Colleagues working at a table, with an office phone and a smartphone.

Unified communications benefits can solve many problems that plague workplaces, both big and small.

Every workplace has challenges. Some involve technology, others have more to do with morale, while others involve communications. Yet for every problem, there’s a solution, and unified communications just may be your knight in shining armor. Okay, so maybe that line’s a little corny, but it does underscore the sheer number of unified communications benefits available to businesses — a list so impressive it evokes images of heroism. Unified communications can do wonderful things for your company — and your stress levels — if you’re grappling with any of the four following problems:

1. Organizational Silos

Silos are so prevalent that organizations can struggle with them without ever knowing a term for the issue exists. When the company’s individual moving parts find themselves working toward their own individual goals, it’s natural that information, skillsets, and employees become trapped in their own bubbles. This problem is only exacerbated in distributed environments, where geographical distance can “siloize” departments that should ostensibly work in lockstep.

However your organization is laid out, “unified” is the operative term in unified communications benefits when siloing problems rear their heads. As they allow organizations to communicate as one entity, these tools take the one-business mantra many companies cling to and turn it into an actionable, functional practice.

The benefits of a de-siloed office can manifest in a lot of ways. Information can be shared more freely, making it easier for departments to understand how their contributions play into the greater good. The always-on, always-connected features of unified communications tools, on the other hand, allow colleagues throughout the business to reach out to one another no matter where both parties work. If information is contained among departments, unified communications tools can help you unify your business as a whole.

2. Human Latency

Another so-big-it’s-everywhere problem, human latency becomes more apparent as technology grows more useful. In turn, people are often the unreliable factor in important business interactions. When was the last time you waited on a co-worker to respond to a critical email about a client’s technical issue or temporarily shelved a project as you waited on a colleague in another branch to sign and return paperwork you desperately needed?

Here, it’s larger organizations that can really feel the burn, and the reason so many midsize and enterprise companies strive for things such as agility and responsiveness. And although any number of unified communications benefits can help companies overcome their latency problems, it’s presence tools — built-in tools that display a colleague’s availability — that really help with latency issues.

For instance, the response-critical aspect of patient billing in the volume-thirsty healthcare industry can really show what presence can do. The right tools could allow front-line reps to look up which billing experts are available for a phone call with customers. They could then shoot the colleague a quick instant message to confirm availability and transfer the call over in seconds, with none of the confusion or delay multiple active calls can cause.

3. Shadow IT

In an effort to improve cross-store communication, a regional manager in the retail sales arm of a large enterprise instructs all managers to download and install a cloud file-sharing solution on company hardware. A group of employees install and use an instant messaging platform to communicate faster. An individual employee uses his personal email to store and transmit critical privacy-regulated files. These are all examples of shadow IT, and it’s up to companies to replicate the functionality employees seek out when they turn to the practice.

Here is another side of unified communications benefits. By offering employees a suite of interconnected tools to mirror the unauthorized solutions they’ve been working with, companies get greater control — not to mention a way to tailor the solutions they bring in to their individual needs. Best of all, the tools are built to work together, which is a far cry from the piecemeal collection of solutions departments using unauthorized tools must often work with.

This can be of particular use in the mobility era, where unapproved mobile apps and devices make for many shadow IT headaches on their own. Including tools that allow for easy communication across platforms that mobilizes a company’s workforce and paves the way to bigger and better things for both local and remote employees. An employee at a conference can use her work number to text with clients from her personal phone, for instance, maintaining a consistent business presence no matter the device she uses.

4. Scaling Concerns

Businesses grow. Businesses shrink. So do their needs. Companies with busy seasons and a high need for seasonal employees may need a way to coordinate and communicate with masses of employees for several months, then a smaller core of permanent workers throughout the rest of the year.

This need reflects an unsung item on the list of unified communications benefits: scalability. Compared to the old days, where businesses with consistently inconsistent communications needs had to take what was available (prepaid flip phones, anyone?), the ability to provision and remove users as needed is better suited to the fluctuating organization’s needs by orders of magnitude. Throw in a growing trend toward pay-as-you-need pricing — as opposed to per-line annual contracts and other growth-unfriendly plans — and you have the perfect tool for businesses that rarely operate at the same size for long.

Seasonal-growth companies aren’t the only ones that get to reap all the benefits. Businesses with predictable growth patterns also need tools that support communication and collaboration while accounting for attrition and other line-reducing risks, while IT departments get the ability to provision users faster and easier than ever before. The same goes for companies that wish to expand into new locations without paying exorbitant wiring and installation fees.

Unified communications represent a brave new world of business communications — and for many companies, that’s exactly what’s needed.

If you’d like to learn more about how unified communications can solve many workplace problems, connect with a Vonage Business representative.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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Two men and a woman reviewing documents in an office.

Using business communication systems can help create a more collaborative atmosphere.

Your small business can only produce fantastic products and provide stellar customer service through business communication systems if everyone is working on the same team. And as anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship knows, communication is essential to working together. While it’s not likely your staff is going to argue about who needs to take out the trash (although the break room refrigerator may be a touchy subject), you need to make sure you are providing the tools and processes to help make sure every member of your staff is on the same page.

By the time many small-business owners realize there is an internal communications issue, it’s often too late to effectively address the situation. By proactively considering communication across team members and providing the necessary tools, your small business will have a competitive edge over your competitors.

Here are four ways you can bridge the communication gap with business communication systems:

1. (Almost) Face-to-Face Meetings

Emails are important. Phone calls are great. But being able to see someone’s facial expression makes all the difference when it comes to letting remote team members form relationships. This way, it’s easier to tell when someone is joking – or not. With video conferencing, you can avoid miscommunications and help employees develop a rapport with each other. This works if you have multiple offices or if you have employees who are working remotely.

2. Create a Collaboration Culture

With remote teams, one top challenge is effectively working together. When teams work together onsite, they typically use a conference room as a home base, with sticky notes, empty pizza boxes, and whiteboards full of chicken scratch, arrows, and asterisks to show for it. By using collaboration tools and web conferencing, your team can have a virtual whiteboard, calendar, chat, contact list, and many other tools to help bridge the communication gap, whether everyone sits in a single room or spans across the country.

3. Reduce Versioning and File Access Issues

One of the most important forms of communication these days is written communication. Teams often have to share documents and work collaboratively on a project. However, keeping the versions straight and making sure everyone has the access they need when they need it can be challenging, even for teams working in one location. This becomes even more cumbersome when teams work in different locations, sometimes resulting in missed deadlines, extra stress, and frustrated employees. By using file-sharing tools, everyone has access to the files they need to do their jobs, and no one has to worry about their colleague overwriting their work or updating an old version of a document.

4. Share Knowledge with Each Other

The skills employees need to do their jobs these days seems to change and evolve at a dizzying speed. To stay competitive, it’s essential that small businesses ensure each employee has the necessary skills to get the job done. One solution is using a virtual classroom to have an employee with the needed expertise provide training to teammates. This technology can also be used to bring in an outside expert to teach your team.

By using business communication systems, you can increase your company’s knowledge base, foster a culture of teamwork, and make collaboration more effective across the organization.

Contact Vonage Business for more insights on using business communication tools.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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