unified communications and collaboration solutions

A unified communication platform acts as a one-stop-shop, bringing your business communication channels together in one place. Using unified communication solutions make it easier for your employees to do their job. They’ll save time on tasks throughout the day.

It allows users to make and receive calls from anywhere, quickly share files with teammates to work collaboratively. Instead of using an endless email thread, you can start video or audio meetings whenever it is needed. Unified communication and collaboration solutions allow team members to get more done in a day and alleviate most of the communication challenges that you might be otherwise facing. When employees collaborate using unified communication, all the issues can be resolved much more efficiently.

These platforms allow users to collaborate with team members through chat and phone calls. Without unified communication solutions, users would be toggling between multiple apps. According to recent research, employees jump between different applications over 1,000 times a day. Though it might seem very inconsequential at the beginning, it will lead to missed project deadlines and other financial implications.

When it comes to choosing the best unified communication product, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. A lot of factors like flexibility, scalability, portability etc plays a huge role in the selection. We have put together a few questions (read as guidelines) that you should ask yourself and your service provider before making the final selection.

Factors that influence choosing a unified communication platform

1. Anytime, Anywhere Access

Can your application be accessed from anywhere? Your unified communication solution has to be cloud-based so that all your distributed workforce needs is an internet connection to do their work. In these days of remote and hybrid work, this is a mandatory requirement.

2. Security

How secure is your application? Most often, the cloud solution offers more security. Cloud providers go to extraordinary lengths to make their systems secure. Most of the unified communication tools are hosted on either Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services, two of the biggest and most widely adopted cloud providers. These companies constantly update their services and are intensely focused on security. Small and medium companies will never be able to protect their data to the level of Microsoft or Amazon can.

3. Scalability

Is your application scalable? When you go for a cloud-based unified communication solution, you should be able to meet ever-changing requirements without having to invest in expensive equipment that needs to be configured and maintained. You can expand your workforce and keep them connected. Cloud-based unified communication solutions can help organizations of any size to scale up or down due to their inherent flexibility.

4. Interoperability

Is your application interoperable? Most the unified communication products are great standalone applications that do not depend on other applications to work. But in some rare cases, they may have to be linked with other applications like CRM or other specific applications based on business needs. Interoperability increases the usability and adaptability of the product.

5. Device and OS independent

Is your application device and OS independent? Your unified communication solution should have a browser-based interface – i.e., you only need a browser to access the application. Your application should run on any device – PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Your application should also be not limited by operating system or hardware manufacturer.

6. Reliability

Is your application reliable? Reliability is the most important quality of any good, unified communication tool. Since most of the unified communication tools are cloud-based, your business will not be disrupted due to server crashes or natural disasters.

7. No IT Requirements

Do you need a separate IT team to manage your application? When you go for a cloud-based unified communication solution, it is IT-friendly and minimizes your IT budget. Since there is no installation, configuration, and updating needed, it lowers the burden on your IT department. Cloud-based software is IT-friendly and minimizes overblown IT budgets.

8. Infrastructure costs

What will be the infrastructure cost to run the application? A big disadvantage of on-premises software is the cost of the hardware needed for operation. When you go for a cloud-based unified communication solution, it eliminates all the hassle and cost associated with hardware infrastructure.

9. Range of features

Does your application have all the communication features? Most of the unified communication tools come with different features like audio calling, recording, instant messaging, screen sharing etc. that are designed to improve the business workflow. You should evaluate and decide on the features based on the specific needs of your business.

10. Brainstorm your needs

Do you know all your team’s needs? Sit with your team and create a unified communication wish list based on everyone’s daily app usage and tasks. When everybody’s needs are captured, it is easy to prepare the list. The tool that you are planning to implement should also meet the business goals for the year. For example, if your goal is to improve internal communication, then your tool should have the option for group messaging and voice calling facilities.

11. Make sure selected product meets all your needs

Does the application address all your needs? Once you are clear about your requirements, then it is time to create a checklist and see if the product meets all your needs. All users should be able to use the product for their specific needs before deciding to buy it.

12. Decide on a budget

Is the application cost within your budget? For any company, the budget will be the main constraint. Fortunately, unified communication apps come with lots of options at a variety of price points with small businesses in mind. While some tools might have lower pricing, you should consider how the tool will perform in the long run.

The tool that you are trying to narrow down should not be dependent on supplementary tools to work or should not need any user training. So rather than focusing only on price, companies should look at other features like scalability and uptime too. The tool that you are choosing should have a guaranteed uptime of 99.999% and more.

13. Test different platforms

Have you tried all available options? Since most unified communication tools are cloud-based, they come with a free trial version or limited period trial offer. This would be a very good option to check the product’s usability and efficacy. This will give you an indication of what to expect from the product if you choose to implement it. You can avoid any surprises and also obtain your team’s approval in advance setting proper expectations.

14. Implement and gather feedback

Are you taking feedback from the employees? Once you narrow down on a product, take advantage of the tool’s online knowledge base like self-guided modules, helpful videos etc to train everyone on the new software.

Meet the users regularly to understand any pain points and see how you can resolve them. Obtain feedback through surveys and reach out to the software provider for any assistance.

15. Evaluate the tool regularly

Are you evaluating the tool on a continuous basis? After initial user feedback, make sure to schedule regular check-ins to see how the users are adapting to the system. If there are any issues, bring them to the notice of the software provider so they are aware of the issues that are affecting the users.

You can also check whether any customizations are possible to make your job easier. Also, don’t be afraid to ask if something new is possible. Some service providers are willing to listen to their customers and adapt their software to meet customer needs.

Conclusion

In today’s world, identifying and adopting the right unified communication solution is key to ensure your company stays current and competitive. Following some or all of the guidelines listed above will help you to allay your employees’ fears and help overcome their resistance to change. So, embrace the relevant strategies and start reaping the benefits of unified communication technology.

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