Unify's Darren Gallagher discusses the ins and outs of taking a UCaaS approach to business communications.
Understanding UCaaS Challenges
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) can be a plug-and-play implementation or present challenges. UCaaS is available from PBX vendors, telcos, VARs, MSPs and cloud-based providers. But the vendor UCaaS solutions and customer requirements are not all the same, creating challenges.
To better understand the challenges, I contacted Darren Gallagher, Director of Global Solution Management for Unify, who responded to a series of my questions.
What do you see as UCaaS challenges?
From the technology perspective, it’s critical to find the right deployment for the customer, as this depends on where the customer is at in their digital transformation and journey toward cloud.
It’s important to find the right balance and the right speed to move to cloud. Maintaining and leveraging existing investments is critical while maximizing all of the benefits that cloud delivers.
The cloud environment enables workflows that deliver greater efficiencies and effective outcomes, rather than simply demanding the historic calling features and treatments but in a cloud model. Work has changed. This leads to adoption strategies and change management, which enable the customer to leverage the full power of a UCaaS collaboration solution. Employee and customer experience are critical, so this is an important key performance indicator.
The UCaaS market faces continental, regional, and even intra-regional nuances and differences that at first glance might seem counterintuitive. Some countries are nearing high market adoption levels, which causes vendors to face price pressure. The offerings in these blocs (mainly Benelux and the Nordics) have been limited in advanced functionality due to their early adoption of original platforms. These countries are now demanding the collaboration and conferencing features that are available elsewhere.
Which UCaaS storage option should be used? Public cloud? Private cloud? A hybrid approach?
This depends on the customer’s specific situation and how far the customer is in their digital transformation journey. Recent experience informs us that hybrid deployments deliver significant benefits for those customers that work within or supply regulated industries, are demanded to demonstrate compliance accountability, or have stringent security and data privacy requirements to meet.
A hybrid cloud is not necessarily more complex. If a UCaaS solution supports different deployment models, it can be a significant advantage. The journey to cloud can be completed at the customer’s pace without the immediate need to change the underlying architecture. The hybrid approach also ensures inclusion of the workflows and business applications in daily use.
Customization is important. What degree of customization and scalability does a business collaboration environment require as it grows and markets mature?
SMBs need a standard solution with a variable set of capabilities. These can be mostly satisfied through a set of pre-built integrations to the applications with which they have chosen to work.
Large or very large companies are significantly more demanding and require highly sophisticated and more specific integration capabilities, whether it’s integration with other communications platforms, business applications, contact center, or integration with their specific environment (IoT). A UCaaS solution offering CPaaS capabilities is ideal for such customers, as these integrations can leverage existing solution blueprints, affording greater cost control, but still allow flexible configuration and customization. For those who want to offer their own specific UCaaS cloud instance, the solution has to be able to offer deep customization and integration capabilities.
There are many UCaaS features. What are the primary UCaaS features for satisfying business and employee needs for the SMB and for the enterprise?
The most requested and used capabilities are currently voice, video, screen-sharing, messaging, document sharing, and persistent storage.
For voice functionality, we have seen a reduced set of capabilities demanded in comparison with typical on-premises solutions.
A comprehensive list includes:
- One number service, seamless push/pull between devices
- Caller display and Caller ID with name
- Redial, redial from caller list/journal entry
- Mute, speakerphone, recording
- Hunt groups, calling groups (join, leave)
- Transfer, audio conference, visual voicemail
In the large enterprise segment there are more requests for usage analytics and business insights, which allow the customer to tailor the solution and further drive adoption to gain maximum benefit. Enterprises care more about the depth of business value that gets delivered.
Will these needs vary by user demographics (age, gender, business position)?
We see less dependency upon age or position. Rather, it’s a question of a person’s digital dexterity. We see significant differences depending on age about how people prefer to use the solution. Younger people use much more chat and messaging functions than audio or video calling – they tend to have short but very intense collaboration sessions.
Established companies with a more diverse blend of employee ages use calling and conferencing more to communicate with one another.
SMBs generally lack large budgets or have highly staffed IT departments. What can UCaaS do for them to help them compete with enterprises?
A standard public cloud solution with a good set of pre-built integrations is the perfect all-round solution for SMBs. It’s cost efficient, delivering high value while remaining affordable, and it does not require an IT department to set up, manage, or maintain it.
While smaller businesses are highly price sensitive, they demand advanced levels of mobility functions, ease of use, provisioning, and management. Modern UCaaS solutions deliver easy “anywhere working” and straightforward Web-based provisioning and management that some on-premises solutions or telco operators find challenging to provide.
Are there differences in UCaaS utilization by industry?
Some industries lean toward cloud while others need to maintain a more premises-based approach. Industries that feel strong cost and competitive pressure are forced to look in new directions.
The education sector is a good example. Universities need to offer modern and innovative solutions to attract students.
Other industries such as finance, insurance, and healthcare are driven by regulation to be more conservative, especially since they deal with highly confidential or personal data.