Ever experienced that annoying feeling of having to look for an email because it simply went missing among dozens of others? Or that the conference call from the office never seems to work as it should? 

On these occasions, some much needed support can come from Unified Communications, a collective label that covers all integrated communication services, aiming to ease the life of the user, who needs to keep up with chat lines, video conferences and mobile messaging. 

Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) indicates a series of strategies that combine devices, applications and softwares to allow users to communicate and collaborate effectively wherever they are. 

Competition

Being able to access your email through your smartphone, or an application that combines different chat lines into one single stream, are all examples of UC&C, and the competition for these services is now massive.

The trend for communications offerings is widening beyond the technology sector and more and more companies are shaping up for the land grab of this rapidly growing industry. Whereas having UC&C technology used to be an advantage it has now become the ‘norm’ as employees demand to be able to work more flexibly through the use of collaboration tools.

UC&C is starting to become main stream because it’s about connecting with other people to achieve a shared goal, or objective.

 

Bradley Maule-Ffinch, director of the UC Group, a division at Imago Tech Media, who runs Europe’s largest Unified Communication event, UC EXPO is in a position like no other to witness this wave of investment in the UK. “The reason why UC&C is starting to become main stream is because it’s about connecting with other people to achieve a shared goal, or objective and this is also the key to business growth.” UC&C is therefore making the board and C-level executives sit up and take notice. A survey recently conducted on behalf of UC EXPO reported that 64 per cent of C-Level executives agree flexible working would result in increased productivity and 80 per cent believe the offer of flexible working offers a better quality of candidate.”

Call centres

For example, one of the areas that has really embraced this technology over the past few years is the call centre. The front line staff taking your calls have shrunk in number as a raft of other systems attempt to help customers with their issue before they need to speak to an agent. However, the calls which do get through are usually more complicated and require the agent to collaborate with many different departments quickly to resolve the customer call. UC&C technology is perfect for this cross departmental working to achieve a common goal.

Adopting UC&C is also being driven by the arrival of the millennials who naturally interact with technology in a much more collaborative way. This new generation of workers expect their workplace to supply systems which allow for mobility and flexibility and companies need to do this to ensure they attract the best quality of candidate.

Agile companies

“The big siloed office environment where you don’t know people from different departments or different floors, and only share information at the monthly meeting is now gone. Companies need to be more agile, to stay competitive,” Bradley argues. In the UK, employees have the right to request to work flexibly, and UC&C technology is the key to supporting this and reaping the rewards of a happy, engaged and mobile workforce.

Financial benefits are clear, for example when Essex County Council moved its entire 8,000 employees in 140 locations to fully embrace a mobile and flexible working model with UC&C technology, it managed to reduce ICT costs by 30 per cent (£15 million) and improve KPIs by 25 per cent across the board. 

It should also not come as a surprise that the public sector is moving full steam ahead in this space: “With cuts to the public sector, many are under pressure to do more with less, receiving increased demands for better customer service.”

Dangers

Bradley also acknowledges the danger of going too far: “There is the risk of the so-called “every hour worker,” that means being always at work and never switching off. But, this is totally down to the management team to ensure workers enjoy a healthy work-life balance. With careful management, the benefits of UC&C are huge.”

The UC&C world will gather in London at UC EXPO 2015 on 21-22 April at Olympia. The EXPO, the largest of its kind in Europe, is strongly supported by Microsoft, which will also showcase one of its key products for 2015. “Skype for Business is a real game changer and UC EXPO 2015 will represent the first time many people will be able to get their hands on the new technology”.

Bradley Maule-Ffinch, director of the UC Group