Most UC systems available today come loaded with attractive features. And, according to the 2014 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UC), the primary goal of UC is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes. The promise of improved productivity and enhanced collaboration capabilities associated with these powerful features are often what sells decision makers on purchasing that new system.
But let’s be honest. How many of these features do most organizations actually use or even understand? Chances are the vast majority of your users see the UC system as little more than complicated. What’s the point in having all of those awesome features, if no one can figure out how to use them? Businesses should look for systems that offer the following features and make them easy to use:
Programmable buttons: Easily the most common feature of any UC system today, though its value is often overlooked. In the real world very few people ever program any of these buttons, even though doing so can provide one-touch access to speed dial, voicemail, call transfers, etc. The problem with this seemingly simple feature set is often the complexity of programming on the back end. No one wants to take the time to learn how to program the phone, and most have no idea what is actually possible. However, as this recent No Jitter article discusses, “while you can still dump money into premises-based UC, innovation has moved to the cloud.” Cloud-based UC makes programmable buttons painless, and in many instances a matter of one click or drag and drop within a user-friendly dashboard.
Presence: While rarely utilized, I see presence as one of the most exciting aspects of a UC system. When properly leveraged, it allows team members to immediately locate peers and have full visibility into their availability. Back in my manufacturing days, this type of access would have paid for itself repeatedly when, for instance, trying to answer an automotive engineer’s question about appropriate speeds and feeds to use with new diamond wheels we just shipped. With presence I could have immediately located an accessible and available expert within our system—instantly identifying the best way to reach that individual whether its through messaging, voice, etc. Not only would it have saved me from having to call the customer back an hour later, it would have allowed them to keep production on track.
Hot-desking or hoteling: Regardless of what your system provider calls it, this feature should give you the ability to sit down at any phone and login for temporary use. This can come in quite handy if your immediate office area is unusually loud, or you are visiting a branch office and still need to take care of your daily responsibilities. It is really ideal for businesses with sales people or agents constantly on the move – where there are more employees than phones. With many systems, setting up hoteling can be very complex, often requiring an engineer or IT staff member time out of their schedules to complete the setup. Even when complete, platforms with simple “hoteling” do not actually bring over all of your personally programmed features and preferences; instead it just makes it look like you are calling from your normal phone number when making outgoing calls.
While “hoteling” would make working on a press trip a bit easier since it would allow me to call story sources without having to explain why I am calling from the Sacramento Economic Development Council offices, “hot-desking” gives me all of my features, voicemails and preferences – making my work flow seamless and complete. There are literally no sacrifices to the experience from place to place. This is only possible when you use a true cloud environment, where programming isn’t actually stored or reliant on the phone. You can just sit down and login and the phone you need is the same as your standard phone…all your settings, features, speed dials, and voicemail. All of it comes with you without any IT support or a reboot.
I think this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to available features in today’s ever-evolving UC environment. Taking a little time to understand and leverage what your system can really do will enable you to capitalize on your UC investment, and reap the rewards. And, if the features are too difficult to understand and utilize, it might be time to get out of the closet and stick your head in the cloud so your organization can benefit from what today’s leading edge UC systems actually deliver.