Unified Communications

The importance of unified communications has only grown with the rise of remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses of all kinds struggled throughout this period to accommodate remote collaboration, remote access, and integrated BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies into workplace communications. Moving forward, businesses need more effective and sustainable strategies, and unified communications sits at the heart of this. Around 48% of businesses are already increasing efforts towards a unified communications solution. But what exactly is unified communications, why is it so beneficial, and how can businesses implement it?

What is Unified Communications?

Put simply, unified communications is a system in which every communications channel (chat, file sharing, phone calls, video conferencing, email and more) is integrated within a single platform. It goes beyond standard business collaboration tools to deliver internal and external collaboration in one place, simplifying access and accelerating workflows.

It’s worth noting that fully-functional calling (to and from real phone numbers) is one of the hardest channels to integrate with digital communication tools provided by business collaboration software. However, by making the right choices, a seamless outcome is possible without costly upfront investments. We’ll look at how Callroute can be key to this below.

What are the benefits of Unified Communications?

As it stands, 86% of business owners believe that workplace issues are a direct result of inadequate communication tools. In that sense, it’s not difficult to see what unified communications brings to the table. More specifically though, it offers:

Improved Productivity

Unified communications allows staff to communicate regardless of their location or the device they’re using. There’s no need to have the same app as a colleague or client considering all the communication tools they need are in one platform. This therefore improves productivity significantly.

Organisational Agility

With the company more productive than ever, it also has much greater organisational agility, which refers to a business’s ability to quickly change or adapt in response to changes in the market. Effective communication is key to this, meaning organisations are much better placed to make rapid changes with unified communications.

Cheaper Infrastructures

Unified communications can help businesses cut costs in multiple ways. For instance, it stops them spending money on overlapping communications tools, reducing subscription fees. It also enables companies to better replace in-person meetings with virtual ones, cutting travel costs and related expenses.

Better Customer Service

When customers contact a company, they want to be put in touch with the right person as quickly as possible. With unified communications, even if the individual in question is away from their desk or out of office, the call can easily be redirected from their fixed number to their mobile devices. Ring groups can also be set up to send the call onto the next most suitable person.

Streamlined Operations

With unified communications, companies are able to employ a single person who oversees this side of the business. Unlike before, there’s no need for multiple account managers or support technicians, nor are there multiple contractors and bills to worry about. All of this has the effect of streamlining operations.

How to Implement a Unified Communications system

While the benefits of unified communications are plain to see, implementation is another matter. Luckily, the rise of 5G is set to remove many of the setbacks that have kept companies at bay until now. But improved internet protocol alone isn’t going to facilitate a unified communications strategy.

Realistically, there isn’t just “one way” to execute one. It’s possible to invest in a ground-up bespoke system. However, it’s far simpler to start by looking at the tools you already have at your disposal, and thinking of creative ways to integrate that system into a unified communications strategy. And from our research, harnessing Microsoft Teams for this is the way forward.

Using Microsoft Teams for Unified Communications

What are the benefits of Microsoft Teams for your business?

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We recommend Microsoft Teams as the best option for businesses. It’s not the only collaboration tool, but it’s a strong starting point for unified communications for several reasons:

  • Teams provides a fully functional business collaboration interface that is rivalled by few other tools, evidenced by the 145 million daily active users it enjoys right now.
  • The Microsoft platform has an active and growing number of app integrations in AppSource that add further value to it.
  • Teams’ widespread use (deployed by more than 60% of businesses) makes it easier to use the tool for external collaboration, and most of your users will already have some experience with the platform.
  • It provides simple integration with Microsoft Outlook, so it’s simple to include email within your unified communications stack from the start.
  • Teams offers a number of sophisticated telephony integrations, meaning it’s possible to include the all-important calling capabilities that business collaboration tools generally lack.

How to add Calling to Teams

Investing in the right telephony solution is critical to unified communications. You not only need the ability to place PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) calls — phone calls to-and-from phone numbers — but sophisticated call management features provided by traditional business phone systems. This will let you actually replace that phone system and unify communications. Again, telephony is a potential strength of Microsoft Teams, but only if you make the right choices.

Microsoft Calling Plan and Microsoft Phone System

The standard calling option for Teams is Microsoft Phone System and its Calling Plans. Although this solution will enable you to place a call, it can’t replace a traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) because it lacks call recording, advanced queue management or call reporting.

Direct Routing

The answer to calling with Teams is Direct Routing. This solution sees the full integration of a digital PBX within Teams, providing complete calling capabilities within a streamlined solution that improves the Microsoft platform immensely.

At Callroute, we have simplified the process of Direct Routing with Teams by also being the PSTN carrier. This enables us to pre-configure integration and accelerate the rollout process from days to literally minutes. We can also get you started with a free channel for life, provide flexible and on-demand pricing, and guaranteed quality control and support.

What are the requirements?

In order to connect Microsoft Teams to the PSTN, your company needs the right Microsoft licences first. Please check out our Prerequisites page to see what you require.

Understand External Calling with Microsoft Teams

Visit our modern telephony page to find out about modern telephony systems, including the part played by technology like Session Initiation Protocols (SIPs) and Session Border Controllers (SBCs), and the advantages of integrating different communication and collaboration tools.