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Despite the claims that ‘cloud’ is making business communications simpler, small to mid-sized businesses (SMEs) are now in a world that’s actually a lot more complicated than it used to be.

Our recent research of UK SMEs, found that 90% find introducing new IT systems to existing infrastructure a challenge, equating to around 4.6 million SMEs — while reducing operating costs is a challenge for 45% of SMEs, managing a mobile workforce is a challenge for 40% and simplifying IT is a challenge for 34%.

SMEs have a multitude of business communications decisions to make and solutions to choose from ranging from modern telephone systems, VoIP and unified communications to mobility solutions and data services. But you only need spend five minutes on the internet and the sheer number of solutions available hits you — not to mention the multitude of vendors telling you their solution is best.

Identifying the right IT systems and tools isn’t easy, and what many businesses end up with is a tangle of disparate applications and systems from different vendors.

Making a meal out of multiple vendors

Getting your comms technology from different vendors is a bit like choosing different places to supply your dinner. Imagine filling your plate with chicken satay from an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, a hot dog from a street vendor, mushy peas from the local chip shop, and cola bottles from the pick ‘n’ mix at a newsagent’s. Each food is perfectly nice on its own, but together that dish is hardly appealing or palatable. And imagine the amount of time you would need to spend collecting your eclectic culinary mix from multiple establishments!

Ok, the dinner analogy is a little extreme but you get the picture. By using different vendors for different comms tech, you get different applications that do not work effectively together and your admin department spends time and money managing providers and billing processes.

Multiple suppliers hamper overcoming business challenges

One simple strategy to overcoming this complexity is to select a single supplier, who is an expert in the field, for all your comms. As well as giving you one point of contact to call if anything goes wrong, you will also become a much more important customer to that supplier because you’ll be buying multiple services. A specialist communications supplier can help you in a number of ways:

  • Integrate new tech easily: As your supplier becomes more familiar with your business and your unique challenges, they can integrate new solutions quickly and easily for you — and you can trust that anything new will work well with existing infrastructure with no compatibility issues. For example, you’ll be able to switch from an email conversation straight into a video conference seamlessly with just a few clicks
  • Cut costs: Single suppliers of all comms tend to benefit from economies of scale, and can pass that saving on to you
  • Empower an efficient mobile workforce: All comms applications work together and can be available to employees on any device in any location
When you need to account for every penny you spend in today’s business world, switching to a single-supplier approach for communications makes perfect business sense. But once you’ve made that decision, how do you find the right partner for you?

The best partners tend to be independent ones that can scour the market for you and piece together a holistic solution based on best-of-breed applications — all tailored to your business. Make it their job to ensure all the applications work together seamlessly, rather than yours, which will save you heaps of time and effort, and you’ll get a solution that actually works, whether that’s unified communications, data and network services, or mobility.

But getting the right solution isn’t just about the technology. Do your homework and make sure your supplier has a comprehensive service and support portfolio to give you the training, advice and 24x7 support you need to run your business effectively. But don’t just take their word for it – look for vendor accreditations, industry awards and a raft of happy customers to provide the peace of mind that your single supplier is the right one for you.

By Darren Standing, Head of Products and Marketing, Solar Communications