Why 70% of businesses have unified comms as a strategic initiative

Today we’re working in an increasingly dynamic business environment, often working on the move, across time zones, with diverse and disparate workforces. As the Fluid Society report explores, we’re seeing significant changes within society, and traditional ways of doing things are constantly being challenged.

In response to that, at Vodafone, we’ve placed increased emphasis on the conversations around bringing together a range of often seemingly unrelated communications systems to try and make the wealth of technology available that bit easier for us to use and for IT teams to manage. We know, both from our own research in the upcoming Perspective series report ‘The New IT Crowd’ and from analysts that over 70% of businesses have unified communications and collaboration as strategic initiatives.

We should also take a minute to think not only about the current state of play but about what the next 10 years will bring; more ways to connect, more powerful devices and fast, effective communications on a global scale. By bringing together fixed and mobile communications and investing £900m this year to ensure they work seamlessly, Vodafone is able to deliver services that can make a real difference to any business.

But for many, UC is still a pretty confusing term. The reality is that it’s a catch-all for a lot of different technologies, whether that’s instant messaging, conferencing, mobile email and more. Organisations have these implemented in abundance. But could you say you feel more ‘unified in communication’ juggling multiple fixed and mobile phones, IT and message boxes? Probably not!

So, where do you fit in? A strategic approach to technology means a coordinated workforce communicating seamlessly towards common targets. Organisations that get it right will see greater efficiency and a more empowered and stimulated workforce. Those that don’t, face the prospect of falling behind the competition.

Put simply, communications are inseparable from now on.

And the engine room driving this will be IT departments. They are the new backbone of business and the role of the IT manager role is changing as a result. Increasingly, IT leaders are being expected to be more involved in the running and future of business. Our research as part of the forthcoming Perspective series report supports this belief – 86% of IT Directors that were surveyed feel that they need to think more about the strategic and transformational role that technology plays within their business.

At the same time as IT managers face these new expectations, the range of technologies they have to deal with is always increasing. Unsurprisingly, our report also reveals that nearly 55% of IT Directors say they’ve seen their communications estate become more complex over the last 2-3 years. This increase in complexity is driven by three challenges; supporting a wider range of devices, fully integrating communications with IT and the need to pay greater attention to communications security.

But in my opinion one of the biggest changes is that the ‘U’ in UC needs to be reset to a focus on the User. That at least puts us in the mind-set that whatever we do has to start and stop with people. User cases and support in system adoption need to be the key drivers of UC. There are some useful tips on page 35 of the report.

The challenge for communications in the Fluid Society is to make the daily business processes that people follow easier. The effort has to relentlessly focus on this if unified communications is going to help, so that it; enables people to be as effective in the workplace as they are at home or out and about, helps people to develop relationships across continents as supply chains and customers go increasingly international and drives down costs by making system implementation and management more efficient.

But if we are going to focus more on the ‘user,’ as an industry we need to do less of something else. There are only so many hours in the day and cost reduction is one of the demands! To get a grip on how we do this it’s worth doing a very quick back history of the telecoms market.

There have only been five meaningful developments in communications since Alexander Graham Bell. Mechanical exchanges reduced the reliance on people to connect calls, electronics reduced the amount of space, power and support that systems needed. Digital exchanges further reduced support costs and extended the reach of systems. And IP brought open standards of sorts and eradicated the need for duplicate networks.

To really take advantage of this new architecture, we recommend following a framework for transformation that looks at your employees and how they work, your property estate and a full understanding of your legacy systems to plan and design the optimal solution for your needs.

And that’s where Vodafone is leading the revolution. Having just one supplier to deal with significantly simplifies administration for any organisation. It also enables service level agreements (SLAs) to be set across fixed and mobile services and makes it easier for us to monitor and control the quality of service we deliver.

As the only truly integrated supplier of fixed and mobile unified communications services, Vodafone can now be truly technology agnostic when it comes to solving our customers’ business challenges.

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