We’ve been hearing about Unified Communications (UC) for what seems like years now. Yet despite rising adoption and noteworthy successes in the Enterprise space, why has it not taken off with small to mid-sized businesses?
Success in the larger Enterprise space has been driven in part because suppliers and resellers discovered that larger businesses could afford it, had the skill sets to drive it, the resource to assess and realise the productivity benefits. However, the market has evolved and product accessibility has matured. UC products now scale down as well as up, enabling both small and medium businesses to join the revolution. So why the slow take up?
When talking to an established smaller business the challenge often lies in legacy. Small to Medium sized Enterprises have often started up with simple lower costs systems that offer little or no UC functionality or upgrade opportunity. However, is that alone a good reason to miss out on the massive productivity benefits that UC can bring to a business, be it small, medium or large?
Perhaps it is perceived high cost of entry that is a key factor? However, when it comes to cost nothing could be further from the truth. The availability of cloud and hosted offerings, along with the wide availability of good bandwidth access options, has made UC affordable for SME and Mid-Market businesses, both in the office and on the move via smartphones and tablets.
So how do we open the door to UC when met with a business sitting behind its ‘dial tone’ communication habits? The art lies in helping key decision makers to understand that some newer technologies are not as complicated as they might think? Indeed they often use these technologies themselves as consumers! For example Hosted IP Telephony could amusingly be described as ‘Skype on Steroids’. Hosted IPT offers the mobility and affordability that consumers enjoy with Skype, but with the added security, reliability and flexibility that today’s businesses demand. What is more, with the benefits of on-line video guides, canned demonstrations and even free user trials it has never been easier to help business owners and Directors to better understand first hand the look and feel of UC products and solutions.
Still unconvinced, it would appear that the key lies in delivering a case for the Return on Investment (ROI) that can be achieved in a market where many find it easier to simply pick up their land-line phone than use a UC application on a laptop or smartphone. SME’s generally become interested in technology only when investment in it will reduce their costs or improve their competitive advantage in some way. Gaining interest can be achieved by the demonstration of a generic ROI, followed up by the ability to demonstrate a specific ROI relevant to the particular business area that the business is engaged in. For example, a single telephone number and a single voice-mail box achieved via the twinning of a mobile telephone to a business desk phone can deliver contact-ability and time savings to the increasingly busy Estate Agent. Add a mobile client to the smartphone and we also achieve significant call cost reduction and integrated management call data. Suddenly, for the Estate Agent, a conversation around what UC can do for their business becomes very interesting.
Many small businesses, (including Estate Agents) currently use the Avaya IP Office for their core telephony, but how many have also deployed Avaya’s One X solution, which could simply and cost effectively deliver the above and more?
One of the great things about UC is that it can be a complex or as simple as you wish. From the simplicity of linking a desk phone to a mobile telephone through a single number, UC can scale right up to a full suite of collaboration and communications tools. A more complex UC solution can for example incorporate mobile integration, Instant Messaging, Presence to the desktop and the mobile, call recording, call management, video, web collaboration and even CRM integration. However, does every company require web collaboration and video calling? Obviously not!
Perhaps the real answer lies in understanding the business need and delivering a solution or service that solves the problem or adds clear demonstrable value to an existing process. We can hear today’s small and medium sized businesses saying “what is in this for me”? So the big question each business needs to ask or be asked is, “will UC reduce business costs or deliver a competitive advantage for me?”
If the answer is yes then the door is already ajar and the case for how Unified Communications can deliver, be it simple or more complex, is there to be made.