What is Unified Communications (UC)?
Unified communications (UC) refers to a system that integrates (or unifies) multiple communication methodologies all on a common TCP/IP (i.e. digital) network technology. For example: 1-on-1 calls or chats, video-based and screen-sharing team conference meetings, inter-department project team collaboration rooms, record meetings, share documents, communicate on a range of devices (fixed and mobile), etc.
A unified communications solution delivers a range of applications which better enables the different ways your business teams communicate (both internally and externally) and lets staff engage with each other in one unified system - making your staff more productive and business much more efficient, compared to the old, one-dimensional, analog phone system.
What Does Unified Communications (UC) Include?
Unified communications includes the full range of UC services, such as audio phones, audio messaging, audio conferencing, instant messaging, presence awareness, soft phones, web conferencing, video conferencing, workspace collaboration (i.e. Teams rooms), document sharing, unified messaging, collaborative digital whiteboards, and other services spanning both real-time and non-real-time communication engagements.
And, with the increasing popularity of smart mobile devices, UC directly enables end users to enjoy a consistent communications interface even as their access devices, networks, and physical locations change. Greater staff mobility has become a significant benefit for organisations, as a direct result of UC. Workers can remain completely connected to their organization, no matter where they are travelling (or working from home). Greater office utilization with hot-desking and task-centric workspaces (i.e. smart office) has led to significant savings in physical office costs.
How Does Unified Communications (UC) Automation Fit In?
With the increased sophistication of UC over the past decade (and the continued pace of change), the challenge of managing and maintaining the complete end-to-end unified communications infrastructure, across the full lifecycle, while ensuring service quality to end users, is getting significantly harder.
Most unified communications deployments now involve multiple applications, multiple vendors, multiple interfaces (i.e. hybrid cloud), and multiple management methodologies and tools (i.e. vendor-specific and interface specific); all of which leads to extraordinary complexity and higher costs. For example, there are significant operational costs required to troubleshoot quality problems, to introduce new features, reconfigure systems to optimise their efficiency, and manage user/device/room on-boarding/off-boarding/changes. This is because every administration or troubleshooting task (simple, medium or complex) always requires a multi-step process on multiple different systems. This means that only highly experienced engineers are able to perform these tasks, otherwise the risk of human error increases (NB. Error correction is a major cost in the UC space today and typically impacts on end-user productivity).
A UC automation platform provides a central point of control over the UC environment, to make it faster (i.e. often by an order of magnitude), easier (i.e. lower-cost, non technical administrators can perform simple and medium tasks) , and more repeatable (i.e. far less risk of human errors) to execute any given task, respond to any given problem, or scale to support new services or higher headcount.
A unified communications automation platform means that your UC environment can be fully flexible/agile and customizable with a centralized management view across the entire organization. Role-based access control means that the central IT team can control everything (design, asset limits, etc.), but individual business units - or agencies - can retain full autonomy for the day-to-day management of their environment. UC, with UC automation, delivers a greater level of user productivity, at a lower overall operating cost (a win-win).
However, not all unified communications automation systems are created equal.
Why is Unified Communications (UC) Automation Necessary?
An organization’s unified communications (UC) environment has never been under greater pressure to overcome a range of emerging challenges:
- Absorb the complexity of an increasingly diverse UC infrastructure and ever-changing parameters to support remote working, hot-desking, flexible employment contracts, and fixed mobile convergence
- Successfully mesh an array of multi-vendor technology into a seamless collaboration experience
- Weather the storm of digital transformation, to provide a consistent and reliable communications framework during and after intense times of change
A unified communications automation platform offers a major change to way that UC can be delivered and operated. UC automation significantly simplifies the UC environment for complex organization, lowering operating costs and enabling the organization to better implement business transformation of their operational workflow. This all results in a major return on investment for UC automation.
Who Needs Unified Communications (UC) Management?
Any organization that has complex unified communications requirements, will benefit from the addition of a UC automation. This includes:
- Organizations that have, for example, more than 3,000 employees, as the amount of manual moves/add/changes/deletes becomes unmanageable
- Organizations that have multiple offices spread across geographies
- Organizations that require various layers of administrative control and those that want to empower end user self service
- Organizations that want to speed business process and introduce zero touch provisioning by the integration of UC Automation with their IT systems (e.g. CRM, ITSM, ERP, etc.)
- Organizations that want to create a flexible and agile UC services and workflow that suits the evolving needs of the business
Unified Communications (UC) Automation Uses and Applications
Unified communications automation will help an organization in the following ways:
- Provide visibility of the complete UC environment, all for a single, secure, web portal. Organizations can become like mini service providers enabling the central IT team to control the design and optimize workflow processes more effectively.
- Introduce faster, easier, and more repeatable business processes by automating every business communication workflows across the UC architecture, interlinking with third party IT business systems.
- Ensure the service quality of the UC environment is maintained at a high level, by being able to better trouble-shoot issues, but more importantly, avoid issues by receiving trend analysis on performance and capacity levels to pre-empt issues before they impact the UC network and infrastructure.
- Better manage the complex workflows of multi-applications/devices, hybrid-cloud, and multi-vendor UC environments, with ease (e.g. the ability to create a single wizard to simplify a multi-step, multi-platform, hybrid communications workflow process).
- Better manage bulk activities and major transformation projects (e.g. integrating a new acquisition) through the use of UC migration automation. Migration automation delivers a significant cost saving (faster with smaller teams), but more importantly, it reduces the risk of productivity loss through high error rates.
- Add or modify features and applications to their organization by the rapid manipulation of end-to-end communication workflows (e.g. with the rapid change in the UC industry, adding or changing an application and its features no longer becomes a massive effort or cost).
- Integrate across all UC management functional areas (i.e. assurance, fulfillment, billing, analytics, migration) and manage across the full lifecycle of the UC environment (Day 0-Design, Day 1-Delivery, Day 2-Operate, Day 3-Optimize & Extend) to deliver far greater savings and much higher performance.
- Customize UC management platform to suit the specific business communications processes of their industry vertical (e.g. the workflow integration between industry standard IT systems and the organization’s business communications platform). The best example is the ability to use the ITSM (e.g. ServiceNow) system to manage both IT and UC environments, by integrating UC Automation with ITSM.
- Fully automate both the UC environment, as well as network and data center tasks as part of a dynamic workflow … delivering much higher levels of automation (i.e. automate all UC and IT processes).
- Utilize the billing and telecom expense management systems to ensure that costs are reconciled and resources can be better focused on determining areas where costs are able to be reduced.
- Utilize big data UC analytics to measure the utilization of the UC services, thereby enabling the IT team to better address the underlying issues with under-utilization. Increasing utilization means a more efficient organization (i.e. better communications = greater productivity), plus a higher ROI on the UC investment.