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Hosted UC Goes Beyond the Gartner MQ--and Requires Best Practices

There's been a good deal of discussion around the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant in the past few weeks (see and, and much of it hits on the fact that when it comes to UC, hosted providers are a critical part of the market--and typically account for a large bucket of "others" in any market sizing approach. My colleague Elka Popova covers more than 30 of what must be at least 80 UCaaS providers in her annual Hosted UC market study (available to Frost & Sullivan clients at; many of them account for both large implementations and revenue streams, as well as innovative feature and functionality development. No wonder our research shows that the adoption of hosted IP telephony and UCC services is growing at a steady pace, with the installed user base expanding at about 25 to 30% year-over-year.

But when it comes to deploying a hosted solution, finding the best provider is only half the battle. From an end-user and IT point of view, who ranks where in a quartered box matters less than how to ensure a successful implementation that meets everyone's business needs and delivers a strong return on investment. To help companies navigate the waters, Elka recently published a guide to implementation best practices titled "A Sustainable Approach to Hosted IP Telephony and UCC Services Deployment."

In the paper, Elka recommends steps that businesses can take in order to first properly assess their existing communications environments and then select the most appropriate hosted communications solution and provider:

* Inventory Existing Communications Investments. Consider age, functionality, feasibility of upgrade, and amortization schedules of existing investments before making a final decision on whether to engage with a hosted services provider. If certain communications systems have been fully depreciated, businesses may reasonably consider hosted alternatives that provide the same or greater functionality as well as some additional benefits such as better flexibility and reduced CAPEX. The same is true for Greenfield environments, and for net-new technology deployments (i.e. if you are introducing video conferencing for the first time across the organization).

At this stage, you should also take into account existing or anticipated integration requirements. A custom integration of premises-based solutions can be tough to replicate in and with a multi-tenant service provider environment, but most hosted IP telephony and UCC service providers are offering comprehensive bundles of interoperable and pre-integrated capabilities that may be a viable alternative.

* Assess IT Staff Capabilities. Given the growing complexity and rapid evolution of communications solutions, it can be difficult and costly to hire, retain, and continually re-train skilled IT staff. By outsourcing communications from a third party, businesses can gain access to a larger pool of technology expertise, and internal IT staff can be re-allocated to more strategic projects. In certain organizations, however, IT staff may be highly skilled in managing and maintaining customized or very specific (e.g., vertical) solutions, which may tip the scales in favor of premises-based deployments managed internally.

* Evaluate End-User Needs. Dial tone and voice mail are no longer enough to support a productive workforce. Younger workers are more likely to demand access to advanced communications tools such as IM and presence; visual and more collaborative tools such as video, web conferencing, file sharing and social technologies; as well as mobile access to various corporate communications applications. User age, skills, experience, expectations, location, and business roles determine employees' preference for specific communications applications and devices.

Business users are also becoming more mobile. Long-distance travel, lengthy commutes, rotating days at different sites, hot-desking, desk-sharing, and remote working (teleworking) are all factors driving demand for mobility solutions, and are driving the trend toward BYOD--both of which need to play into any UC and UcaaS decision.

* Review Broader Business Objectives and Company Vision. This should include an evaluation of the company's growth plans, economic and financial projections, and an understanding of the vision for the role of communications in enabling key differentiators and/or a competitive advantage.

The paper also contains recommendations for determining whether your organization is a good candidate for hosted services; how to select the right provider; and when to use private networks vs. public broadband connections for services delivery. IT and line-of-business buyers can contact me ([email protected]) for a free copy of the report.

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