A unified approach to business for public sector staff

By Stefan Haase, Marketing Director, InTechnology PlcFor most public sector workers overloaded by the sheer number of calls, voice messages, e-mails and instant messages, Unified Communications is welcome news. The ways in which people can now be contacted at work have spiralled out of control. Not only are there still the direct dial and switchboard numbers to give out to business contacts and colleagues, but there are also mobile phones, multiple email accounts, instant messenger, video conferencing and social media sites to contend with.

All of these communications are managed separately with multiple contact lists and inboxes.  Add to this the constantly increasing quantity of e-mails – and spam, phone calls and voice messages to both fixed and mobile phones every day, and you are left with an over- burdened, sometimes stressed and often frustrated workforce.

It’s well established that technology is the catalyst to transforming public services. It can improve the quality and cost effectiveness of local government transactions, as well as their accessibility.Unified Communications is no exception.  As the name suggests, the premise is simple – a one screen view of a person’s incoming and outgoing communications.  All emails and instant messenger chats are accessible on one screen with the ability to initiate direct phone calls or video calls and to see the presence and availability status of all contacts.

InTechnology is ahead of the curve when it comes to Unified Communications – seen by many as the next business imperative.  Available on a pay as you go basis, a Hosted Unified Communications Service can provide the public sector and private businesses with integrated e-mail, instant messaging, presence, shared calendars, shared desktops, video calling, conferencing, and integrated hosted IP telephony.

The goal of Unified Communications is to reduce the time, cost and frustration associated with unnecessary delays in decision making - to bring together all the tools of communication which we use, thereby allowing users in the public sector to make decisions on how to communicate with each other based on the presence status of their contacts.  

Just as importantly, businesses which use Unified Communications can benefit from a single database of contact details for clients, contacts, prospects and staff members so employees can simply highlight a person to call or email and the system will provide their details. This not only makes it easier to reach people, it also means a person changing number need only update the system once, rather than circulating the new details individually to colleagues who may or may not wish to get in contact in the future.

Status symbol
In fact, this is where Unified Communications can really make a difference. In normal life, employees have a business card or signature at the bottom of an email with several contact details for the person they wish to get in contact with. This choice may seem like a good thing but, of course, nobody can ever know which of the various options is best to reach a person at any particular moment.

However, with Unified Communications, staff members can publish their ‘status’ or ‘presence’ so when people look them up on the company’s contact database they can establish if they are, for example, ‘busy’ or ‘available’. In addition, these presence updates can be used to tell the central system how a person wishes to be contacted. For example, a person may suggest an email is best if they are ‘busy’ and only put their office landline down as the best means of contact when they are ‘available’. If they are ‘back in a minute’ perhaps an instant message scheduling a call may be selected as the most appropriate contact method?

Voice – the final link in the chain
Until now, Unified Communications solutions have had a vital link missing – voice.  InTechnology’s managed Hosted Unified Communications Service with integrated IP telephony offers businesses a lifeline.  This means businesses don’t need to run and maintain a separate voice infrastructure; they can have all of their communications running on the same network. When it’s hosted, they also save on the need for somebody internally to monitor its performance or go round upgrading software, it’s all done for a company remotely.

Further cost savings
There are many cost savings and these are not just limited to storage. A service which is hosted remotely has the potential to save on running several networks as well as cutting down on the costs to upgrade internal systems. Additionally, because it does not require a significant amount of equipment to be purchased, set up and installed at a company’s premises, the initial deployment costs can be very low.

High definition online video and conferencing features allow businesses to save costs, time and carbon emissions by offering a high enough quality alternative to face-to-face meetings and conferences. It is estimated that regular business travellers spend eleven days a year on avoidable or unnecessary travel, wasting at least £1,700 per person.  This Hosted Unified Communications service now offers them a viable alternative.

A hosted service also has the benefit of being more resilient than the average company’s onsite system. A provider like InTechnology who specialise in hosting, can offer clients network and system resilience so that if one goes down, the other is used so there’s no interruption.

A greener, more connected future
The future of government service delivery and interaction with citizens depends on technology investmentin solutions such as Unified Communications.  The benefits of free internal calls, quicker decisions, cost savings and carbon reductions are matched by the productivity boost and sheer simplicity of having a single interface for all communications which can either be on an employee’s desktop PC at work or home or the laptop or smartphone they take with them so they can remain productive on the road.

It is the kind of socially responsible approach to business which resonates very well with employees, particularly those who seek the freedom of mobile working.  In fact, it is becoming an increasing ‘must have’ for Generation Y employees.

For more information
Visit www.intechnology.co.uk