Decoding UC: Removing the Confusion from Unified Communications

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to introduce you to Brian Ferguson, a new Product Marketing Manager at Digium. Brian has been with the company for a while, having worked with our channel partners and directly with many of our SMB customers. He brings a great deal of industry experience to his new role. He also has lots of helpful information to share with you – not only about business phone systems, but about sales and marketing strategies, too. You’ll get to hear from Brian quite a bit on this blog and during many of our upcoming webinars. We hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as we enjoy working with him! Now, here’s Brian….

Before I became a Product Marketing Manager with Digium, I was a part of the technical sales team and had a chance to work everyday with potential customers of both Asterisk and Switchvox. This experience has given me the ability to look at the marketing of telephony products and services through a different lens than some of my fellow marketers.  That being said, there was a term used in the telecommunications marketplace that always confused me as a salesperson, and that was minor compared to the dense fog of confusion that our potential customers were struggling to see through.  The mysterious term causing the confusion was UC, or Unified Communications. What is UC?

Every major IP communications vendor (Digium included!) has a UC section on its website with hyperbolic statements like, “UC is changing the way you do business.” or “Reinvent your productivity capacity with UC!”, and my personal favorite, “UC is the greatest innovation in business since standardized currency!”  Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get my point. Given the seeming proliferation of this term, I couldn’t help but wonder why, in my many years of talking with thousands of potential customers, I’ve had only ONE customer bring up the term UC?  Most people wanted to know about VoIP or IP phone systems or even business communications systems. Why weren’t people coming to me asking for a “UC system” the same way they asked for other hyper-marketed products like HDTVs, hybrid cars, or Snuggies? (Side note: I realize nothing can possibly hold a candle to looking like a Jedi in a blanket with sleeves – but people still need phone systems.) The answer is painfully simple. The term “UC” has been poorly defined by the industry and clouded by mixed marketing messages. Hopefully, I can help clear it up for those of you who may be in the market for a UC system, today.

First, let’s define Unified Communications: UC is the merging of many different communication methods including voice, email, video, and instant messaging into one unified system.

To help further lift that fog of confusion, here are the 5 core benefits of UC for you and your company.

1) Presence and Instant Messaging- Presence and instant messaging features allow organizations to stay connected in real-time, regardless of distance.  Presence allows your users to update their personal status and make it visible across the organization in several different places; even if that user is on a mobile phone!  Presence makes it very simple for receptionists and assistants to know who’s available and who’s busy by glancing at the computer screen or phone display.  Ever wonder if a specific employee is in the building and working, or out of the office for the day?  How about knowing the status of your employees who work at a remote site or out in the field?  Many of today’s UC systems can publish status across several locations and platforms as well as have the ability to manage status in third-party instant messaging systems.

Tired of sifting through thousands of emails?  Instant messaging, or chat, can give your team a real-time method of communication that can significantly limit the minutiae of your Inbox by handling the day-to-day communication instantly.

2) Unified Messaging- No longer will your users have to interact with at least three different pieces of software or devices to view their messages. Unified Messaging transforms email clients like Outlook, Gmail, and MacMail into the hub of all communication, including voicemail, email, faxes and even recorded phone calls!  Have you received an important message and need to call that person back immediately? Unified Messaging gives users click-to-dial functionality with phone numbers readily available in the emails or from contact lists.

3) Mobile Device Integration- UC systems allow mobile users the ability to communicate with tools that are just as powerful as those available to internal users.  Mobile apps allow for a user to have number connectivity, or the ability to have calls find them regardless of where they happen to be working.  Easy access to voicemail and company directories arm your remote employees with information and tools to be more productive than ever before.  Today’s mobile features also allow for companies to protect their brand by ensuring that no matter what device is used, the companies caller ID information is passed to the client even when an employee is dialing out from their smartphone.

4) Video and Collaboration Integration- The demand for video communications is increasing rapidly.  UC systems allow for integration with web conferencing systems, point-to-point video calls, and audio conferencing.

5) Third-party Integration- Truly advanced UC systems allow companies to “think outside the box” with their communication platforms, and integrate with their CRM, ERP, or other information systems.  Imagine being able to have your CRM records, or other customer or client database records appear on the computer monitor or phone display when that caller calls into your office?  How much better armed will your employees be to help that customer quickly and effectively?

UC is absolutely changing the way companies communicate. And Digium’s Switchvox system has the solution for your communications challenges. Whether deployed in the cloud or on-premise, Switchvox has a powerful UC feature set that is affordable and flexible for your business needs.

VoIP phone systems - basic termsWant to decode more phone system jargon? Check out our SMB Toolkit, featuring the ebook “7 Simple Terms to Understand Before Choosing Your Next Phone System.”

About the author

Brian Ferguson is the Product Marketing Manager for Switchvox. Since becoming part of the Digium team in 2010, Brian has worked in multiple sales and marketing roles supporting Diguim’s reseller channel and helping SMB customers use Digium solutions to solve their business telephony challenges. With an additional 10 years of sales management experience in a retail environment, Brian has extensive experience working with a diverse range of technical products and brings a unique perspective in helping problem solve for customers. He graduated with honors with a BS in Business Management from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. He enjoys numerous, short walks on the beach (as opposed to long ones) and loves to travel.

4 Responses to “Decoding UC: Removing the Confusion from Unified Communications”

  1. Carlos

    Clear and fun to read article. Thanks!

  2. grigory

    What happened with Angie ? :(

  3. Digium

    Grigorgy, we’re glad to know you enjoy hearing from all of our Digium team members! Angie has moved on to an exciting new adventure outside of the telecom industry; and we’re fortunate to have Brian onboard to head up Switchvox product marketing. We know you’ll enjoy getting to know Brian!

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