There is a common perception that unified communications (UC) is expensive, leading many customers to defer the buying decision. Customers often see this as unnecessary bells and whistles without understanding the business benefits they bring. On the contrary, UC solutions offer a superior business case and multiple benefits.
Parts make the whole
The primary reason for the misperception is the sheer number of functions and applications brought together by UC – voice, e-mail, instant messaging, conferencing, collaboration, mobile, presence, location, and a growing range of others.
In truth, UC solutions are modular, and need not attract a big upfront cost at all.
UC’s TCO is low
- Composite by their very nature, UC solutions may form a coherent whole, but originated separately.
- Almost all companies already have some UC components installed, so platform vendors follow an add-on approach to product design and development.
- New UC applications like social communications and communications-enabled business processes continue to develop. To accommodate growth, UC platforms are built on open standards, allowing easy coupling and decoupling of components and piecemeal, cost-effective build-out.
It is important to understand that many of the costs of a system do not yet accrue at the time of acquisition and implementation. The hidden costs of owning a TDM system, for example, mean its total cost of ownership (TCO) is much higher than that of a UC system, among others because upgrading or adding to it is more costly and disruptive than altering or extending a standards-based IP-based system.
Among UC systems, architecture further has a significant impact on both upfront and ongoing costs (including moves, adds and changes, training and telephone system management):
UC enhances efficiency
- Pure IP systems have the benefit of reduced complexity, making them easier and less resource-intensive to implement and manage than the ‘cobbled-together’ systems of legacy vendors.
- Systems built on open architecture integrate seamlessly and easily with business applications and processes, further reducing the cost of implementation.
- A distributed architecture with federation means the addition of a single appliance can achieve redundancy, rather than replicating the system in its entirety.
- This approach to redundancy further means scalability is simply a matter of adding more appliances. This is a clear example of investment protection, while less scalable systems need to be replaced in totality when companies outgrow them.
Besides UC’s scalability, small businesses will also like its productivity and efficiency. CEOs and other senior people in small companies are invariably involved in operations, frequently multi-tasking on internal and external-facing activities, including sales.
The mobility and presence management features in advanced UC solutions allow executives to be reached wherever they are, even if the caller only knows their office number. This has roaming benefits too – executives who travel overseas can be reached via their office number, with the IP-based PBX connecting the parties via a free Voice over IP call. The call can either break out on a local WiFi network in the destination country (at the overseas branch or guest network), or on the local GSM network, without running up enormous roaming costs.
Always being available in this way, either to collaborate with colleagues or engage with customers, not only increases executives’ efficiency – it ensures that opportunity cost is kept to a minimum. Best of all, the customer experience is seamless, which improves the image of the company and the experience of its customers.
In short, to deny oneself the cost savings and value of UC is a mistake in the longer term. Start building now; a piecemeal approach will keep even upfront costs to a minimum.
* Tellumat is the South African distributor of ShoreTel systems, whose offerings are cloud-ready.