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How Unified Communications Can Improve Your Business Strategy

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Unified Communications in Enterprises (photo by Victor1558)

More and more businesses are using advances in technology to further their reach and expand. A number of businesses are already familiar with Skype, and that tool has enabled businesses to contact clients and team members who may work from home at a seconds notice. Unified Communications have created a system that has all the benefits of Skype and incorporates other forms of communication too, making it the complete package.

What is Unified Communications?

Unification of communication systems can really give your business a competitive edge and enable you to keep all your forms of communication in one place, making it easy to maintain and man-manage on a day-to-day basis. It enables you to combine telephone and business data on one single network, and gives you the flexibility in your communication to combine and use voice, video and data in applications. You can also save and forward instant message streams, phone calls, faxes and emails, voicemail and video conference sessions as data files. This way, nobody is left out of the loop.

The data is encrypted to ensure that it cannot be obtained and fall into the wrong hands, giving you complete security when passing data across your network. If there is sensitive or important information being sent across, you can rest assured that it will stay in the appropriate circles, regardless of whether it is sent in the form of an email, voice call or video.

How Can Unified Communications Improve My Business Strategy?

The name of the game here is ease of use and a lack of complication. When you have ten plates spinning, there’s a good chance that any could become neglected and fall. Unified Communications allows you to keep everything in order and in one place, meaning that one person can take care of everything if need be, and without any confusion or frustration. The team member can use a single phone number or handset and a unified inbox for all the available communications too. An easier life for your team is the ultimately goal for everybody, and this system provides it.

Cost Saving

Every business strategy needs a budget in place, and every business needs to know what costs are going to be made and saved by the strategy they put into place. Unified Communications save businesses a great deal of money by having all of your communications related outgoings being billed as one item. This makes it a great deal easier for businesses to set a budget and fill out a profit-and-loss. If a business can budget easier, it makes it a lot less difficult to plan ahead.

The systems are pretty inexpensive too, meaning that more small businesses are turning to Unified Communications so that they can save on a variety of systems they would have to set up individually and just focus on the one system that unifies everything, from voice, to email, fax and SMS.

Time is a valuable commodity when putting together a business strategy, and with a unified communication system in place, you can save time and money on training team members on how to use a variety of systems. Once you have a team member trained to a high standard on a unified system, you would have covered all channels of communication, which in turn will help keep your customer service to a high standard and improve efficiency.

Improving Customer Service

Every business strategy has to include ensuring that the customers are taken care of and that their issues and queries are dealt with quickly and effectively. A number of customers will make their complaints heard via social media, email, fax and by telephone contact, so it is essential that all businesses have a clear strategy for taking care of these customer service issues the moment they arise. With a unified communication system, a query or complaint will be noticed immediately, and can be actioned right away. It also takes away the possibility that a complaint or query could be missed by a team member, as it will be right in front of you on the system. With customers demanding a quick service, this form of communication system can see your customer satisfaction stats skyrocket. A quick response can be the difference between a happy customer and a dissatisfied one, after all.

The key points here are: Speed, efficiency and ease of use. There really is small room for error with a Unified Communication system. Your business strategy is designed to help the company move forward, improve and exceed what it was delivering before. Unified Communications could be the key ingredient to your business doing just that.

All New Viber: Cross-Platform Monster for Consumers

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Viber Desktop with all new features (Image by Viber Media Inc.)

Some of you might know Viber already and that they are  now also providing a solution for Windows and Mac based workstations. For everyone else here is a quick introduction to Viber:

What is Viber?

Viber is a cross-platform VoIP solution for consumers developed by Viber Media Inc. It was first introduced to iOS in December 2010. Since then they have been increasing support for other smartphone platforms such as Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Nokia Symbian and Samsung Bada. Their app does not cost anything but the initial registration requires a SMS to be send for validating your phone number.

What’s new?

On May 7, 2013 Viber released software clients for Windows and Mac. So you are able to install the application on your computer or notebook and register with your phone number to synchronise contacts. When you are logged in with both your smartphone and a desktop client at the same time you can move any active call to the other device.

