Sales people love to use buzz words to help them sell to a customer. In the business communications arena, the favorite buzz words are “Unified Communications” and “Cloud”. When I first meet with a customer, I like to spend time to help them understand what Cloud UC is and what Cloud UC is not. These subtle but critical differences are the difference between loving your service and waiting for depreciation so you can try again.

Here are a few scenarios that highlight the differences:

I need to call {USER X}, what is their extension?

This may sound like a simple enough question, and we all have asked it. How many have a print out on the wall of the cubicle that has a list of users and their corresponding extensions. That question is very telling and help show the difference between UC and Phone systems. I will pose a counter question to manifest my point.

If you know WHO you need to call, why do you need their extension? (Pause for dramatic effect…)

A phone system revolves around what we geeks call “The Endpoint”. This endpoint is typically a phone and the phone gets an extension so the system can find it. Notice how you, the user, is not part of the equation yet. Phone manufactures are now creating small software clients to let you control your phone and message other extensions from your computer and calling this UC. This is not UC.

So, what then is UC?

True unified communications have you, the user, at its heart. This is significant because you may not want to communicate on a phone, or via IM. You may want to have an online conference, email someone, share your screen or reach out to a mobile device. You may want one of the above, or all of the above – maybe all in the same interaction. This empowers you to choose how you want to communicate with people. Let me re-state the question above again, but this time from someone who is on a unified communication system.

I need to talk to {User X}, it looks like they are offline just now, so I’ll contact them on email, mobile, schedule an online meeting then call them tomorrow, all done in a few clicks.

If the cloud service you use allows the choice of any of the communication methods above from a single unified place you are on a Unified Communications system. Or said another way, all your communications are unified.

Stay tuned for Part 2 regarding Mobility and how it fits in the picture. To learn more about how unifying your communications can help your business, please reach out to me at any time.