Unified Communications: Not enough without a unified vision


The benefits of ‘flexible working’ are now more recognised than ever. Increased productivity, business continuity and happier staff sit alongside the many plus points of freeing people from the constraints of their office desks. It also makes a real difference when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. For Generation Y employees, it’s a must have.

But even if these benefits are understood, taking a leap of faith and implementing Unified Communications is still a major challenge. The desk culture, simply meaning each employee ‘owns’ a set space, is a comfort blanket for bosses and employees alike. 

And despite all the hype about ‘IM-ing’ colleagues and working from home, most companies just aren’t getting it. Our research found that more than half of UK workers still aren’t able to work remotely. At the same time 40% of organisations say they often overhear staff complaining about being ‘tied’ to their desks.

The fact is that much of the technology may already be there – whether it’s instant messaging or video-conferencing. Yet it’s not really understood how these can make a difference to employees’ everyday lives.

Where the CIO can lend a helping hand is cutting through all the noise around flexible working and giving a clear vision about how it can make a difference to that particular organisation today and in the next five or ten years.

>See also: FEATURE: Mobile collaboration in the enterprise

Some of the more tech-savvy employees may already understand what UC does – bringing together fixed, mobile and desktop communications onto one integrated platform that can be accessed from any place, on any device. What they may not know is how this translates to making their lives easier.

So what’s the ‘UC in a nutshell’ message for CIOs to get across?   In simplest terms, it’s about accessing your entire working life wherever you are. It means having one single phone number across your mobile, desktop and other devices. It means sharing ideas across continents and time-zones via instant messenger or video conferencing. And ultimately, it means more productive employees who can work anywhere and collaborate better.

Clearly it’s not the CIOs that need convincing. When asked what technology they’d most like to see introduced into the workplace, most CIOs said the integration of voice and data over a single network.

What’s missing is the buy-in from everyone else about how all this technology can lead to a more collaborative culture that doesn’t completely disrupt the status quo.

We’ve identified a few choice pieces of advice for CIOs when it comes to making UC a reality rather than just a buzzword in 2014.  

Make it real

The first thing is to put the benefits of UC in terms that everyone can understand. And this might mean speaking with everyone from the C-suite to frontline employees about how it can make a difference to the ‘here and now’.

Avoid the techy explanations and instead talk about a future with no more clogged inboxes, dodgy conference lines or information disappearing down a rabbit hole of email chains.

If employees at every level don’t advocate for this kind of technology, IT managers are left to tackle entire organisations that simply shrug and say 'if it ain’t broke…’ 

Make it simple

One of the biggest hurdles that CIOs face when it comes to delivering UC is dealing with multiple different suppliers. This means CIOs are left with little wiggle room to implement new policies that span across these providers.   

In order to simplify the whole IT infrastructure, as well as cutting out the headaches of juggling different people, CIOs need to reduce and consolidate their number of suppliers. In doing so, they’ll be in a much better position to implement the flexible working ideas they know can help their business.

Make it formal

A big worry among senior executives is the feeling that an ‘ad hoc’ approach to flexible working will lean to security risks, confusion among employees, and uncertainty about how much budget needs to be set aside.

CIOs need to take the initiative to provide a formal framework about how flexible working strategies can be implemented, including clear policies about what is and isn’t allowed.

If CIOs can take this all on board, we could be looking at a very different ‘office of the future’.

While it’s unlikely anyone will be holding business meetings from all of those places, it’s not such a ridiculous suggestion when you think of some of the technologies that are now available. 

If IT managers can lead the charge, employees could be working almost entirely independently of their swivel-chair before you know it. 

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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