The Cloud! The Cloud!

Remember the opening to the TV show "Fantasy Island," when Tattoo would point to the sky, shouting, "De plane! De plane!" indicating a group of people was about to land and have their wildest fantasies fulfilled. Being the party pooper he was, his boss Mr. Roarke would always warn of the danger involved in making those dreams a reality.

I'm expecting the 2018 version of Enterprise Connect to be similar; looking anywhere, attendees will be able to point and say, "The cloud! The cloud!" Yes, the cloud will dominate this year's event. Business and IT leaders believe the cloud can make their business dreams come true, and are looking to capitalize on this shift.

Most of the cloud UC and contact center providers have mature offerings, so businesses shouldn't be concerned about being successful with their cloud deployments, correct? Well, not exactly... like on Fantasy Island, the journey to the cloud can be fraught with danger if certain considerations aren't taken into account. Below are some things to consider for your cloud journey:

  • Which is the best vendor to use? When it comes to UCaaS, there is no shortage of vendors. You can pick from pure-plays, regional network operators, broadband providers, global service providers, infrastructure vendors, and others. Each started from a different place, which can make an apples-to-apples comparison difficult. At one time, most of the UCaaS vendors had very similar offerings, but recently they've started to diverge and are leading with other products such as contact center, communications platform as a service, or team messaging.
  • How to migrate to the cloud? There's no correct answer to this question. It really depends on the current infrastructure, how old it is, what tools users need today and into the future, and the level or risk tolerance that the company has for new technology. Also, most businesses will almost certainly adopt a hybrid approach, but that too means different things. Hybrid could mean keeping everything on premises and then bursting to the cloud or leaving voice alone and only using the cloud for advanced features. Migration to the cloud is going to vary greatly from company to company, and takes a significant amount of advance work.
  • How to measure the ROI of cloud communications? The value proposition of cloud communications has gone through several phases. Initially, companies turned to the cloud to save money but didn't really change much else. Think of being able to "lift and shift" the on-prem PBX into the cloud but leaving everything else alone. It's great to save money but there needs to be more. The next phase of the cloud, the one we are in now, is about enabling a multi-device experience where communications becomes seamless across endpoints. Miss a call on your deskphone? No problem, as it shows up in the call log on your mobile phone. It's kind of like Netflix for UC. The phase we're entering now is about enabling digital transformation. The cloud has almost limitless scale and compute power, and it's possible to harness petabytes of data, analyze it using machine learning, and discover new insights. This is where the cloud will transform the way we work instead of just making it more efficient.
  • What new skills are required? Good old solid network and telecom skills got most IT professionals through the shift from TDM to IP and to the cloud. However, the changing value proposition is driving the need for new skills. At a minimum, communications and networking professionals need to be more comfortable working with software and should be able to make simple API calls and write scripts (check out the APIs & Embedded Communications track for tips on getting started). Also, for those looking for a career change, data sciences, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are good pursuits as there's a skills shortage in these disciplines.
  • Is multi-cloud success realistic? I'm sure years from now, every organization will be using multiple cloud providers and be able to move information among them easily. But migrating data today is a lot like moving out of a fantasy on Fantasy Island -- once you're there, you're stuck! Some vendors work with some others, but there's certainly no standard way to federate. One cloud isn't realistic, but neither is 10, so businesses leaders need to work with their IT counterparts to determine the optimal number for their organizations.

These are just some of the hot topics as we march to Cloud 2021. I'm going to drill down on these topics and many more at Enterprise Connect during the session, "Cloud Communications 2021: Is the Cloud Unavoidable?" I hope you can attend. I'll be joined by the following esteemed panel of experts:

  • Darren Hakeman, SVP of Strategy, Analytics and Corporate Development, 8x8
  • Michael Affronti, VP of Product, Fuze
  • Greg Zweig, Director of Solutions Marketing, Ribbon Communications
  • Praful Shah, Chief Strategy Office, RingCentral
  • Omar Javaid, Chief Product Officer, Vonage

The panel will take place Monday, March 12, in Sun A from 2:15 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Be there to avoid being left out of the clouds!

Learn more about Cloud Communications at Enterprise Connect 2018, March 12 to 15, in Orlando, Fla. You can still register! Register now using the code NOJITTER to save an additional $200 off the Regular Rate or get a free Expo Plus pass.