“Now. Right now.” That’s the motto of modern technology. As contemporary consumers, we expect access to everything regardless of location or time. If we are sitting in traffic, too many of us automatically reach for our phones to check our messages and email. (And risk an expensive traffic ticket to do it.) When we can’t sleep at night, we review our calendars for the upcoming workday. Being connected has become a priority. For some of us, being unconnected is a nightmare.
Businesses understand that not only do customers expect flawless connectivity, so do employees. Unified communications has taken hold, setting expectations for integrated services from telephony to messaging and mobility.
Where Are SMBs in UC Deployment?
Recently, Cisco commissioned Forrester Consulting to explore the deployment of UC technologies among small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In its survey of 606 IT and business decision makers in SMBs, Forrester found that:
- Only 19% had fully implemented UC technologies
- 78% were currently expanding and upgrading, or planning to, in the next 12 months
- 2% were decreasing or removing UC (I hope that works out for them…)
In deploying UC, these organizations have responded to a cultural shift of the new generation. People are seeking a better work-life balance, so they want their tools to be easier to use – anywhere. Proof: 63% of respondents identify as people-centric. They consider employees as their strongest assets. And they invest in technologies that promote flexible, remote working environments. These initiatives have delivered additional benefits: They can improve operational efficiency, drive revenue growth, and help to address rising customer expectations.
SMBs Rise Above
As with any changes, especially technological ones, there will be obstacles. One of the biggest challenges facing SMBs is the lack of employee knowledge and access to key features. The complexity, and consequently the challenges, increase as companies acquire UC technology from different vendors. SMBs are now on the hunt for UC tools that are simple, secure, and complete. They’re looking for the whole UC package in one “box.”
Another challenge is the deployment model itself. When implementing UC technology, SMBs can take one of three routes: on premises, hybrid configuration, or cloud. Each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, depending on the business situation. For some, on-premises or hybrid deployments cause struggles with complex configurations. For others, regulatory and compliance issues complicate cloud deployments.
On the whole, respondents report that their UC implementations prove successful and meet expectations. In fact, about 20% report exceeding expectations. However, no system is perfect. Respondents have noted that the capabilities have fallen somewhat short of delighting their customers and improving their experiences.
Regardless, UC technologies are proving to be a step in the right direction and will certainly continue to improve over time.
Keys to Success: Keep Moving
The most important and fundamental reasons for companies to adopt UC technology are the potential benefits. Over half of the SMBs (57%) cite that their top driver moving to UC involved reducing costs, followed closely by the 45% that wanted to improve information security. Also on the list were improve collaboration with clients and business partners (42%) and collaboration across office locations (42%).
These businesses are achieving success with UC, but success is only sustainable if they continue to integrate and expand. New technology is only “new” for a short period of time. It’s important to upgrade and evolve as the technology changes and improves. There will continue to be a need for diversity in UC deployment options, but the move to the cloud is becoming increasingly popular with 33% of SMBs already positioned in the cloud.
As valuable and innovative as UC technology is, it is only useful if people use it. Make sure you provide at least basic training as you bring in new technology so that employees can take advantage of it. It is also important to be sure you really understand your business and technology needs so you can evaluate and leverage vendors to get what you need. Risks is a significant part of running a business, so SMBs shouldn’t fear adopting this new technology, nor exploring and branching out within it. This is a tall order, but it will benefit them in the long run.