What is Unified Messaging?

Category: Messaging

Unified Messaging is the integration of all your different communication media: voice phone calls, email, Instant Messaging, SMS, fax, etc., into one user interface that may reside on a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device such as a cell phone or Blackberry. With UM, you're always in touch with coworkers and customers, even if they are trying to contact you via a medium that you don't happen to have access to at the moment.

How Can Unified Messaging Benefit Your Productivity?

Unified Messaging For example, with unified messaging voicemail can reach you even if you don't have a phone. A voicemail message is automatically converted to an MP3 file which is emailed to your computer or mobile device. Transcription software may even convert the sound of a voicemail into text, although the translation is not perfectly accurate. Likewise, faxes can be emailed to you, or email can be read to you audibly over a voice phone. But keeping you in touch is not the only thing unified messaging can do for you.

A unified messaging system can also tie into back-end business process systems, putting information that you and your employees need to deal with customers right at your fingertips. For example, a customer's caller-ID information can trigger a search of your accounts database to put the customer's record up on a customer service rep's screen even as the call is transferred to him or her. From there, the CSR can take a new order; accept a credit card payment; and update notes about every contact with a customer. That's a powerful productivity capability of unified messaging.

"Presence" is another big difference between unified messaging and traditional office communication systems. "Presence" means that the unified messaging system is aware of every user who is logged on to it, what each user's "state" is (busy, available, in a meeting, etc.) and the communication media that are available to each user. The unified messaging system may keep presence information to itself, using it only to decide how to deliver messages to a user. But presence can also be shared with others on the unified messaging network, so you will never again need to wonder if the CFO is in or out of the office.

Audio and video conferencing are also part of unified messaging. These collaborative media can be used in conjunction with other unified messaging channels such as email and fax.

Virtually every business telephone system vendor now offers some product called "unified messaging". Some unified messaging systems do no more than forward voicemail and fax to email inboxes. Vendors such as Avaya Communications, Cisco Systems, Nortel, and Comverse offer the most powerful and configurable unified messaging systems.

The cost of a unified messaging system varies depending on its size and features. Installation is straightforward, consisting of standard computer, telephone, and networking hardware with unified messaging software. Training users is often the steepest part of the unified messaging implementation curve, for there are a lot of new ways to do old things and new things that can be done. Training is important because without it, many of the unified messaging features you buy will go unused.

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Posted by Bob Rankin on September 8, 2010 09:47 PM

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Article information: All About Voicemail -- What is Unified Messaging? (Posted: September 8, 2010 09:47 PM)
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