7 Collaboration Tools You Should Be Using

collaborationOne of the most valuable features of Unified Communications is increased collaboration. A plethora of UC tools make collaboration possible outside the confines of an office or meeting room. Below are just a few collaboration tools you should be using

  • Presence – Colleagues can interact as if they were in a physical office when using presence.
  • Screensharing – A fast way to convey ideas and information without miscommunications or long explanations.
  • Recording – Users that miss an important call or presentation can catch-up with a recording as soon as they are available again.
  • Conferencing – One of the older tools, conferencing with unified communications can be spontaneous and quick.
  • Mobile – Most unified communications tools are now available on mobile, putting collaboration in the palm of your hand. 
  • Messaging – Instant messaging can get quick answers even when users are busy or on call.
  • Integration – Email, CRMs, and more can be integrated with unified communications to bring more tools to your fingertips.

Tools like the above can increase productivity and save time on a daily basis. Get these tools and more in an application like gloCOM.

5 Ways to Validate a VoIP Purchase

voipWhat do you think of when you hear the term MARKETING? I think of drawing prospective clients in with features, promised benefits, and catchy phrases or images. But there is a whole other facet to marketing that we often forget: Purchase Validation.

Our advertisements and websites and other marketing techniques will not only be seen by prospective VoIP clients, but also by current customers, giving us the opportunity to validate and reinforce their decision. Combat buyer’s remorse and encourage customers to take pride in their VoIP purchase, thus telling others about it, through marketing.

How do we do this? Ziff Davis brings us 5 Ways you’ll Know that VoIP was the Right Decision which we summarize below:

#1 – COST SAVINGS

You likely promised lower costs to prospective clients, so now is the time to remind them how much they’re saving. Ziff Davis shares eight areas in which business save costs with VoIP:

  1. Monthly Line Charges – less than Legacy costs
  2. Domestic Long Distance – no longer an additional cost
  3. International Long Distance – lower rates and/or plans
  4. Enhanced Features – now FREE with VoIP
  5. Reduced Need for Toll-Free Numbers – no longer spend on Toll-Free
  6. Phone Systems – no large capital investment
  7. Less Need for TEM – less complex, less need for management
  8. Trunking – shift from PRI trunks to SIP trunks

#2 – EMPLOYEES LOVE THE NEW FEATURES

Users that had been using the same Legacy system for their entire career will be impressed with the vast features available with VoIP – and the easy learning curve. Ziff Davis gives us four of the most popular features among users:

  1. Visual Voicemail – users can access their voicemail anywhere with an Internet connection and easily share messages with others
  2. Ad Hoc Conferencing – advanced conferencing features such as drag-and-drop, recording, etc.
  3. Click-To-Call – simply click on a contact on a PC or mobile device to call
  4. Customization – users can control many features from their PC including ring tones, personal greetings, call forwarding, etc.

#3 – NETWORK IS EASIER TO MANAGE

The previous two benefits of VoIP will please management and employees, but what about the IT team? The following three examples will benefit IT:

  1. Streamlined Operating Environment – legacy systems involve two separate networks that need IT management, but VoIP converges them in to one network
  2. Self-Provisioning – VoIP is more flexible and user-friendly so IT will have a lighter workload and be less dependent on the carrier
  3. Budget-Friendly – due to the lower costs of VoIP the IT team will no longer be under budget constraints and can freely make changes without seeking budget approval

#4 – ACCESS TO A RICH ECOSYSTEM

While Legacy Telephony is a tried & true and long-lasting solution, VoIP is dynamic and opens the door to a large ecosystem of developers and innovation. VoIP will continually benefit users over time in two ways:

  1. Added features & functions that go beyond Legacy’s capabilities. For example, High Definition voice.
  2. Integration with other communication features such as video, presence, messaging, and ultimately Unified Communications.

#5 – STEPPING STONE TO UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS

While VoIP may be a passing trend that gives way to text or other methods of communication, it is the first step towards Unified Communications. Companies that purchase a VoIP System will be getting a foot in the door to Unified Communications and will be able to gradually add the other pieces.

