Businesses have used multiple methods of communicating for some time. Phones have been around basically forever. Email has been part of the foundation of corporate communications for at least the last decade. More recently, instant messaging has been embraced by many businesses, and mobile phones have become relatively ubiquitous. So, there is nothing all that novel about a company combining multiple methods of communicating together. However, by itself that is just variable or multiple communications, NOT Unified Communications.
What makes Unified Communications then? Well, the core difference is in the unity. Part of what makes the communications unified is interoperability. Voicemails that are left for a voice call are sent to the users email. Users can initiate an instant messaging session or phone call by clicking on a user’s name in an email. Mobile devices are equipped with email and instant messaging functionality. The tie that binds though is Presence. Presence is the component of Unified Communications that elevates the solution from various separate communications methods, past a collection of multiple communications methods that can work together, to the point where the organization can really begin to realize the productivity and effeciency benefits of Unified Communications.
Presence is what notifies other users about the current state of a given user. Is the person in a meeting? Are they on a call? Are they available? Presence generally illustrates the user’s state with some sort of symbol or icon. Ideally, presence also gives the user some ability to control who can see what. For example, setting their presence so that they appear offline or busy to the general population, while remaining available for more important individuals like co-workers and customers. To understand more about the importance of Presence and its impact on Unified Communications, check out Presence: The Heart of Unified Communications on the SearchUnifiedCommunications site.