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The Cloud UC Guys Have It Wrong

The problem with providing unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is that the cloud-only providers are looking at the opportunity in the wrong way -- very wrong, and that's because they are addressing the market from their own perspective and not from what the customer actually is trying to do and therefore needs.

It's undeniable that the trend of and growth in moving business communications to the cloud as a managed service over a traditional, installed product approach is very real. A cloud deployment comes with many benefits, including the ability to manage your budgets as monthly subscriptions, rapidly scale as your business needs change, hand off management of adds, deletes and changes, enable individuals and groups to have access to applications such as mobility, and reduce the support complexity for your IT department.

Despite the benefits, the cloud-only vendors appear to be a tad self-serving. They remain deaf to fully appreciating the realities of what customers are facing today. When the only thing you have to sell is a UCaaS solution -- well, it's like that notion of when all you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail. The answer for these vendors is everything has to be cloud, regardless of what the customer is trying to do.

However, the issue is not that clear. While analysts do see huge growth rates as the market shifts toward cloud, cloud service is still only 10% of the market. And analysts aren't predicting that the traditional market -- still at 90% of the overall UC market -- is going to disappear altogether but only slow its growth. Not only will it not happen overnight, cloud may never become the total answer.

Here's why. IT buyers are still purchasing products that they want to manage and own. Some industries demand they do so, thanks to compliance and regulation. Others do so because they have made the investments and have the IT staff and see no need to change completely and start over. Certainly cloud only is appropriate for greenfield companies just starting out or smaller companies without the IT expertise or staff. But for everyone else, traditional UC is still a strong, viable, and preferred option. Who are we to push customers in any single direction? Surely, allowing them the choice and flexibility they require for their unique business needs is the smarter direction.

The real question is not cloud or onsite or even hybrid (those mixed environments in which a branch or remote office or some communications applications are served from the cloud), but what are you trying to do and where does it make the best sense for you to deploy communications for your business? Businesses should look for a single platform and user experience that delivers the same functionality whether deployed in the cloud, on-site, or some hybrid combination of the two.

When you only have a UCaaS solution, it's always going to appear to be the best answer for everyone when, in fact, it's just one possible solution among many and not very customer-centric. I'd like to call on our industry to be more customer-centric. Profitable growth is not just in the cloud but also on-site and possibly greatest for hybrid scenarios. The more important trend is toward providing flexibility and choice -- a mix and match of deployment options depending on what a company is trying to achieve for its business, employees, customers, and partners.