Unified communications across the enterprise

All organisations conducting business online have the potential to link with every home, office, transportation system and other location around the world and in space.

Unified communications concerns mastering an organisation's multiple information and communications technologies to reduce the number of devices, reduce communications and remove confusion over how information is managed.

Unified communications can support the provision of information, the collection of data, encourage dialogues and interaction, as well as promote new communities of shared interests and dynamic methods for joint-working. Value chains can be simplified in order to eliminate stages which do not add sufficient value. This is sometimes called the ‘disintermediation’ of the value chain.

Unified communications strategy

unified communications, email, instant messagingEnd users can be consumers, customers (business to business, business to government, or government to business), workers, citizens, clients, patients, business partners, armed forces, charities, police and so on. There are great opportunities to buy and sell from, service and support, communicate with, learn from and teach all of these stakeholders in a cost-effective way.

You need to ask the following questions to set up a communications strategy

1. Who are my end users?

Identifying, registering and tracking end users. Establishing where they meet or congregate

  • Corporate
  • Investors / Shareholders
  • Directors
  • Company Secretary
  • Employees*
  • Contractors / Consultants / Agent
  • End Users
  • Citizens (government to citizen)
  • Consumers (business to consumer)
  • Customers (business to business)
  • Suppliers
  • Government and Enforcement Authorities (Regulators)
  • Fiscal, legal, regulatory and supervisory bodies
  • General Public

Consider also the 3 levels of IT stakeholder amongst your workers

  • Users who utilise the organisation’s systems and networks to meet corporate objectives;
  • Implementers who set up the organisation’s systems and networks to meet business needs;
  • Controllers who are responsible and liable for the organisation’s systems and networks;

2. Are my end users online?

Consider if your end users are able to access personal computers, interactive TV, and mobile phones with Internet capability.

Under the Digital Economy Act 2010, the government is committed to the mass roll-out of broadband across the UK. Many areas simply do not have Internet access, or, if they do, the service is unreliable.

Consider also socio-economic groups, for example, low income families and the illiterate.

3. Am I clear what I want to communicate to end users, and how?

‘Information Overkill = Attention Deficit’

Key messages and displays need to be simple and phrased in language which end-users understand. Will you be able to monitor user responses and reactions? Most people already receive too much information via many media. Focus on what your users want to hear and deliver the message efficiently.

4. Will end users be able to communicate with me quickly, easily, securely, and cost effectively?

Reliable, high speed, low-cost communications are still not universal in homes and offices. Mobile phones can only cope with limited data volumes, and most personal computer and interactive TV are slow. Can your data and electronic business facilities be organised in a form that is easy to access and use? Do your users want to communicate with you in this way?

You may want to consider taking your message to where your end user congregates online rather than waiting for them to visit your website. This way, your message is much easier to find. It’s better to locate an advertisement at a busy cross-roads rather than in the middle of a forest! Are you and your end users confident in the security levels for data and transactions?

  5. Who will pay for the service?

Will you bear any costs of the service, financial or otherwise? Are the end users willing to pay? How do you know? Is there an opportunity to raise funds by providing advertising opportunities? Would this cloud the message? Many people regard Internet services as a ‘free good’, i.e. worth accessing so long as there is not charge.

6. Are my data and information accurate?

Have you maintained up-to-date and accurate data on the products or services you are offering? Will you users respond appropriately or is other information and data required? Accuracy is both essential and demanding.

See our section on Data and Information

7. Can I measure the results and compare with alternatives?

Use of, and response to e-business systems and networks need establishing, e.g. hits on a website can be misleading. Users need to be uniquely identified and their usage and reactions logged.

If, for example, important customers already have accurate data on what they wish to order, they should automatically transmit their orders rather than complete them on Internet screens. If customers cannot be trusted to complete Internet orders for the correct products and quantities, other selling methods (e.g. telephone selling, or even traditional sales people) need to be deployed.

8. Will my supply chain provide the service the end user needs?

Offering or ‘inviting to treat’ a product or service can be the easy part of the transaction. Can your supply chain deliver it, on time and at an acceptable cost?

Service levels for business enabled electronically usually have to be much higher than in conventional transactions since end users online may have greater expectations of dependability and ease of use. Immediate and acceptable substitutes may not be to hand for the user. For example, processing, picking, checking, transporting and delivering orders for fresh, chilled, frozen, ambient and canned food is highly complex and expensive.

9. Is 'cheap' always best?

Do you use a call centre to outsource your customer services? Whilst this might be a cheaper way to support your end users, delays in answering their calls and mumbling operators might just alienate them. Consider also, when using a comparison website to help drive business traffic, that its support staff will not know your products and services as well as you. They may just give out wrong information to users that could damage your business reputation.

10. Can I make a profit or ensure that my benefits exceed my costs?

There are no magic solutions from business enabled electronically, but there are major and unique opportunities which can be fostered by wise and focused investment, and by ongoing learning from doing.

Business plans should be flexible enough to respond to change quickly, but without compromising or damaging your business’s overall corporate strategy and objectives.

Further reading

See Electronic Communications and Electronic Business


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