Call me odd, but I like it when technology just works.
I’m happy when my iPhone photos automatically appear on my iPad. I love it when I connect a USB peripheral to my PC and it starts operating with no fuss. And when someone calls me on my cell phone and it rings on my car’s hands-free calling system… everything is right with the world.
How many enterprise IT departments can say they feel that level of satisfaction about their communications technology?
Saddled with public branch exchange (PBX) systems, these organizations are handicapped when it comes to establishing unified communications (UC) systems in today’s global business environment. Implementing, enhancing, and maintaining voice systems is difficult and costly, and often times constrained by the limitations of the hardware. Adding new services exponentially increases the challenges for IT departments, with new software that has to be maintained and new billing accounts that must be paid.
Working with IT departments across the world, I’ve learned there are five attributes for developing a simplified communications system strategy:
- Multi-location capability
- Support for size, scale, growth, and agility
- Accommodation of user and IT requirements
- Integration into the overall ecosystem
- Low cost of ownership
In this blog, I will provide a high-level description of each of these components, setting the stage for a series of articles examining each strategic element in detail.
Head for the cloud
As enterprises prepare for the future, they need to start by deploying a communications system that works the way technology is supposed to work, with the capability to add new features, empower users, and free up IT departments to focus on innovation.
By taking the functionality of the PBX and moving it to the cloud, enterprises can build communications systems that achieve these goals and many more.
1) Location, location, location
One of the things I like about cloud communications is its mobility, with the cloud moving my photos, content, and apps to whatever device I happen to be using. However, today’s enterprise communications systems fall short in this critical area.
Hardware-centered communications are severely limited when it comes to establishing and managing multiple office locations, both domestic and abroad. PBX systems are complex, requiring time, skills, and personnel to perform tasks, such as wiring a multiprotocol layer-switching connection to a new office location.
With cloud communications, a new office location can be set up in a matter of minutes with administrators able to add thousands of users with just a few clicks of a mouse and keyboard. The process can even be conducted remotely, eliminating the need for IT boots on the ground.
2) Flexibility comes standard
When I run out of space on my tablet for videos and music, it’s not a problem; I simply buy some more gigabytes on a cloud storage service. UC delivers this kind of flexibility and applies it to the needs of a rapidly expanding enterprise.
As a business grows, so too does its sophistication, requirements, and challenges. Complex-to-configure PBX systems can inhibit growth. However, cloud-based software consolidates and simplifies the deployment of communications capabilities, helping accelerate business expansion.
Cloud-based UC also easily integrates new tools and capabilities. PBX systems do voice, but if an enterprise wants to arm its employees with a new communications capability—such as video conferencing—IT departments must buy a new piece of software to support it. Add up all the tools used by all the employees in an enterprise, and you have an administrative nightmare.
3) Plays well with others
One great thing about personal technology is that I can find the right tool for whatever I need, from fitness apps to productivity software. Enterprise users need specific software tools for specific tasks as well, allowing them to have the freedom and flexibility to match their needs with the right solutions.
Cloud communications provides a way to unify various tools, allowing IT departments to provide a framework for interoperability and data security.
4) One vendor to rule them all
App stores are one my favorite things, providing a unified and consistent interface to access any piece of software I need.
In a similar fashion, UC can combine all communication tools into one software solution, providing a single interface to everything, from messaging, to online meetings, to business short message service (SMS). This consolidates all services together, so IT departments don’t have to deal with multiple vendors.
This combination of services also makes it easier to add and manage users, using a single vendor to support all capabilities.
5) Cost is king
One thing I don’t like about consumer software is having to pay more as my needs increase. This is a challenge for IT departments, with the deployment of additional PBX systems and the addition of new software tools increasing costs and straining IT budgets.
In contrast, a cloud communications solution allows enterprises to add users with minimal effort and low costs. IT administrators can add users by utilizing a simple web-based interface and paying an affordable subscription fee.
When I look at UC, I see many of the things I like most about technology combined into a single package. In the coming weeks, I will author a series of blogs discussing the specific attributes of the five key components of a simplified business communications strategy.
To learn more about how UC can help your enterprise, click here.
Originally published May 03, 2016, updated Aug 12, 2020