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Unified Communications System Versus Separate Communications Systems

2018-08-02 Unified Communications

By Michael Elliman, Senior Account Executive at IComm Australia

Making a decision about the best approach for your organisation when it comes to a communications system or systems can feel like mission impossible. Do you just keep adding on new but disparate communications systems to your legacy systems as user needs change or expand? Or do you undertake a complete system overhaul that sees you switch to one single unified communications system, but lose out on existing investments?

It’s a complex decision and there’s no right or wrong answer and I’m certainly not trying to recommend any one system over another. What I can do is set out some of the pros and cons for a unified communications system versus a collection of different communications systems, so you can at least make an informed decision.

Unified communications system

Pros

  • You’re able to standardise organisational communications on one single system.
  • Standardising on one unified communications system allows you to easily link up all communications such as chat, document share, video and voice calls, and meetings in one user interface that is designed to be used as an end-to-end solution.
  • Industry leading security, compliance, auditing and analytics are enabled across the system.
  • Because all the applications a user needs are located in the one interface, a unified communications system is often more user friendly.
  • From an IT perspective, a single system is easier to roll-out, learn, manage and provide support for.
  • There is only one subscription per user to manage.

Cons

  • As all communications are managed via one unified system, if that system goes down or has technical issues then there are widespread implications and no separate back-up systems to turn to.
  • It is more difficult to provide the entire spectrum of functionality that all users within your organisation will want. It is more likely that you will reach around 70 percent of the communications functionality that users want.
  • Organisations often feel that they have lost value when switching to a unified communications system if they are no longer making use of technology (both hard and soft) they’ve previously invested in.

Separate communications systems

Pros

  • Many organisations have implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) policy. Operating on a mixture of communications systems often fits best with a BYOD policy, as users can choose the communications apps that work best on their particular device.
  • Having a wider variety of communications systems, and often allowing users to decide what systems they want to use, means that an organisation is better positioned to meet the individual communications needs of more staff members
  • Organisations often feel that by having a variety of communications systems in place and just adding to them over time as user needs and preferences change, they are not losing out on the investments they have already made in technology. This includes hardware and software.
  • By supporting different systems, organisations ensure they have alternate systems to turn to if one system goes down, albeit a different form of communications.

Cons

  • Users will need to switch between interfaces to use different communications platforms if using multiple. This means it can often prove less user friendly for some people.
  • It is more complicated for IT Departments to manage multiple systems, as it is more difficult to keep abreast of all communication app changes, updates, issues and other information regarding a wide variety of systems. Therefore, IT support can prove more challenging.
  • There are multiple communications systems per user to keep track of and manage. This is harder for IT to audit.
  • Management of organisational intellectual property (IP) becomes more challenging when information is dispersed across many apps. This is because many consumer apps that are commonly used in the workplace own the content, not the organisation creating the content.
  • It can be a challenge to identify which users will use which separate communications system, and which they need to be trained on. Also, multiple training programs need to be developed for multiple systems.

A key question I often ask my customers is: Are you able to standardise on one platform or are you required to cater for a variety of systems?

For many organisations – such as those setting up a brand new office or those who want a complete overhaul of their IT and communications systems – it is usually much easier to proceed with a unified communications system.

For those organisations that currently have different communications systems deployed and who want to continue to support their staff using multiple platforms, there are providers who offer software that can often bridge the gaps between systems and make them interoperable. However, be aware that there are some communications systems where integration won’t be possible and organisations will always be playing catch up to meet the latest updates of these disparate platforms.

To discuss your organisation’s communications needs, please contact me on (03) 9348 5000 or melliman@icomm.com.au .



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