Unified Messaging (UM) is the confluence of voicemail with email. Incoming calls that go unanswered are routed to the UM system, which records the caller’s message and stores it in email for later retrieval by the intended recipient. UM is a major improvement on traditional voice messaging because UM provides better:
Message storage – The most efficient UM systems use the email platform to store all voice messages, thus eliminating the need for and maintenance of a separate voicemail system and message store. This provides business value through decreased cost.
User interfaces – The best UM systems use the email client software to deliver the messages to the users via both their desktop PCs and their mobile devices. This allows users to find all their information in one place, thus eliminating phone calls to check for messages and increasing responsiveness for customers and business transactions. This produces business value by saving time and improving end-user productivity.
Voice and speech access – UM systems also provide users with voice telephone access to their messages, calendars, and tasks for convenience in a hands-free mobile situation or when data links are not available. UM systems provide a robust speech command interface that improves end-users’ mobile access to information and their overall productivity.
Some examples of how UM can make a company productive follow:
Use case 1 – manufacturing company: This 1,700-employee manufacturing firm, with operations in California, the U.S., and China, was able to attain significant productivity gains by speeding up access to messages and by providing users access to messages from anywhere, for desktop and mobile devices. In addition, this company eliminated maintenance charges by removing its old voicemail system, and reduced IT administration costs by $16 per employee per year. A cost decrease of $600,000 was achieved by eliminating fax machines and delivering faxes directly to the users’ UM mailboxes.
Use case 2 – city in New Jersey: This 1,400-employee municipality upgraded its older PBX to a new VoIP system that included UM. This efficient new solution streamlined infrastructure and network management, thus decreasing administration costs. The users experienced increased productivity due to the power of UM and the ability to access messages from anywhere, anytime. The city also utilizes managed folders to archive voice messages needed for public record.
Use case 3 – health company: This 7,000-employee multi-location healthcare provider has dramatically improved the effectiveness of its staff through both improved “anywhere access” while moving between and within their many facilities, and enhanced responsiveness using the presence functions embedded in the UM Messages in Microsoft Outlook. Costs have been reduced through the single integrated management and administrative environment.
The voice messaging market has changed dramatically since the 1990s, when most of the current voice messaging and unified messaging products and architectures were developed. The combinations of email, presence, instant messaging, websites, mobile devices, and speech recognition have reduced the usage and value of standalone voice messaging systems. Unified messaging with message store consolidation (for instance, storing messages in the email system) is one of the best solutions for the remaining call answering, caller services, and notification requirements of the voice mail marketplace. This is primarily because the single message store leverages all the access and notification benefits of desktop and mobile email solutions and reduces the total cost of ownership based on a single system implementation.
Companies today are looking for ways to cut costs, reallocate assets, and improve productivity. UM is one of the most basic ways to do this. VARs that understand the benefits of UM and can effectively convey those benefits to customers can be successful in selling it.
Are there other elements of UM that should be discussed in this forum? Please comment below.