Interest in Unified Communications (UC) has surged recently, due to a renewed focus on collaboration and productivity. But how does UC play in the world of small- to mid-sized businesses (SMBs)?
The respected research group IDC took a close look at the SMB environment, and found clear movement towards several elements of UC, including voice-over-IP conferencing, voice integration and data messaging. Though adoption has slowed due to global economic conditions, IDC and other industry observers are now tracking an uptick of interest, with more than 30% of SMBs now using VoIP in one way or another.
- More than 33% of small businesses are using at least one UC element, along with almost 75% of mid-size businesses.
- 45% of mid-sized companies are implementing videoconferencing.
- 55% of mid-sized businesses plan to add at least one UC element in 2012, along with 30% of small businesses.
Analyst group COMMfusion predicts an extended boom for UC, driven by desire to improve collaboration, integrate social media, and boost contact-center effectiveness. Virtualization and cloud technologies are viewed as key enabling technologies for SMB customers.
The IDC study found that smaller businesses wanted three main things from Unified Communications: (1.) higher business productivity and efficiency, (2.) cost savings, and (3.) an approach that smoothly integrates UC components into a workable solution.
So how can SMBs best leverage UC?
Many SMBs have enjoyed great success with UC, while others have seen projects languish or deliver disappointing results. SMB companies should closely assess UC solution proposals:
- Carefully examine the costs, including both capital and operating outlay.
- Identify the changes that must take place within your business to adopt the new technology. Are those changes plausible?
- Ensure that the promised benefits are both practical and measurable.
- Seek proposals from more than one potential vendor.
- And, as with any significant IT investment, discuss closely with your co-owners, associates and peers.
There’s a lot of hype around UC, making it easy to focus on “cool” or trendy features. Instead, seek out functionality that will deliver sustainable business results. By understanding the true benefits of UC in the SMB environment, you can ensure that your business will benefit from your UC investments.