UCaaS: Tech at the Forefront of Today's Global Working Environment

Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) technologies are key enablers for boosting productivity of businesses across all industries in the globally connected world we live in today. According to statistics from Global Workplace Analytics, in the U.S., approximately 50% of the workforce holds a job that is compatible with teleworking, and 20% to 25% of the workforce teleworks with some frequency.

Globally, it's been estimated that close to a billion workers telecommute today, with around a third working from home part time and a tenth full time. Fortune 1000 companies across the globe are entirely revamping their workspaces to serve employees who are mobile. These recent figures and trends highlight how far we've come as a workforce and more importantly, underscore the importance of the technology that is enabling the rapid growth of remote work. The latest UCC technologies make it easier than ever to bring together teams and enable a seamless working environment, regardless of where individual team members are located.

Enterprises that enable employees to work from home are often faced with decisions about which communication and collaboration tools to use in order to best provide a consistent and productive telework environment. These tools must work together seamlessly to create a truly unified working environment. However, over the course of several years, an enterprise often acquires a range of different telephony platforms, conferencing systems, and collaboration tools. With each new product or version release, this mix of technologies, vendors, and habits makes integration and true unification difficult. Throw in multiple telecom and network services providers in different geographies and the landscape looks ever more daunting -- not merely from the management perspective but also from the cost and control perspective. Some enterprises find islands of upgraded users in certain parts of the world or departments, while others see themselves stuck in a perpetual hell of migration as they constantly upgrade to keep up with the leading edge.

As cloud technologies continue to surge in various industries, it is no surprise to find UCC among that category. Through the leading UCaaS platforms like Skype for Business by Microsoft O365 and WebEx with CCA-SP by Cisco, and others in between, enterprises have a choice for creating a truly unified platform that is easy, seamless, and intuitive for employees to use. To overcome the challenges and obstacles associated with adopting the latest UCaaS tools, enterprises must understand that they cannot do it alone. Finding the right partner(s) with the right experience is a good starting point.

Before embarking on a UCaaS deployment journey that is truly unified, there are at least three main areas of focus: the platform (e.g., Microsoft or Cisco), the medium (e.g., cloud or on premises), and the connectivity (e.g., regional best of breed or global). Budgets, feature sets, habits/enterprise culture, ROI considerations, ease of migration, integration, and adoption, etc., will typically guide the decisions on the first two areas of focus. In today's rapidly transforming digital enterprise, cloud-based solutions will outweigh on-premises solutions, with a good portion of enterprises leaning toward a hybrid solution.

In the face of such challenges, the third area of focus, the connectivity provider, becomes increasingly important. It is this component that really brings all the features and associated benefits alive and is critical in extracting the most out of the technology selected. In choosing a connectivity provider, enterprises must look at the global reach, the partner ecosystem (including collaboration with system integrators), and the future readiness of the offering. It is most critical to review the interoperability capabilities (between platforms, end-points, and other providers that may co-exist) that the provider can bring to the table. Enterprises must also review not only providers' delivery, but also their commitment to lifecycle support.

Finally, organizations ought to consider working with a provider that is willing and able to provide a solution that is bespoke to the needs of the enterprise. Too many times companies start with the most basic layer, the network, and don't fully understand what business problems they are trying to solve, which applications best help them do that, and which networks have the best level of integration with those applications.

Whether an enterprise plans to leap-frog in their journey to a full-blown cloud-based UCaaS, opt for a dedicated hosted solution, choose a modular approach, or find an interim hybrid solution, it is best to reach that decision in conjunction with the connectivity provider.

This can be achieved through exploratory workshops and pre-launch planning sessions, whereby the scope of work as well as the long-term migration plan is jointly agreed upon. This will lay out a path for migration to the end-state and build in the expected cost improvements, productivity enhancements, and the timeline of attainment of these benefits right at the onset of the journey. Additionally, enterprises should look at a provider that not only can help with network and cloud-based applications, but can also help with the components that will remain on-premises such as gateway, desktop, etc.

As technology continues to shape how businesses operate and workers collaborate, UCaaS can help enterprises boost their productivity and agility in today's global and digital workplace. UCaaS enables employees to access a wealth of different applications and data, anywhere, anytime, on any device. The journey from a siloed environment to a transformed organization can be daunting, but it is one that cloud-based applications and global service providers are making increasingly attainable. Making the right choice of partners on this journey is the first step in this process for every enterprise.