Every business wants to be more efficient as it can lead to the magic formula of increased productivity at a reduced cost. There are many ways to achieve this – either through clever staffing or enhanced business processes – however it is in the effective use of technology where big savings (and profits) can be made.

In today’s fragmented world, staff communicate with each other, customers, partners and suppliers in a variety of ways, often leading to confusion and inconsistency. Incorporating Unified Communications into a company can rectify such issues.

Unified Communications can help to reduce time-delays, manage workflows, and eradicate device and media dependencies by optimising business processes through combining and automating human and device communications.

E-mail, calendars, telephony and directory services – modes of communication which once stood alone – can now be fully integrated and ‘talk’ to each other. Although this sounds like an expensive and complex system to set up, it needn’t be – through careful planning at the implementation stage small businesses can now utilise Unified Communications in an affordable way, resulting in great benefits.

The advantages of Unified Communications span the individual user, departments, customers and partners – the entire business in fact. Communication becomes much more efficient as e-mails and phone calls can be achieved via one interface, enhancing productivity and cutting down on valuable time being wasted. Similarly, Unified Messaging pulls all communication together into one inbox and calendars can also be adjusted to advise of cancellations or late attendances.

The remote facility means staff can easily work when away from the office, as programs and information is just as accessible. This means businesses can recruit staff from further afield and current employees can work from home more effectively.

Reduced infrastructure and installation costs is a further benefit of Unified Communications, along with easy administration; a platform to suit a company’s needs – on-site or hosted; it’s well-equipped to protect against viruses, spam and other malware; and for the environmentally-conscious business there’s less need for staff travel, expensive floor space and electricity to power workstations etc.

So what are the key elements of Unified Communications? Staff availability can be updated in real-time through Presence, so everyone is aware of when you’re free and ready to be contacted and thus time management is greatly enhanced.

Messaging combines e-mail, fax, text messaging, voicemail, calendars and contact details in a unified inbox and Instant Messaging enables quick and secure text communication between internal colleagues or external partners via computers or smart phones on a corporate network.

Conferencing reduces the need to travel to meetings as multiple individuals are able to interact through audio-video streams or over the web, helping businesses to maintain a close relationship with employees, customers and partners who can often be spread across the globe. Software powered VoIP integrates e-mail, calendaring, voicemail, instant messaging and conferencing and allows communication over an IP network.