Put simply, Unified Communications is the term used to describe the integration of business-process with communications; leveraging the enormous benefits of that integration to generate greater operating efficiency and higher profit.
The convergence of all communications on Internet Protocol (IP) networks and open-software platforms is revolutionising the use of business-communications; dramatically improving the ways in which individuals, groups and organizations communicate and collaborate both internally and externally.
Net Telecoms defines unified communications (UC) "products" (equipment, software and services) as those which facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods including the control, management and integration of these methods. UC "products" integrate communications channels (media), networks/systems alongside IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.
These "products" may be composed of a single-vendor (stand-alone) suite, or customers may deploy a portfolio of integrated applications and platforms spanning multiple vendors. In many cases, UC is deployed to extend and add functionality to established communications frameworks. UC "products" are used by people to facilitate personal communications and by enterprises to support workgroup and collaborative communications.
Some UC "products" may extend UC outside company boundaries to enhance communications with other organizations and support other inter-personal communications.
• Voice and Telephony - This area includes fixed, mobile and soft telephony, as well as the evolution of PBXs and IP PBXs. It also includes live communications, such as video telephony.
• Conferencing - This area includes voice conferencing, videoconferencing and Web conferencing
• Messaging - This area includes email, which has become an indispensable business tool, voice mail and various approaches to unified messaging (UM).
• Presence and IM - These will play an increasingly central role in the next generation of communications. Presence services, in particular, are expanding to enable the aggregation and publication of presence and location information between multiple sources. In simple terms, it dramatically reduces the amount of time wasted trying to find, contact and engage with people
• Clients – Unified clients access multiple communications functions from a consistent interface. These may have different forms, including desktop clients, browser clients and clients for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet.
Communications-Enabled Applications - This broad group of applications has directly integrated communications functionality. Key application areas include collaboration applications, contact center applications, notification applications, and consolidated administration, reporting and/or analytics tools.
The stakes for enterprise decision makers is also high. Four UC characteristics will have an important effect on the success of a UC product and the satisfaction of users:
• Mobility - Users are demanding full UC functionality on mobile devices. Particular weight is placed on support for mobile clients because this is increasingly a key differentiator. Users increasingly expect full UC functionality across all mobile platforms and operating systems.
• Openness - Support for standards is a critical consideration, as enterprises wish to integrate their UC deployments with business partners, customers, business applications and third-party products.
• Cloud - Integration of on-premises UC with cloud and hybrid UC services will play an important role in unified communications.
• Broad solution appeal - Successful UC solutions depend on influencing a broad and diverse audience of enterprise decision makers. Success will require advancing a full set of UC capabilities within enterprises, which will result in the displacement of those long-term incumbents that lack broad appeal. The enterprise decision makers span such diverse groups as telecom, data communications, IT and the audio-visual video group, as well as business users with a range of bring your own device (BYOD) mobile requirements.
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