The world of communication is changing, with hundreds of channels available to chat with colleagues, clients, and customers. However, if you’re not careful, all these options can lead to confusion rather than coordinated productivity.
To keep communications channels working for your business, you need them under control, which is where Unified Communication comes in. Here, we’re going to look at how Unified Communication can help design businesses, including how some professionals are already leveraging it for their workflow. But first, what does Unified Communication actually mean?
What Is Unified Communication?
Unified Communication (UC) is the concept and practice of integrating your various communication and collaboration tools in order to improve productivity and the flow of information throughout your business.
Unified Communication includes:
Data Sharing (e.g., online notes, interaction whiteboards)
Asynchronous Tools (e.g., email, voice messages)
Unified Communication brings together these channels with a single, consistent user interface and experience across different devices and access points. But why is that important?
Why Is Unified Communication Important for Design Teams and Small Businesses?
Unified Communication allows teams to think less about how they communicate and more about what they communicate. It means focusing on the work they’re doing rather than the tools they have.
With so many different channels available to freelancers and creative agencies, it can be overwhelming to keep up with them all. Unified Communication for small businesses cuts through the clutter by bringing everything your teams need to communicate, collaborate and work together. This can result in:
Lower overheads: The bigger the list of comms tools, the bigger the bill at the end of the year. Unified Communication brings your tools together, which means fewer cloud subscriptions and locally hosted tools, and in turn, less expenditure.
Higher Productivity: Everyone on the design team can communicate how and when they want, regardless of the channel or the device. Less time thinking about channels, more time focussed on work.
Better Quality Work: Unified Communication means instant collaboration, which allows members of your design team to bounce ideas and work back and forth in an instant.
A Better Work Environment: You wouldn’t expect your employees to do their best work in a crowded closet full of old furniture and paperwork, so why would you hold your digital environment to a lower standard? A good work environment leads to better work.
These benefits are delivered tenfold for remote or hybrid teams that rely entirely on digital communication channels to get their work done.
Unified Strategies for Internal and External Communication
Communication is a big word that covers vital aspects of a business. However, it can be broadly split into internal and external communication, with effective Unified Communication covering all channels regardless of where or how they are used.
External communication covers the channels and processes that you use to connect with clients, customers, and leads – basically, anyone outside of your organization. For example, a design company will likely use emails, video meetings, and phone calls with clients. IM chats, however, are less likely.
Internal communication covers the channels and processes that are used within your team and company in order to get work done. This will include the tools you use for external communication – such as email and video meetings – as well as other real-time channels like instant messages or less formal channels like voice messages.
But what about collaboration?
We tend to bundle collaboration with communication these days, and with good reason. Many of the tools we use – from digital whiteboards to IM chat – blur the boundaries between the two. That said, collaboration is more likely to be part of your internal communications, where team members can work together using a collaborative tool.
However, as a design team, you may need to collaborate with an external client on a specific project or part of a project. For example, to review and receive feedback on a project or idea.
Unified Communication for Design Agencies
Communication is a key part of running design agencies, whether you have a team of two or twenty. Max Shcherbakov, the Co-founder and CEO of Hooligans, creative agency in Tel-Aviv, uses Spike for a Unified Communications approach to keep his team workflow organized and his company more productive.
As a web design agency, Hooligans handles large projects with numerous media formats and documents. Ensuring that these files are readily accessible to the people who need them is key to guaranteeing that deliverables are met. Spike’s Unified Communications features made this simple for Max and his team, using Super Search to easily find files and documents.
“Spike shortened the time we spent searching for attachments. Since most of our work is based on viewing images and video, this is HUGE,” says Max. “With Spike’s Super attachment search, it suddenly became much more accessible to find what we need, fast.”
As mentioned above, creative design agencies will often use collaborative tools with external clients. Unfortunately, many team communication apps and collaborative workspaces require users to sign up, often as a paid seat. This makes collaborating effectively with external clients challenging for design firms. Spike’s Groups, on the other hand, allows external and internal participants to join a project and see the history, revisions, shared files, and more without logging in.
External clients can be invited to Spike Groups with a simple email and collaborate effectively with the click of a button, which is exactly why Max uses it at Hooligans, where, according to him, it “improved workflow between our teams and across our clients, since they now had a collaborative workspace that didn’t require logins. All that project history and all needed files in one place.”
Unified Communication for Design Freelancers
It’s easy to write off team communication as an agency issue, but Unified Communication can be just as useful for freelancers as it is for an organization. They still need to be able to effectively communicate with clients and leads and will often end up as part of a temporary team to deliver on a project.
Inna is a freelance Graphic Designer who works with numerous clients and projects at the same time, using Spike to power her Unified Communication approach. From first contact to collaborative sessions to final delivery, Inna needs communication tools, files, and reminders in a single, easy-to-use place, which Spike provides.
Inna’s work requires bouncing ideas and attachments back and forth with clients, but it’s easy for these to get lost in the clutter. According to Inna, in the past, “finding a specific attachment was really like finding a needle in a haystack – impossible, frustrating, and a huge waste of time.” However, with Spike’s Priority Inbox and powerful file preview function, “all the files are organized, and I can preview them right there in the email thread – it’s absolutely amazing!”
Inna isn’t alone in using Spike as a Unified Communications tool; Jozsef Juhasz is a solo web designer and developer who also leverages Spike’s features to improve his workflow and productivity.
Just like Inna, Jozsef needs to send and receive numerous files, images, documents, and more for feedback and updates during a project. Unfortunately, running all this through traditional email is, according to Jozsef, “beyond frustrating.” However, since Jozsef works primarily with small businesses that are also run by one person, there is little time for them to learn new tools and collaborative platforms, and clients inevitably switch back to email. As Jozsef explains, “I tried to introduce other group communication apps and collaboration tools, but however easy they were to use, sooner, or later clients reverted back to their inbox. When I’m forced to use traditional email, it’s hard to keep everything together for a project.”
Unlike other Unified Communication platforms, Spike seamlessly incorporates traditional email, meaning Jozsef can use IM-style Conversational Email on his end, while clients remain in their normal email client. “It’s a great blend of email and messaging, like a business chat app, which is what I need as a solo business,” says Jozsef. “It strips away the unnecessary parts of traditional email and has added bonuses that save me so much time while retaining ALL traditional email features. It’s the best organization app for me.”
Operating in this way, Jozsef can keep his messages organized as well as his files without impacting the small business owners he works with. “When I use Spike, I can let my clients live in their inbox while I transparently keep all communication one click away, including all files we ever exchanged,” Jozsef says. “It’s effortless and saves a lot of time. It’s genius.”
Communicate, Collaborate and Unify with Spike
Whether freelancing on your own or running a team of hundreds at a creative agency, you face many of the same communication issues. These are only exacerbated by the shift to remote or hybrid workforces, where communication is increasingly carried out through digital channels. Unified Communication is the concept and practice of integrating all these channels – from email and IMs to video calls and voice messages – to improve productivity and the flow of information both internally and externally.
As seen with Max’s agency or the freelance businesses of Jozsef and Inna, Spike is the perfect tool for Unified Communication, combining the features you need to effectively interact with colleagues, clients, and customers.
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