 

In short, companies with VoIP will reap many benefits for years to come. We can use marketing to validate their decision and get them excited about the future. Want to read more? Visit Ziff Davis and 5 Ways you’ll Know that VoIP was the Right Decision.

2014 State of Unified Communications – Part 3

In our first and second posts in this series on the 2014 State of Unified Communications we discussed the overall growth of the market, premise vs cloud deployments, collaboration, and what users are looking for in Unified Communications.

We’ll start off our final post talking about what IT Teams need to do in Unified Communications…

With the growth of the Unified Communications market in 2014, IT teams have more pressure than ever to develop and maintain an excellent solution.

uc market

IT Teams must acquaint themselves with the vendors on the market. Aside from all of the large business providers, consumer and cloud providers are gaining traction and represent real competition in the world of Unified Communications.

They must also recognize that Unified Communications are an essential part of telephony today. The market is growing and the competition has already adopted Unified Communications.

WHAT TO DO WHEN STARTING OR EXPANDING A UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTION

After hearing those statistics and expectations for the Unified Communications market in the year to come, are you ready to start or expand your UC development? If so, follow these guidelines for a smooth transition:

  1. Target the deployment, at least at first. Provide UC to only those users that will most benefit to begin a slow transition.
  2. Evaluate all of your PBX options. You may not have to upgrade your PBX equipment. Unified Communications is more about virtual features and capabilities than equipment.
  3. Seek a vendor with plans for federation. As the world of telephony moves to 100% Unified Communications it will be important to connect with suppliers and business partners that have different systems.
  4. Do not minimize the importance of voice. While Unified Communications has many benefits to offer, voice continues to be the most fundamental service. Ensure that the new solution will allow maximum quality voice features within your company.
  5. Take full advantage of training. Less important is how to actually use Unified Communications – that tends to be self-explanatory; but teach users the value and benefits of using those features in order to get the most out of the system.
  6. Market your UC solution to its full extent. Unified Communications has so much to offer – show users and potential clients why it is so indispensable. From increased efficiency, to reduced cost, to employee productivity, UC practically markets itself with a little effort.

Not sure where to start? Bicom Systems Account Managers would be happy to talk to you. Contact us at sales@bicomsystems.com, browse our products, or watch our gloCOM Unified Communications app video:

In summary, the world of Unified Communications has made vast improvement in the past year, but there are still several areas that could use some work for the remainder of 2014.

Want to keep reading? Download the full report from Information Week

What are your thoughts on how the Unified Communications Market is going? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

2014 State of Unified Communications – Part 2

In our first post in this series on the 2014 State of Unified Communications we discussed the overall growth of the market, premise vs cloud deployments, and the new buzzword: Collaboration.

While this year’s statistics make it clear that companies are pleased with Unified Communications in general, the numbers also identify the areas that need some work over the next year…

SECURITY

A group of IT Executives were provided with 11 Technology Initiatives and asked which they were implementing or planning to implement. The number one response was ‘improving security’ with 88% of the participants.

unified communications

Image source: http://www.networkcomputing.com/

Security is clearly a big concern for businesses today. Of all participants that use Unified Communications, 81% invest in security. More specifically, 80% have data firewalls, 55% have voice firewalls, 37% have UC security appliances, and 33% have session border controllers.

Participants say their primary security concerns are:

  1. ‘An attacker getting access to the data network through the UC system’ – 54%
  2. ‘Smartphone malware entering the network’ – 52%

ANALYTICS

Analytics is a newer idea in Unified Communications that could become an immensely useful feature. With analytics, the UC system will remember certain details about the user and be an interactive software.

For example, the system could respond to user requests based on recent activity, upcoming calendar events, etc.

TRAINING & HOW-TO

Unified Communications users are disappointed that the solutions are not always as user-friendly as promised. The idea of Unified Communications is that anyone can use it without extensive training. If business products are too complex, businesses may elect more user-friendly consumer options.

The most popular method of training is still computer-based, use by 33% of participants.

