As for the individual tools, businesses have a lot to gain from incorporating instant messaging into their daily working. Firstly, it means that colleagues can check and disseminate information and come to decisions quickly. It also means that time-critical and important decisions do not stay in the e-mail in tray. However, employees need to know that instant messaging is useful for certain things, and not ideal for others.

Voice conversations may be better for more detailed discussion. UC systems enable impromptu three- or more way conversations to be initiated, for immediate problem-solving or passing on information.

However, video conferencing also has its place, and again, UC systems can be used to pull diverse employees in from different geographic locations very quickly, to talk 'face-to-face' and also share information on interactive whiteboards, for example, or collaborate using images or online voting polls.

Managing the introduction of UC

With all of these new tools, it is very important to introduce them into your business without alienating the workforce. And because UC can be used to communicate between teams of employees, partners, customers and service providers, it is essential that everyone is comfortable with the tools they're using, including partners.

Like having a technology champion in each department, having IT or human resources personnel on hand to explain the functions and features of the new tools is also a good strategy.

The personal approach can help put people at ease who might be suspicious of technologies such as instant messaging, feeling they are being used to spy on them, or track their activities. This approach can also help to encourage people who are not used to sharing information freely, and may have anxieties or reservations about using digital collaboration or communication.

This face-to-face help can be supplemented with online documents, notes in the staff handbook, and posters highlighting the benefits and key features of the UC suite. Some degree of staff training might be beneficial, and sometimes external trainers are available for the main software suites, who can highlight the features and benefits of particular applications.

It is also worth explaining to employees the long-term goal of introducing new communications technologies, and helping people to understand that the business wants to be an organisation that communicates more efficiently, makes decisions in a more informed way, communicate with customers and partners better, and is more agile and responsive as a result.

After all, every business wants to be better than the competition, and if unified communication can help, it's worth getting the business to back it whole-heartedly.