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Keeping Up with Cloud Offerings

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Premises-based systems, whether for UC or contact centers, still hold tremendous value for the enterprises that retain them. At the same time, technology providers are clearly pouring the vast majority of their innovation efforts into cloud offerings. Cloud is clearly where vendors, and increasingly customers, see their future.
 
We discussed the premises-vs.-cloud issue as part of the Locknote closing session for our recent Enterprise Connect Digital Conference & Expo 2020. My panelists—Robin Gareiss of Nemertes Research, Sheila McGee-Smith of McGee-Smith Analytics, and Dave Michels of TalkingPointz—agreed that premises systems aren’t going away, and Dave even pointed to a range of security concerns about cloud platforms as one possible incentive for enterprises to keep at least some systems on-prem.
 
At the same time, however, the discussion made clear that premises systems are unlikely to be able to keep pace with cloud offerings in terms of new feature rollouts, and that this business driver would likely be a major factor in tipping the balance to cloud over the next few years.
 
Echoing these issues, analyst Ken Landoline of Omdia research firm had a recent post on No Jitter where he discussed Omdia’s report on the cloud contact center market landscape. Ken offered a nuanced and practical examination of how enterprises should evaluate different providers’ offerings. On the point of feature/function comparisons, Ken noted that the very speed of new feature releases makes this a difficult factor to track:
 
“Technology differentiation between vendor solutions is less significant than Omdia observed in its last report published in late 2017, and any technological advantage, when it exists, does not last as long as it had before, making the categories of execution and market impact more relevant to a purchase decision in the eyes of customers and prospects,” Ken wrote.
 
So, feature parity and business benefit will be moving targets. Omdia recommends an emphasis on provider roadmaps and their proven ability to deliver on those plans: “Enterprises seeking to select a cloud contact center vendor should consider not only the vendors’ current offerings but also how the potential solution will be able to add new functionality in stages as needed,” Ken wrote.
 
A similar prescription certainly seems in order for cloud-based UC/team collaboration systems. We’ve seen the highest-profile feature-parity race among team collaboration providers looking to one-up each other on video interfaces and features. This reflects the “softer” benefits of UC/collaboration, where user adoption and productivity are the most immediate benefits. In the contact center, as Ken noted, the feature upgrades tend to relate to advances like multichannel, AI, and IoT, where better feature/function can translate directly to improved agent metrics and thus improve the bottom line.
 
So, the cloud is certainly where the action is these days, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. Enterprises can keep up with digital transformation and improve the customer and user experience; but it’s critical to partner with a provider that can support that continuous improvement, and to understand how those advances can drive better business outcomes.

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