VOSS Waters Down the Complexity of UCaaS Onboarding
Competitive advantage won't come from service features but rather from the quality of customer service, which starts with provisioning and migrating users.
The Unified Communications industry is currently filled with all kinds of exciting trends. Video, WebRTC, the cloud, BYOD, social media and other trends give folks like myself lots to blog about and discuss. One of the more important areas, though, that gets very little air time is improving the operational processes it takes to actually set up and manage UC, especially for companies offering UC as a Service (UCaaS). This is the tough stuff that can be the difference between a service provider being profitable or not, or having happy customers versus losing them to a competitor.
The onboarding process, in particular, can be overly cumbersome as users and devices need to be provisioned and matched to the variety of UC services. In addition, the provisioning process can include migrating massive amounts of data from legacy systems, which poses its own problems. If it's not done correctly, customers of UCaaS providers will have a generally poor experience--and let's be frank here: The quality of service from traditional telcos hasn't exactly been stellar in the past.
Improving this process and customer experience should be of the utmost importance to service providers. Historically, when the incumbent operators had a monopoly on network services, it didn't matter all that much. But the UCaaS market is filled with new entrants, including many of the traditional premises-based vendors. Make a mistake, burn a customer and you lose a customer.
VOSS Solutions, which makes UC fulfillment software, has established an "Operational Excellence" initiative to improve and streamline the on-boarding processes for Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS)-based systems. It's a good initiative for VOSS, as Cisco's HCS has been deployed widely by telcos all over the world, creating a big opportunity for VOSS.
VOSS has a number of software-based applications such as the on-boarding toolset (OBT) and site survey toolset (SST) that are used in the process of bringing devices and users up on Cisco HCS. Operational Excellence provides customers with a set of best practices built from the aggregated information drawn from the managed and cloud-based service providers using VOSS today.
The Operational Excellence best practices and VOSS applications are of particular value when service providers are doing a mass migration of a customer's phones, users and services. The VOSS software can take inputs from premise-based Cisco Call Managers and legacy PBXs and then initiate an automated mass migration.
In a discussion with VOSS, they referenced a European service provider that migrated over 80,0000 IP phones and 120,000 users in more than 2,000 locations for a major bank. Historically, this kind of migration could take years to complete, but was accomplished in under six months following the VOSS Operational Excellence framework.
The importance of some kind of best practices for service providers to follow, whether they are from VOSS or any other source, can't be overstated. Cloud-based UC is really in its infancy and over the next few years, we'll see an explosion in the number of UCaaS solution providers. Since many cloud providers will choose to use HCS as the underlying technology, competitive advantage won't come from service features but rather from the quality of customer service, which starts with provisioning and migrating users.
Because of the complexity in provisioning new users, some cloud providers may be hesitant to aggressively expand the range of UC services offered. I've interviewed some UCaaS providers that start with voice and then have a very conservative roadmap when it comes to service expansion. Much of the conservatism is due to the challenges of the back office tasks associated with managing UC. It may seem prudent to be conservative here, but I expect the cloud UC market to move very quickly--putting those service providers that figure out how to expand the range of services and offer quality service in the drivers seat.
When it comes to capturing UCaaS market share, I can only think of a quote from the famed poet, Ricky Bobby--"If you're not first, you're last"--and the VOSS Operational Excellence Initiative can help service providers be first.