In order to enable more efficient work and better informed business decisions, business often look to implement either a unified communications strategy or a collaboration initiative. Either individual path will provide benefits to the organization; however a unified communications and collaboration solution will amplify the results. Those who implement an integrated experience are bound to be more efficient and productive than those who treat them as two individual solutions. People love simplicity Critically examining collaboration and communication and their key integration points will be a mandate for businesses in the near future. Without a view of the architecture in its entirety, each solution builds itself into the very silos they were created to destroy. Consider companies like Apple and Google who have mastered the integrated experience, enabling one login to provide users seamless access to multiple applications and devices. Companies must now move to deploy that same simplicity inside the organization. Instead of having to use Outlook, an intranet, CRM, mobile phone, work phone, Google drives, cloud document storage and hard drives, imagine a scenario where you could reference one system with one login. Effective solutions to meet these integration needs are slowly emerging. Consider companies like Esna, who are using the browser to provide users with one integrated collaboration experience. The tool – Cloudlink 5.0 for Cisco – integrates Cisco technology with Jive, Google Apps, and Salesforce via instant meetings, click to call, presence (are you available/where are you), and unified messaging. There is no need to login and reference multiple systems because the tool brings it all into the same solution. How to start: In the end, it’s not about technology; it’s about people and what they need to be the best employee for your business. Defining a unified communications and collaboration solution can be a bit overwhelming. In order to narrow down the possibilities to a manageable level, start with the desired end state in mind: Define business goals. (E.g. more effective internal communications, faster/ smarter customer service, improved employee efficiency or an increase in the capture of institutional knowledge) Define user needs. What does the solution need to do in order to become an indispensable resource to its users? Define technical and operational implications. What other projects of a similar nature are happening simultaneously? How can they support each other? How many different systems are users using for collaboration and communication? Which are supported by the business? How do those systems work together? How can they work together in the future? Are there any data security concerns that must be addressed? Outline a plan. Define the solution architecture, and a detailed implementation plan outlining next steps and required resources. Implement and refine. No communication and collaboration solution is ever complete. Continuous refinement as new solutions become available and additional user needs surface is needed. Starting with the end in mind is imperative as companies work to replace and build communications and social business platforms. Consideration must be given to how they work together. When that integration is achieved we create business value far superior than either initiative alone. McKinsey Global Institute highlighted key stats that organizations should look at in regard to merging unified communications and collaboration. While 72 percent of companies use social technology in some way, not many are using it to its full benefit yet. By fully implementing these solutions, the productivity level of employees can increase by 20 to 25 percent. Two thirds of the potential lies in the value of improving collaboration and communication across the enterprise, the group said.