft and Cisco, Sonus and Genband all completing mergers and acquisitions, there is a lot of movement and uncertainty out there, customers need to have confidence that their products and solutions will be supported in the years to come, by a service provider with the necessary expertise and skill.”