When I began my career in telecommunications it was rare for UK households to have a telephone. When my parents wanted to make a phone call they visited one of our neighbours to use their telephone and dropped some coins in a money box. The only other alternative was a trip to the end of the road to the public telephone box. When we had our first telephone at home it was a party line, sharing the telephone line to the exchange with a neighbour. Either neighbour could eavesdrop on the other's telephone conversation.
Early business telephone systems offered few facilities. You could make and receive calls with larger systems having an attendant facility to handle incoming calls.
This is so far removed from the current Unified Communications systems and Telepresence solutions that we enjoy today, yet many businesses still only use basic telephony facilities. Effective communication is essential to maximize productivity - essential to survive and thrive through a credit crunch where only the strong will survive. When businesses embrace Unified Communications the result is an increase in productivity. This enables staff to become very responsive to customers needs, making it difficult for your competition (they will be talking to your customers) to gain momentum.
It is almost impossible to remember what life was like before emails dominated a major part of our lives and where would we be without our online diaries? Yet, if your email; diaries, telephony and other PC applications (e.g. CRM software) are being used independently, your business is missing out on a wide range of productivity gains. In a Unified Communications solution, the telephone system integrates fully with your email, diary and other PC applications. Adding video and some integrated applications and we have a telepresence solution (the ability to virtually 'be somewhere else' and act as if you were actually present, via telecommunications).
How many times have you looked up someone's number on your PC and then manually dialed the number on your handset only to dial the wrong number? This can be very frustrating especially if you are under pressure. Imagine the cost of this when you multiply the number of times this happens by the number of staff you have. This is a simple example of the benefit of Unified Communications.
Think about the process of going into a meeting. You schedule the meeting in your diary some time before the event. Just before you go into the meeting you may have to divert your telephone, you may also need to record a new message. What if you have an urgent call that you want to take during the meeting? Multiply this by the number of meetings you and other members of staff attend.
What do you do when you are working away from the office? Do you have to set up your 'out of office' configuration before you go out? Are your communications as effective when you are out of the office? Do you have any home workers? If so, do they appear as if they are in the office even when they are working at home?
All of these benefits are available with a Unified Communications solution. When I am meetings my telephone system identifies from the entry in my diary that I am in a meeting. When the meeting is due to end, it sends me a discrete notice that the meeting is about to end and asks if I want extend the time. I can set exceptions to allow specific callers to be diverted to my mobile rather than voicemail if I need to take their calls. When I am away from the office I can take calls on my mobile. I can also have voicemails emailed to me as sound files that I can play on my PC or on my PDA.
Connecting the telephone systems using Internet VPN connections via local domestic broadband services in their respective countries and a business broadband connection into our office. It is very difficult to quantify the cost savings and productivity gains we have enjoyed since deploying our own Unified Communications solution, what I do know is, we cannot survive without it!
Astro Communications Ltd, a UK based specialist network communications engineering company. Astro specialize in delivering voice, data, video and network security solutions and they are about to introduce a new energy saving service. To learn how you can reduce business costs, improve productivity and secure your network, visit: http://www.astro.co.uk