Users want unified communications - and the technology will actually save money in a recession, according to research commissioned by Mitel.
Nearly three quarters of UK workers want unified communications, combining email, voice and video conferencing, and instant messaging (IM), according to a survey of 1,000 people, carried out by market research company Redshift in summer 2008. Seventy-three percent said it makes workplace communications more efficient - and more than half said it helps them work outside the traditional office.
"Clever organisations that use technology appropriately can get a real advantage over their competitors," said Lisa Dolphin, a business communications specialist at Mitel. "The main benefits are reducing downtime, for instance by using IM to get answers in real-time, avoiding email overload, and working closely in a team with people that might not be sat next to you."
It's also important in recruitment, she said: "Graduates choose their employer based on what technology is available to them. They will turn down a job if what they are given is not adequate to their needs - and that includes using IM, Myspace and Facebook in the day."
"The elements of unified communications can be extended, so people have everything in their desk with them, wherever they are," said Dolphin on Wednesday - ironically enough suffering from an evident cold and working at home to avoid infecting her colleagues.
Unified communications is a good investment in a recession, said Dolphin, because it can be added on to existing communications systems and saves costs. "On the outset, it can look complex, but a teleworker solution is no more than DSL and an IP phone. Most building blocks drive a significant amount of cost savings, perhaps by reducing travel," said Dolphin, who claims to have reduced her personal travel by 40 percent, through video conferencing.
In-house conferencing systems can save money when they replace outsourced services, she said: "One company was paying £150,000 ($232,360) a year for audio conferencing. Their unified communications system had a three month payback."
"Unified communications really improves our productivity now and will continue to do so for many years," said Mitel customer Mac Chivers, ICT manager at Malvern Hills district council, where a new phone and IT system is bringing benefits.
"There's one thing that surprised some people, but didn't surprise me," said Dolphin. "The technology people thought was most important was still the telephone. We rely far too much on email, and should recognise that the telephone is still a critical element in real-time communications."