Features

So what value does it add to your unified communications environment? Here are some of the new (and some old) features that might come in handy:

Positioning

The Viber solution is clearly positioned in the consumer market and gained wide popularity among users in that category. So far I have not come across enterprises utilising Viber as part of their unified communications strategy. If you are using Viber for professional purposes please feel invited to share your experiences in the comment section below.

Competition

As the Facebook Chat app is currently tested for possible VoIP features and beta tested, Viber seeks to increase their solution portfolio to maintain market share and this release seems to be the result of that. Other in-direct competitors of consumer-based unified communication tools are solutions such as WhatsApp for instant messaging and Skype for video conferencing.

Possible Business Usage

If you and your social network connections list their smartphone number along with the social profile, and install the apps of such on their smartphone they will see each other on Viber. Being completely synchronised  they will be able to communicate via VoIP, video conference or instant message beyond their enterprises unified communications abilities. This should serve for non-critical communication only though, as consumer solutions might not be sufficient to match your organisations IT security policies.


The Viber Desktop Introduction Video

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEqS5W-KfRw]

Personal Telepresence – Software Solution Comparison

Telepresence on your desk is a great enhancement to the benefits of video collaboration. It enables you to join meetings ad-hoc and (at least for me) replaced the need for doing a phone call. Even if hardware based endpoints are not available there are software solutions available for personal telepresence.

Throughout 2012 I have been using a hardware-based endpoint for quick communication via video and since January 2013 I switched to a software-based solution. I tried out a few and wanted to share the comparison with you.

In the personal telepresence solution comparison below, I listed several options on personal telepresence software clients or web conferencing solutions with video conferencing functions. You will also find links to each solution further down, in case you would like to get more details on the products.

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The Telepresence24.com comparison for software-based personal telepresence solution – Updated 22.4.13 – Click to enlarge

My requirements

In the comparison we considered most features and functions but to keep it short and sweet, we published only the most popular and relevant ones. For myself I have a strong focus on security and encryption as well as the ability to call all other H.323 based endpoints and infrastructure devices. With the Videoconference24 client for example I am able to call any box no matter if it is from Huawei, LifeSize, Cisco, Radvision / Avaya, Polycom or similar manufacturers. As long a software-client supports standard SIP or H.323 calling those is also possible – you get the idea: I want to reach them all and I want my line secure even through public internet!

Beside that I enjoy the ability to invite for multipoint video conferences without reserving resources on a separate MCU. In most cases this would cost money yet again and like this I can completely cut both the invest in MCUs as well as starting a video call for right now, without booking nor calling anyone to prepare my conference. Of course video conferencing managed services do make sense in many occasions but just for a sudden meeting I don’t need someone on top of things.

Participants of comparison:

There are more solutions than that available and if you would like to add the solution you have good experiences in please feel welcome to let us know in the comment section below. As usually I am more than happy to update the comparison in collaboration with you.

Summary

I am now using the Videoconference24 solution provided by Global Media Services and don’t have a broken heart when I think back to my hardware-based endpoint from last year. Just one thing I would like to add is that when you are saving big-time money going to software-based solutions: Get high-end peripherals for it! You don’t want to be the VGA person in a HD call because you are using the old webcam back from the days. Recommended gear (in my books) comes from makers such as Logitech and Jabra.

What are you using? And … are you happy with it? I want to know your opinion!

The Not So Obvious Advantages of Telepresence Versus Chatting

Telepresence? Why not just use instant message chat? Let me tell you why..

Telepresence of Unified Communications is one of the greatest invention for the business world. In today’s society, business is no longer limited to the 4 corners of the office. The most successful businessmen and businesswomen are always looking to branch out, and this involve doing business with other people from a different city, or even a different country. Obviously, telepresence is a great way to reach out to these people. Through telepresence, it is possible to have conversations and meetings with individuals far away. However, there are some telepresence sceptics who believe that whatever conferencing may accomplish, chatting can too. Not to be argumentative, but there are many advantages to telepresence that are not covered by chatting, although they may not be so obvious.

