Evolution of Unified Communications and Collaboration

For those new to the field, Paul Emery, Vice President, UK and Ireland, at ScanSource, takes us through Unified Communisations and Collaboration – how it all started? And where are we now? ScanSource is a leading global provider of technology products and solutions, focusing video, voice, data networking and emerging technologies. ScanSource provides a full suite of value-added services to its partners, including highly trained technical and sales support, financial assistance, marketing support, education and training, design support, installation and configuration, enabling partners to focus on sales, customer service and growing their business.

Historically, UC has been the integration of voice calls with instant messaging, presence information and call control via PC/Smartphone apps, which also includes the ability to use multiple devices, whilst keeping access to voicemail, call history and directories across those devices. This means that UC isn’t a single product or service, but a set of features wrapped in a consistent user interface and experienced across many devices and platforms.

We have seen a huge push recently for tighter team and video collaboration into these UC Clients, as well as vendors offering just one interface that spans multiple devices, where previously each app looked and worked differently on each device. Whilst team collaboration is not a new thing, traditionally teams have used a variety of other technologies (be it analogue or digital) to manage projects / tasks / documents, and at the centre of project communication is email.

Team collaboration software has been released over the last couple of years by most of our vendors and this new exciting software provides a central location for persistent communication and collaboration typically within a web browser environment and mobile clients. There has also been a recent shift from on-premises video infrastructure to Op-Ex cloud video meeting solutions. This has meant the entry-level pricing for video is lower, enabling more organisations to start utilising it.

The features provided are often more rich and scalable, so larger organisations are seeing more and more benefits to using video. If you talk to most remote workers about some of these technologies, they will also see the benefit of using them, but vendors need to ensure the applications are consistent and simple to use.

Why Cloud?

Telephony, just like other industries, is seeing the benefit of cloud for delivery. As an example, because the services are delivered over the internet, users have access to their extension number wherever they have a connection. Adding users is as simple as ordering a new subscription, meaning a new employee can be up and running with their own number in a matter of hours.

Expansion no longer means purchasing proprietary hardware but can happen with just a few clicks. Faster, less expensive access to upgrades provides the ability to deliver the right tools, exactly when they are needed.

We have looked at telephony as a simple example. But this covers video conferencing, collaboration tools and even full-size contact centre solutions. All delivered using an ‘x-as-a-service’ model.

And because of the remote nature of the cloud service model, you don’t need to host, maintain or support the service. Gone is the need to worry about software versions, or if your system is in need of updating. Everything is managed and maintained for you. It is all part of the subscription price.

Choosing Cloud provides options that were simply not possible a decade ago and allows organisations to be more agile, responsive and productive. Put simply, running quality, reliable UC on-site can be prohibitively expensive. Just factoring in the cost of all the options that you would want for users and the capacity that you would need is expensive enough. But then think about redundancy. Do you potentially double the cost just to have a fail-over solution? You may not be able to afford it, but should a problem occur, you can’t afford not to have it, as your business grinds to a halt.

At ScanSource, we can guide you through the options and ensure that the solution you choose provides the quality, room for growth and the security that you need to be confident in your UC platform for the future. So, to recap, why Cloud? By reducing the cost of installation, maintenance and support, while at the same time enhancing functionality and redundancy, the benefits of Cloud become very evident.

Successful deployment

As with all things, there is no single ‘best’ solution that covers everyone. This is why ScanSource provides the choice and range of services that we do, ensuring that we can provide the right platform that fits the needs of your organisation. Here are some thoughts on how to ensure that you get the best experience.

· Have a go – There is no problem with the fact that you may not know exactly what you need out of a ‘UC&C’ solution. Ask for a demo, see how it works. We have the ability to get you up and running with many services to trial them and ensure that they fit your requirements.

· Use consultancy services – Having a solution custom built for your needs ensures that the whole thing will work as you need it to. The ScanSource team are experienced in service design, architecture and delivery. With the range of vendors we partner with, we will be able to find the perfect fit for your organisation.

Just because it is cloud, doesn’t mean you don’t install it, We can offer simple deployment services, including options such as ‘Zero-Touch’ installation options on desk phones. This means that literally hundreds of phones can be distributed throughout your organisation and as soon as they are on a desk, they will be ready to use. This saves significant time and is one less headache for your internal support team.

· Adoption is key – Adoption is often overlooked, especially with Cloud services as they can look so simple to use that it is just assumed that everyone will ‘get it’. But change, no matter how much better or how much easier, can be difficult. Setting up a clear adoption programme, with internal champions that can work with individuals to ensure that they are comfortable and understand the system will reap rewards and ensure that everyone is as productive as possible.

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