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What is UCaaS and Why Should You Care?

Updated: October 9, 2019

Unified Communications has become a well-known buzzword among organizations that have embarked on a digital transformation of their business models. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) takes the digital transformation of communication technology another step forward by leveraging cloud computing. The result is a software service delivered over the internet using a subscription model.

What is Meant by Unified Communications?

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Integration of Communication Channels & Software Systems

Unified Communications is a blanket term for a set of digital technologies that integrate the variety of communications channels available to businesses and their customers. The technology is used to streamline both business processes and customer interaction by bringing together separate communication channels like voice calls, email, SMS text, social media, video conferencing, mobile devices, and desktop sharing. Any digital communication media can be integrated into a Unified Communications platform with the right software and equipment.

Unified Communications technology goes back to the 1990s when telephone companies began offering value-added services built around the traditional telephone network. These services bundled together voice calling, voicemail, paging, follow-me, and fax services for businesses. Voice over IP technology revolutionized the potential of Unified Communications in the 2000s because it allowed business voice calling to be carried over digital computer networks instead of the analog telephone network. VoIP made it possible to integrate voice calling with other digital communication media to create unified data-sharing platforms.

Why Is Unified Communications So Important?

Unified Communications is a key component of the digital transformation of today's workplace. The problem of coordinating data and conversations over multiple communication channels with colleagues and customers is reduced or eliminated by a Unified Communications platform. Colleagues can reach each other using preferred channels and see their conversations and shared data through a single interface. By the same token, customers can communicate with your business with voice calls, text messages, and social media comments, and your customer service reps will see them all in a single location.

Another game-changing advantage that Unified Communications offers businesses is a simpler way to make different productivity services and applications interoperable. For example, Microsoft Teams integrates with Skype for Business using the principles of Unified Communications. Using a single communications platform to share voice, video, and text communications, the two applications can combine their functions into a single user experience.

What is UCaaS, and How Does It Work?

A problem that came with the advent of mobile devices was the difficulty of syncing data using locally installed applications. Devices on the same network could communicate with each other, but mobile devices outside of the workplace were left out of the loop. The solution was to leverage the channel of communication available anywhere: the internet. With cloud computing, application software moved to remote servers that communicated with each user device over the internet. Since it isn't necessary to install software onto each device, software companies began offering Software as a Service solutions that used a subscription model.

UCaaS arose as a similar combination of Unified Communications software and cloud technology to create a software service provided through remote servers. Rather than install a software package onto each desktop, laptop, and mobile device, a UCaaS platform is delivered over the internet. Mobile apps are often developed for mobile devices, but the basic interface for a UCaaS is a web browser.

What Are the Benefits of UCaaS?

UCaaS benefits extend the benefits of unified communications by offering greater flexibility because employees can access it from anywhere they have an internet connection. Whether they are working from home or traveling on business, each employee is as connected as their colleagues at the office. Remote team members can interact with local offices as though they are part of the same team, and remote teams can leverage Unified Communications to become more productive.

UCaaS also makes the dependence on hardware nearly obsolete. Any device with an internet connection can become a link to coworkers. Desk phones can be replaced by softphones and cell phones without unmasking personal contact information when they are used with a Unified Communications platform. By the same token, integrating the data that flows through different communications channels with other business processes becomes simpler using web APIs provided by a UCaaS platform.

A final advantage of UCaaS is that the subscription model of a cloud service lowers the cost of adoption and provides continuous delivery of patches and updates. UCaaS providers no longer need to bundle software updates into large annual or semi-annual releases, and security fixes can be delivered as soon as they are ready to deploy.

How UCaaS is Revolutionizing Businesses

There's plenty to be said about the productivity gains that are made by moving digital communications ranging from phone calls to text messages to the internet. It removes the need for coworkers to be in the same location to collaborate with each other as a team. While face-to-face interaction is still desirable, video conferencing captures the same experience for workers whether they are on different continents or in the same building.

Integration

What's less often realized is that Unified Communications is only one piece of a digital revolution that's sweeping through many industries. That revolution includes data collection methods like Unified Communications, mobile technology, and artificial intelligence. Data that enters the Unified Communications platform can do more than communicate with a worker. It can also be routed to another application to automate a business task.

Automation

A legal firm can log the time a lawyer spends in a phone conversation and send that data to a billing system, which then generates an invoice for the consultation fee. A UCaaS platform makes automated tasks like these much simpler for large organizations because data from multiple locations can be collected and processed uniformly.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence also holds the key to greater productivity for sales, marketing, and customer service professionals who can offload repetitive tasks to AI chatbots and data processors. Customers who call to conduct standard tasks can be routed to an automated system to handle their requests. Marketing messages can also be tailored to individual leads using social media and past interactions.

Much of this automation and integration becomes possible because of the ease of developing software that shares a single web API with a UCaaS platform. The microservices model of software development has made developing complex and highly integrated applications faster and less problematic. Moving to a UCaaS platform and integrating it with other cloud services enables the development of unique automation systems tailored to each business's needs.

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