By Thomas O’Hagan, Managing Director, b4b Group

Thomas O'Hagan
Thomas O’Hagan

Never before has the ‘future of work’ been so high on the agenda for businesses as we begin to move to a new era of hybrid office and home working.

Unified Communications will play a prominent role in the journey, particularly as our teams become increasingly dispersed, working from multiple locations, whether that be in the home, at the office, in the workshop or on the factory floor.

Not a completely new idea, the term Unified Communications or UC has been in common usage for some years – and yet it’s not always understood what it means or entails.

A concept that is all about harnessing digital solutions, Unified Communications unlocks the benefits of collaboration in an era when work is no longer completed solely from a desk, a phone or a PC.

Furthermore, modern workplaces will commonly have members of the same team working and communicating with each other on a variety of devices and using multiple different pieces of software in the process.

Others may still be struggling to adapt to the modern working environment on legacy telecommunications systems.

What UC does is to integrate all communications channels, from traditional voice calls, emails, content and screen sharing to instant messaging between staff and a multitude of other applications, into a single usable interface or management system.

Increased uptake in the use of Unified Communications is therefore hardly surprising, with the global market growing by 29 per cent last year alone to over $47 billion (£33.8m).

Many of us are already familiar with platforms like Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, itself a transformative and accessible UC system.

Think of the opportunities that are now presented by the ability of IT applications that permit us to share our screens with colleagues on another site, across multiple locations or even, for example, throughout a global network of branches.

Staff can now collaborate on the same document simultaneously, allowing projects to move forward in real time, realising major efficiencies and improving company productivity.

It means lower costs, better performance and greater company cohesion.

Meanwhile, using data, analytics and dashboards provided by the UC platform can ensure the same level of customer service is realised whether operating with a dispersed workforce or with all staff in the same building.

In general, better communications within organisations should, by extension, improve customer outcomes. They will be further enhanced when UC is integrated with the client experience, by for example providing a multitude of options for customers to make contact as and when it suits them.

For some considerable time, businesses have already been employing a range of IT-enabled communication tools and products to improve efficiency.

The pandemic has only broadened their usage and hastened the adoption of Unified Communications.

With the vast, and ever-growing number of services and applications that could from part of a UC platform, seeking professional advice is essential to ensuring organisations are adequately serviced with the tools required for the future of work.