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Thinking Out Loud About the Cloud

During the Enterprise Summit we convened last month at Enterprise Connect 2017, cloud communications was, as you might expect, much on the minds of our IT panelists (along with team collaboration, which I previously highlighted in the No Jitter post, " Enterprise IT Execs on Team Collaboration Apps: 'More Security, Please!'").

A bit of banter between two participants captured the feeling these IT executives (and no doubt the audience at large) have about cloud communications:

    "The cloud is ALWAYS there," quipped Chris Abrams, director of corporate systems at Yum! Brands.

    It IS everywhere," agreed Mirril McMullen, product manager for UC&C at AIG, sighing.

Yes, it is everywhere -- even at the largest of large companies, like Medtronic, another enterprise represented on our panel. This global medical technology and services company, with about 88,000 employees, has a hybrid UC&C strategy. "We have chunks that are on premises, and chunks that are in the cloud," shared Mark Winston, senior IT manager of enterprise productivity services at Medtronic. But, he added, "... the pendulum is swinging more toward the cloud."

Winston's fellow panelists mostly agreed, and chimed in with what the cloud means for them and their organizations. Here are four examples of what's on their minds when it comes to moving communications and collaboration capabilities into the cloud:

  • On putting "cloud first" into perspective -- At Yum, "cloud first" has become a catchphrase -- as a strategy, it means that Yum looks first at software as a service to meet a business need. And if that isn't a match, then it'll look to platform as a service. And if that's a miss, then it'll look at either infrastructure as a service or internal infrastructure, for a hybrid model. As for UC in particular, Yum is primarily keeping its on-premises deployment while leveraging some cloud services, namely Skype for Business and WebEx, here and there. The point, Abrams said, is that the company's "initial approach is to take a cloud-first strategy, but that doesn't mean 'default to the cloud.'"
  • On consumerization and the cloud -- With collaboration capabilities so readily available as cloud services, enterprises need to be able to quickly deliver what users need, said Winston of Medtronic. "A few years ago people were talking about 'consumerization' -- well that's alive and well. People want certain capabilities, and unless you provide them, they'll be buying them on their own."
  • On the question of agility in the cloud -- Yes, one of the advantages of the cloud is being able to "deliver more of the same faster," but that doesn't help for unique requirements, said Ben Schunk, director of enterprise voice and video engineering, at Cigna. "That's one of the things I worry about when moving to the cloud," he said. "Whether it's integration between two vendors to support SIPREC call recording, or maybe it's a mobile or remote workforce contact center agent phone registration into my core through some sort of proxy, [these aren't] necessarily one-vendor solutions. Moving into cloud, depending on how [it's done], could put constraints in place that won't allow me the technical agility to go out and deploy those types of solutions," he explained. "Ultimately, that impacts the business directly more so then anything else."
  • On the high cost of the cloud -- "I'd heard the argument [about large companies spending more after migrating to the cloud], and I went back and forth about cloud being more expensive... until we actually started deploying and it WAS more expensive," Abrams said. But he added a caveat: "It's not because cloud is more inherently expensive. It's because we didn't understand what we were deploying in there, and we didn't regulate what we deployed into there. And because of that, we put in there more than we actually needed, so it seemed like it was more expensive," he explained. "When you simplify what you deploy out there and you deploy specific services, and the business justifies that specific service, the cloud in some occasions is cheaper to do."

What does the cloud mean for you and the way your organization is communicating and collaborating today and into the future?

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