Old Problems, New Solutions

    I mentioned in my previous blog that the ShoreTel solution is an excellent business phone system and that gets me to the starting block with a lot of customers. However, it’s Unified Communications (UC) that really starts turbo charging your communications strategy.

    What is that? There are many different definitions, but you are probably already using UC now and don’t know it.

    For most of you, I am talking about your mobile phone. The smart phone revolution brings communications around the world to your pocket. Over 350 million of you update your Facebook via your mobile device. It’s a navigation device, an aid memoir, even a TV if you want it.

    But bringing it back to communications as an example of UC – you don’t remember numbers, you click on names, emails and instant messaging all work, more of you can make a video calls. My mobile even tells me where I am in the world and, of course, it makes phone calls. I would add that all this has to work very simply.

    Hands up who reads the manual?

    So let’s bring that to your enterprise phone system and, bingo, there you have it: a unified communications solution, which by the way, should embrace the mobile phone not compete with it.

    What is it doing though? How is it benefiting me? I think we use the word solution too much in this industry. I even have it in my title, guilty as charged. When I am training our ShoreTel Partners they often call themselves “Solution Providers” that must mean their customers are “problem creators” but seriously if you are in the industry of solutions you should take the time to understand what the problem is.

    So what problems are we solving with Unified Communications? Here are a few that I have come up with.

    1. Human Latency. If I have to copy a number from a piece of paper to a phone dial pad, that takes time. Clicking on a name in a directory is much easier. If I have to log on to different systems to get my messages, both email and voice… you guessed it time.
    2. Availability. We are all busy people. That can mean we are away from our phones (talking to customers I hope). These days you can leave a message for most people. Then you ring back and get their voicemail. Telephone TAG. With presence I can tell what the person is doing, set alerts to tell me when they are free.
    3. Control. I get a lot of “unknown/ out the area calls” (i.e. people hiding their telephone number from me). In my opinion there is no need to do this. They are either trying to recruit me or sell something I don’t want. How nice it is to be able to treat these calls differently, root them to voicemail, standard message, or request identification before I answer it. Likewise if you are expecting an important call and you are in a meeting. I can override that do not disturb status for specific callers, number dialled, or regions dialled from.
    4. Convenience. Being joined up is what Unified Communications is all about. I am having an instant message conversation, and needs it needs to go to voice, I click the telephone shaped button, and we are talking. We are working on a project together (i.e. collaborating), I click on another button and I am instantly sharing my desktop. I am “showing” not “telling.” I also can record what I have just said and done, so that I don’t have to re-tell it. To other people.
    5. Mobility. Now imagine doing this from your mobile or tablet. So I am back to where I started. Using Wi Fi, instead of GSM, can reduce costs and aid coverage in areas of poor coverage. Doing this without having to think to much that its happening and to have the same control over a phone call as I do in the office, without having to remember complicated codes or launch specific applications.

    As communications progress and become more integrated into how and when we want to work, it becomes the need to communicate rather than the how to communicate that is important.

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