By Leslie Ferry, Vice President of Marketing at BroadSoft

Unified Communications

Companies, large and small, are beginning to recognise the benefits of the communication options commonly included in a Unified Communications (UC)solution, and we believe it is just a matter of time before all of these varied, personal communication options will be mainstream.

UC offers a range of communication services, which can boost efficiency and productivity within the workplace. For example, collaboration tools, including online white boards and shared document repositories, provide a venue where co-workers, business partners and clients can come together, wherever they are, and collaborate using advanced data sharing and communication devices. Not only does this boost creativity and productivity but it is far more efficient than spending weeks trying to get everyone in the same location, in the same conferencing room for a meeting or brainstorming session.

Furthermore, the idea of employees sitting behind their desks all day is no longer a reality. Businesses often have a mix of on-site employees and remote or home workers. Companies need to ensure, therefore, that employees can work closely with their colleagues — regardless of where they are. UC solutions can be easily integrated to deliver communication options across a wide-range of devices, so users can connect to the company’s internal communications network using their laptop, smart phone or iPad — so they are never out of touch.

The benefits of video

One communication option under the “UC” umbrella that is becoming increasingly popular is video. Over the years, video has evolved into a cutting-edge technology, enabling people to communicate in real-time, in-person and face-to-face.

According to Frost & Sullivan’s prediction, the total market for room-based conferencing will be worth $1.03 billion in Europe by 2015 (Frost & Sullivan, European Videoconferencing Endpoints). And when you consider some of the benefits video can bring to businesses this does not come as a surprise.

Communicating via video is a viable alternative to face-to-face contact. Consequently companies can choose to connect via a video conferencing solution instead of travelling to meetings - saving substantial amounts of money on travel and other expenses including hotels and transfers. This is becoming increasingly important as companies are put under more pressure to cut their carbon footprint.

In fact, Gartner promises that within three years, high-definition video solutions will replace 2.1 million airline seats annually, costing the travel and hospitality industry $3.5 billion per year (Gartner, Gartner’s Top 10 Predictions for 2009)

Video communications can also have an important effect on team morale. As more and more people are working remotely, often from home, connecting with employees via video ensures that remote workers still feel connected and part of the team.

Finally, businesses who have adopted video communications, often find that it is a much more efficient way to communicate. If weekly meetings are conducted via video, it prevents employees from multi-tasking as their colleagues can see what they are doing. Furthermore, participants can pick-up on visual clues of the discussion, ensuring everyone is on the same page. As a result, meetings are much more productive — saving time and money.

Building awareness

Despite the obvious benefits and significant uptake of video solutions over the last few years, video remains in the early adopter stage. As companies have been forced to tighten their belts and scrutinise their spending decisions in the current age of austerity, CEOs and CFOs have been reluctant to make the upfront investment in capital, time and resources to install video solutions.

Businesses often assume the installation process is complex and time consuming. Consequently, IT staff will require additional training in order to cope with any problems that might crop up during and after the transition. However, video devices today are extremely easy to install. For most desktop devices it is simply a case of the end user plugging the device in and following the welcome instructions. This makes deploying video solutions much more cost effective and simpler to resource than first thought.

Final thought

Despite these concerns, more and more companies are making the cultural changes required and using video to its full potential. Not only are these companies enjoying all the benefits video can bring to an organisation but they are also demonstrating a real return on investment - proving that the benefits outweigh the associated costs. Furthermore, suppliers are designing solutions which are extremely easy to install and operate.

Clearly video is here to stay, and it will increasingly make its presence felt in the workplace, until, one day, it is the de facto form of communication for businesses and consumers alike.