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  1. Telepresence awkward situations made by misinterpreted statements

    We’ve all been there- gotten into an argument with someone because a text or a statement sent on chat was misinterpreted. Because chatting is flat and does not involve the use of voices, certain statements can easily be taken to mean something else. For example, the statement “get to work now” may sound harsh or motivating, depending on the speaker’s intention. However, on chat, one may not be able to tell the difference. With telepresence, it is possible to avoid misinterpretations, as the tone of one’s voice already conveys so much.

  2. Telepresence may help with possible language barriers

    We mentioned earlier that many companies deal with other businesses from other places on a daily basis. Therefore, it is possible to hold business meetings with people who may not even speak the same language as you. In cases like these, it may be very possible to hit a language barrier, especially if the other party is not fluent in your language of vice versa. Obviously, once a language barrier occurs, chat becomes pretty much useless, as the person on the other end is not able to articulate the word he wants to use. However, with telepresence, it is possible to see the other person, so it may still be possible to figure out what the person is trying to say though his body language, sign language, or what have you.

  3. Telepresence makes it so much easier to gauge a person’s mood and overall demeanour

    Chat takes so much away because even if the person on the other end is pissed or frustrated, what he says will always look and sound the same. Telepresence certainly comes in handy especially when it is sensitive business matters that are being discussed. If you see and sense, based on how he looks, as well as his tone of voice, that the person on the other end isn’t feeling too happy or pleased, then you will know how to proceed accordingly.

Although chatting and telepresence set out with the same goal- to communicate with those far away, it becomes obvious that there are more benefits to one compared to the other. For better business communication, It may be a good idea to invest in telepresence for meeting rooms as well as desktop solutions and consult a service provider for all types of organisations.

How your Company can save Money by setting up Home Offices

Home-Office – Flexibility and Cost-Savings

In the last years flexible working time and virtual collaboration became more and more popular and relevant in many companies. An important aspect here is the “home office”. Especially for modern people the home office has been a tempting feature and often settles a decision on what company they should work for. Beside the high amount of free working procedures, there is also a financial aspect to working from home for employees. This could be for instance saving the costs for commuting to the office and back every day.

But what is the organisation’s opinion on home offices?

There are often concerns that the flexible environment might lead to the loss of control for the organisation. Also a potential problem would be that the productivity and the team work would not be optimal being apart from each other. On the other side the organisation could save a lot of costs for office space, office equipment and furniture as well as the charges that are spent on incidental expenses would not be required. That means using home offices your organisation could quickly save several hundred dollars per employee every month. But the most important subject next to leading and managing a virtual team is to provide the right technical infrastructure and collaboration solutions to the employees.

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The key for achieving this is Unified Communications. With the aid of tailor-made tools the employees are provided with a complete range of tools to communicate and collaborate. With the “Presence” function everyone in the team is enabled to understand the current status of a team member. This will point out whether a colleague is “Available” and can be contacted or if they are “In a meeting”, “Busy” or even “On leave”. In a glimpse you will be able to understand the overall status of your team and possibly even other teams. So you know if it makes sense to call your team member or if you should better drop an instant message or email to get a fast response.

New ways of Communication

In order to work efficiently together in a virtual team that is physically separated modern ways of communication can enable an almost immersive experience of team working. For instance you could start an instant message session with one team member or a group of users, or quickly turn the chat session into a video conference with the possibility to share content on your screen among the video conference participants. You can quickly send an email with either formal content or just a quick update of the latest file that has been worked on. It goes without mentioning that of course you can just make a classic phone call as well.

Did we make you curious?

If you are considering the implementation of home offices for your employees you should capture the expectations of team during the project to make sure you are aware of all the requirements. After that is done you can take this information into the technical planning and design of a home office solution in your organisation. Every organisation and even each department within the organisation might have different requirements to be able to work from home. Missing these requirements out did often lead to such an initiative not working out in the end in some cases. The big advantage of Unified Communication solutions is however to have lower total cost of ownership and to receive a well structured support model for service providers and manufacturing companies.

Summary

With good planning and analysis of requirements, home offices can be a great benefit for employees as well as for the organisation itself  and might put you one step ahead of your competition.