Next-generation Unified Communications (UC) platforms simplify the complexity and enable organisations to deliver any communication service to any user on any device, anywhere in the world. They also provide the base for a number of innovative emerging technologies, including presence, intelligent video and contextual collaboration.
Organisations are tasked with delivering great customer experiences, with fast problem resolution, enhanced productivity and faster execution, at a lower cost than ever. On top of this, end-users are demanding anytime, anywhere communications using any device and a variety of media, including social networking. These challenges evolve over time, so new services must be able to be deployed quickly and easily to enable organisations to continue to communicate effectively.
However, without first addressing the communications network and bringing it up to a level at which these technologies can be leveraged, it is impossible to deliver a true, unified communications service. Many organisations also have legacy equipment and a rip-and-replace strategy is not financially viable.
The latest generation UC platforms enable organisations to create a communications core, which simplifies the concept of truly unified communications. These platforms act as a middleware layer that aggregates services from a variety of devices, including traditional PBXs, tablets, mobile phones and so on, and brings them together to offer centralised access to all communication services. Through this core, every communication service within the organisation is deliverable to any user, through any device and with any medium, to any location, with high-quality and cost-effective delivery. The UC platform also then serves as a springboard that enables organisations to incorporate the latest generation of productivity and experience enhancing solutions.
Presence is one exciting possibility that is opened up when using a UC platform. Presence is not limited to online communication tools, such as instant messenger and VoIP, but can also be applied to many other tools. Using such a platform it is possible to aggregate presence data from many different sources, including tablets, mobile phones, instant messaging applications and so on, delivering a combined presence that can be made available both within and external to the organisation. This enhances productivity and ensures that people can communicate effectively on a variety of media.
Another technology that becomes more viable is that of videoconferencing and streaming. One of the issues with video in the past has been that lack of bandwidth on one side of the conversation has rendered high definition impossible for all participants. This compromises the quality of the service for all. Using new UC platforms, however, video can be leveraged intelligently according to the network and bandwidth capabilities of the organisation.
Video streaming can be delivered in HD or SD, depending on the network capability, the user's device and the user preferences, and can be customised according to each participant's needs. Bandwidth is only used as necessary to provide the appropriate video quality and if bandwidth availability is reduced, the consumption will adjust accordingly. These innovations make the concept of videoconferencing far more viable, particularly in a still-bandwidth-scarce environment like South Africa.
Collaboration, the latest buzzword in the IT space, is also made possible using a UC platform in an agile communications environment. This enables truly universal collaboration with a consistent experience across devices, regardless of platform or operating system. It also enables access to contextual information during collaboration sessions, which enhances the experience and provides opportunities for further improvement to productivity. Predictive contacts provide an address book ordered by relevance to the current communication, along with conversation logs across all media including voice calls, emails, messages and so on. Contextual collaboration also provides contextual access to documents, email attachments, desktop contents, folders and so on, as well as relevant information on all participants in the communication, such as contact information and preferences, presence and calendar.
Together, these technologies help organisations to bring together the right people with the right information in the right context, using the medium of their choice. This, in turn, delivers better business results in real time. Contextual collaboration through a variety of media is the communication of the future. With next-generation Unified Communication platforms and associated add-on technologies, organisations are equipped to communicate now and in the future.