SOCIAL INTEGRATION

uc market

While the Unified Communications market seemed to be moving toward Social Media integration, it did not get anywhere in the past year.

According to participants, Social Networking is at the bottom of the list of beneficial features of Unified Communications, with only 3% of the vote.

The idea would be essentially a large business directory and discussion board that would provide a resource for employees throughout the world.

FEDERATION

Federation is about getting varied Unified Communications platforms to work together. Clearly there are many platforms on the market and that number will continue to increase over the coming years. These platforms must find a way to function together so that users from different companies, or even within larger enterprises, can work together via Unified Communications.

BANDWIDTH & CONNECTIVITY ISSUES

cloud unified communicationsOne of the largest complaints from Unified Communications users is the connectivity issues. While Unified Communications has so many benefits to offer, it does require a constant connection to the Internet. Some of the new features like video and live collaboration require even faster and more dependable connections.

In some ways, IT and developers cannot do anything about this issue. However there are new ideas and technologies emerging that make this a valid topic of discussion in 2014.

Also check out Part Three where we discuss IT team’s responsibilities in Unified Communications and what to do when starting or expanding a UC solution.

Want to keep reading? Download the full report from Information Week

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

2014 State of Unified Communications – Part 1

In April of 2014, InformationWeek conducted a Unified Communications Survey with 488 Business Technology Decision Makers in North America. The results are in and the news is good for Unified Communications. The market has seen significant growth over the past year. However, this means that user expectations are at an all-time high and vendors have work to do this year.

OVERALL GROWTH FOR 2014

Of all survey participants, 70% have a Unified Communications solution or plan to deploy one in the future. These systems are being used by vast numbers of users – 34% of those participants provide Unified Communications to 76% or more of their users.

These numbers have increased since previous years. The percentage of participants that have a UC solution has increased from 38% to 44%. Additionally, those that do NOT plan to deploy a UC solution has decreased from 32% to 30%.

unified communications

Image source: http://www.networkcomputing.com/

Not only are more companies using Unified Communications, they are also using their systems more extensively. The number of participants that provide UC to 76% or more of their users increased from 21% to 34%.

As could be expected with a growth in Unified Communications, the traditional desk phone is losing popularly. This year 14% of participants have no desk phones whatsoever. Only 30% have desk phones for 76% or more of their users.

PREMISE VS CLOUD

While there is no doubt that Cloud has made its presence known in the Unified Communications market, premise is still the more common deployment.

Companies with premise or premise-based deployments make up 64% of all participants. Complete Cloud set-ups account for only 3% of participants, though 17% have hybrid set-ups with some sort of Cloud component.

unified communicationsImage source: http://www.networkcomputing.com/

According to the participants, this trend will not change in the near future. Of all participants, 52% envision themselves with all or primarily premise deployments two years from now.

However, this means that a large amount of the participants are still open to the idea of Cloud. While premise set-ups may be less expensive in the long run, Cloud Providers could, and should, promote the benefits of Cloud. Features like ease-of-use, mobility and BYOD, and a low capital investment may make the long-term investment worth the price.

COLLABORATION

A new buzzword has emerged in the world of Unified Communications: Collaboration. Companies that use Unified Communications have expressed great satisfaction with the increased ability to collaborate within companies and teams, whether in the same office or on opposite sides of the world.

The market study provided 12 ways that Unified Communications helps business and asked participants to name the top three for their company. The most popular response was “improve employee collaboration” with 62% of the vote.

unified communicationsImage source: http://www.networkcomputing.com/

Two of the most loved collaboration tools are audio conferencing and video. These tools give teams a way to effectively and efficiently communicate regardless of location.  Other tools that UC users enjoy are unified messaging, instant messaging, and the corporate directory.

Also check out Part Two where we discuss what users are looking for in Unified Communications today and Part Three where we discuss IT team’s responsibilities in Unified Communications and what to do when starting or expanding a UC solution.

Want to keep reading? Download the full report from Information Week

What are your thoughts on how the Unified Communications Market is going? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!