Date: 7 July 2010

CommunicationsGood business communication systems are vital for your company's success. They make it easier for people to work together and contact customers, partners and suppliers.

What are business communication systems?

Business communication systems span a number of areas:

  • Telephone. Both office telephone systems and business mobile phones play key roles in business communication systems.
  • Business email. Perhaps more ubiquitous than the telephone nowadays, it's an instant way to send messages over long or short distances.
  • Conferencing systems. Now you can hold meetings between people in different places, without having to all travel to one location.
  • Collaboration tools. These create an online space where your team of people can coordinate their efforts and share resources.
  • Instant messaging. This simple online chat tool is ideal for getting quick answers to simple questions, Increasingly, companies are using online chat tools to answer customer queries online, too.

How well your business communicates will have an enormous bearing on its success. For instance, if you don't respond quickly to customer queries, satisfaction is likely to drop.

Additionally, effective business communication helps your staff work well together and plays an important role in the success of marketing campaigns. For example, if your email system fails to send out a marketing email at the right time, you could miss out on sales.

Unified business communication systems

It can be difficult to differentiate between the various types of business communication systems available.

For instance, some business communication systems combine email, voicemail and instant messaging. This means you can see whether someone is busy before you call, or have voicemail messages sent to you as an email attachment.

These powerful new capabilities are often referred to as unified messaging.

And although unified messaging means business communication systems are more powerful than ever, it also means they can also be more confusing. The question is no longer 'what sort of phone system do we need?' It's 'what sort of communication system do we need?'

Buying business communication systems

When planning an investment in your business communication system, there are five main elements to consider:

  • Business needs. What problems can a new communications system solve for you? What are you trying to achieve?
  • Existing systems. You probably have some kind of communications system already, so any new services or hardware must work with this.
  • Expansion. Your communications system must be able to grow with your company. Make sure yours will be able to cope with anticipated changes.
  • Contingency planning. Services like phones are core to your business. Be sure you can cope in the event of problems.
  • Cost. Business communication systems require upfront investment, but usually have significant ongoing costs – for things like line rental – too.

You can summarise these items in a requirements document. This helps you establish exactly what you need from any new business communication system, before you start evaluating specific equipment and services.

Business communications services and equipment are offered by a whole range of suppliers. Typically, one company might be responsible for the physical infrastructure – like your internet connection and phone lines. Another could take care of software and services, like collaboration tools and an email system.

Expert knowledge can be of immense help when trying to choose and buy business communication systems. A good core IT supplier will be able to advise on the right mix of equipment and services for your business – no matter whether you're investing in new technology from scratch or building on your existing system.

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