UCaaS Feature Parity Not a Guarantee
UCaaS solutions may not be weighed down by millions of lines of legacy code, but they don't have the benefit of years' worth of user-prompted development, either.
The growth in the UCaaS market is significant and expected to continue, with experts predicting growth rates of 10% and higher annually for the next five years at least. Over the next few years, that means we'll see a large number of companies considering UCaaS or hybrid cloud-premises solutions for the first time. While they will need to consider many things when choosing a solution, the most important is arguably, "Will it meet the needs of my organization?"
This question can be hard to answer without completing a thorough needs analysis.
UCaaS is the latest wave in the telecom landscape, and this solution's strength can also be its weakness. UCaaS offerings are typically developed more recently than their premises-based counterparts. These solutions are not weighed down by millions of lines of legacy code, but neither have they been subject to years of development in response to customer needs and requests.
Bottom line: Do not expect UCaaS offerings to have all of the features that exist in premises-based systems. Feature parity is not a guarantee.
A UCaaS solution will mostly likely meet most, if not all, of your needs. But the trick is to identify all of your needs so that you can determine what requirements, if any, a potential provider might not be able to meet. Here are some areas where you might find gaps between what you have today and what UCaaS or hybrid solutions may offer:
- Reporting - Are you using a call accounting system? Be sure that your UCaaS or hybrid solution can provide the same data that you are getting today, within acceptable timeframes.
- Contact Center Capabilities - You'll find a lot of variation in contact center capabilities offered by UCaaS providers. Complex routing, workforce optimization, and speech analytics are just a few of the areas in which capabilities vary considerably.
- Contact Center Reporting - While many UCaaS solutions include a contact center offering, you'll want to ask whether the contact center is an add-on third-party solution. This can be important if you need cradle-to-grave information on your interactions. As in the on-premises world, data that passes through multiple systems can be hard to reconcile in the end. Even without third-party involvement, be sure that the solution you are considering is able to provide all of the reports that you require. Just because a premises-based system has certain reports is no guarantee that its cloud counterpart will offer the same capabilities.
- System Administration - Some UCaaS providers offer only limited access to admin capabilities.
- Remote Monitoring - Some cloud providers provide monitoring services to an edge device, while others provide edge devices but do not monitor them. Still others do not even stock replacements for their edge devices, leaving customers to come up with new devices when needed.
- Attendant Capabilities - If your attendant transfers calls outside of your organization, be sure that your UCaaS or hybrid solution will support this operation.
- Voice mail - While basic voice mail features are generally available, be sure to check if you need distribution lists or broadcast capabilities.
Sometimes uncovering all of your requirements in advance can be difficult. As consultants, we often see situations in which end-user needs are not known to IT or other decision makers. Your needs analysis is not complete until you have talked to the end users. Identify key areas in which the existing system is seeing heavy use, and consult with representatives from those business groups.
Of course, end users are often unable to articulate their specific needs, or worse, they assume that a new system will do everything they need. You may be able to greatly improve some areas with new communication capabilities, but you won't know that unless you take the time to talk to the end users.
While it does take time, we have found that the effort spent on thorough needs analysis leads to a much better answer to the critical question, "Will it meet the needs of my organization?"
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.