Competition is continuing to increase in all areas. To become more competitive and profitable is often accomplished by lowering costs and increasing efficiency. It can also be accomplished by creating new products, services and markets.

The vast majority of businesses focus on lowering costs because product and service innovation is often seen as a new expense, and a new risk. From an employee standpoint, they have seen year after year of relentless downsizing, or as it is often called, rightsizing. In other words, far fewer people to do more and more work. That is not a big problem, as long as technology is used to dramatically increase each worker’s productivity.

The problem we often run into is that communication technologies that were meant to help us save time, such as cell phones, e-mail, group ware, audio and video conferencing, and instant messaging, to name a few, can actually take our valuable time as well. Not only that, but electronic gadgets are useless if the person you’re trying to reach is unreachable.

An early attempt to solve this problem was Unified Messaging. The idea was to bring together all types of fixed and mobile communications into a single delivery system. With voice, data, and video traffic all on the same network, users could send any type of message without having to consider how the recipient would receive it. In other words, I might leave someone a voice mail message and they might read it in their e-mail. Getting all of your messages in one place is good, but now we can do even better – getting a fast response from the person we are trying to reach!

Now, thanks to the majority of companies moving over to voice over IP (VoIP), it is possible to combine all forms of communications with “presence.” Presence lets users know who’s reachable where and when. If you have ever used instant messaging, you know when a person is present or away from their computer. This ability to know if the person you are trying to reach is actually there is a powerful business tool. By adding VoIP capabilities such as presence to Unified Messaging, we can now achieve what is being called Unified Communications. Not only are your communications unified with the power of presence, they can also be embedded in your applications. For example, sales people at a client location could reach out to experts for fast answers and get them without leaving their sales software application. Ask yourself: How much time would you save if you could reach key people with one call or e-mail?