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7 Telecom Tactics for a Tremulous Terrain

2019 will most likely go down in history as the year that telecom was completely disrupted by cloud-based solutions. The signs are everywhere. So, with everything being shaken up, what tactics can an enterprise telecom manager use to survive and thrive?
First, what are the signs of these tremors? Below we look back at some of the major announcements made in the space this year and how it’s impacting the telecom market:
  • Avaya and RingCentral – In a new form of “merger,” RingCentral bought exclusive access to the Avaya channels for cloud-based voice communications – Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). It seems to me that Avaya is announcing that its on-prem Avaya Aura system is either not adaptable or not competitive as a multi-tenant UCaaS offering. Aura customers have a big choice ahead.
  • New Mitel Management (and Mitel) – After nearly a decade of consolidation led by Rich McBee, Mitel has a new CEO, Mary McDowell. McDowell’s most recent success is as CEO of Polycom, where she oversaw the sale of Plantronics to form the combined Poly. McDowell has roots in the computing platform industry and has been on the board of Autodesk and Informa, so she brings an information-centric and application-centric skill set to the Mitel C-suite. Transformation lies ahead for Mitel customers.
  • Cisco Unified Communication and Collaboration – It has been 18 months since Amy Chang took over as EVP and GM, Cisco Collaboration. During this time, she is actively applying her background with Google and as an entrepreneur of Accompany, which Cisco purchased. The net is Cisco has pivoted almost entirely to the cloud, using the Webex brand and platform to deliver solutions that are laced with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Also, the focus is on workflows and team collaboration to compete with all-encompassing communications solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, et al. The Webex platform will integrate with the legacy, on-prem Cisco Unified Communications Manager, but the future is cloud-based UCaaS.
  • Microsoft, Google, and Gartner – In competition to the traditional IP-PBX and the UCaaS providers, Microsoft and Google are delivering suites of office productivity software that include communications services capable of replacing the IP-PBX features for most enterprise employee usage profiles. Gartner’s UCaaS Magic Quadrant for 2019 says: “By 2023, 40% of new enterprise telephone purchases will be based on a cloud office suite – either Microsoft Office 365 or Google G Suite.” If your enterprise has an “office” software license with either Microsoft or Google or both, change is headed your way.
  • Salesforce and Amazon Web Services - AWS (and Vonage and Twilio) – Last month, Salesforce and AWS announced a partnership to integrate AWS’ Connect contact center as a service (CCaaS) into the Salesforce Service Cloud. Vonage and Twilio also offer such integrations to Salesforce’s applications, though not as strategic partnerships. The message is clear that customer service communications will be linked to the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software application. This trend crosses all application types and platforms, for which the Salesforce-AWS linkage is just a poster child.
  • Zoom – Finally, Zoom is proof that disruption is the new norm in the cloud-based world of communication platforms as a service (CPaaS). The combination of software and Internet protocols enable talented teams to create new applications and communications offerings in record time. When combined with effective sales, service, and operational processes, an eight-year-old company can grow at 118% in the most recent year to reach $331 million in annual revenue and be placed between Cisco (Webex) and Microsoft (Skype for Business and Teams) in the Leaders quadrant of Gartner’s 2019 Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions. It will be important to stay agile, flexible, and nimble in this environment.
How to Survive, Thrive in the Cloud Era
So, with all this change, what is a telecom leader to do in these seismically active times? You can choose from many tactics. Some are defenses – some are offenses. Ultimately, a telecom leader should choose a set of tactics that not only work for the team but also support the culture and strategy.
Here are seven tactics from which to choose so as to set yourself up for cloud success in the new year:
  1. Inventory, assess, sort, and prioritize – Take a careful inventory of the services and technologies that your team relies on. Then, assess these to determine which can be eliminated, which are best to remain on the existing “legacy” technologies, and which are ripe for transformation and innovation. Prioritize and shift as many resources as possible to the transformation vector.
  2. Partner across IT – Recognize and embrace the reality that telecom is no longer a separate functional island. Rather, communication services are functions used in processes and workflows, and that run on IP networks and devices. Make sure that your expertise is “in the room where it happens” for planning and funding of IT architectures and software application deployments for your enterprise departments.
  3. Firewalls (and security) are your friends – Team up with the IT Security team to establish guidelines for any new communication services in your enterprise. Such guidelines already exist for software applications, so join in to assure that user-driven selections of cloud-based communications apps are identified early on. Then, collaborate with users and departments to make sure the choices are optimal and strategic. Firewalls are your friends in this area since they can block any non-approved communications protocols or media streams.
  4. Review methods and costs for legacy elements – For those elements that remain on legacy on-prem equipment, quickly review those for the most efficient methods and lowest costs. This might include more self-service or even the outsourcing of the management for those elements. Essentially, make sure they aren’t consuming precious resources needed for transformation and innovation.
  5. Re-structure telecom architecture to enable innovation – Take immediate action to enable your telecom architecture for the future. One important step is usually to move dial plan management and call routing onto directory-enabled gateways. Another move is to define your enterprises preferred CPaaS providers in some combination of internal and external services.
  6. Innovate collaboratively for transformation in the high-change zones – When you have the tactics in place, you will be ready to collaboration with the departments of your enterprise where communication transformation will have the most impact. This may be in customer experience areas such as marketing and sales; it may be in mobile usage profile areas such as field services, retail, or operations; or it may be in the highly collaborative areas of marketing, engineering, public works, or product development. Whatever the priorities in your enterprise, be proactive with those who are running the business functions.
  7. Advance your team’s and your careers – Add skills to your team through education, project assignments, hiring choices, and sub-contracting. Change is a time of both risk and opportunity – seize the opportunity.
In all of this, assume that everything is on the table. Your tactical role for success is to sort, prioritize, and lead. We wish you the best in these tremulous times. And, come join us at Enterprise Connect 2020, including our session on “Strategic Planning Essentials for Enterprise Communications.

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Parker is writing on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.