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UC/CC Cloud Is 98% There

Just like it took IP telephony 10 years to provide all the features of TDM systems, the same is true with cloud UC/contact center fully displacing premises systems. As UC/CC architects and managers plan their cloud migration strategies, they should determine how important the final missing 2% of complex features and quality capabilities is to their enterprises.

How to move to the cloud

The complex features in the UC/CC space fall into these broad categories:

1. Media Mixing -- The ability to add other media and users into a voice call. Zip tones, whispers, silent monitoring, agent/operator-initiated call recording, and warm transfers are instances in which voice media must be dynamically blended and/or forked. Examples include:

    Power UC users -- Company operators and executive administrative assistants need the ability to handle many phone calls concurrently, warm transfer calls, get reminder tones when a call has been on hold a while, and record threatening or important calls on demand.

    Work-at-home agents -- Sending new calls to agents with a zip tone is faster and less annoying than ringing. Plus, a whisper can give the agent a heads-up on the type of call prior to the CTI screen pop launching. Supervisors may want to monitor calls silently, and be asked to join complex calls at a push of a button.

2. Customization -- Change is hard, and no matter how good the new system is, the old system has been tailored over many years and veteran users are accustomed to it. Too often technology folks glom onto the new features and don't pay enough attention to doing the basics well, in the way they've always been done.

    CTI & analytics -- Integration into back-end systems, and customized agent desktop and reporting, are hard to replicate. For instance, platforms vary widely on how they measure average speed of answer and average handle time. This can make it difficult to calculate return on investment for a new platform.

    UI retraining -- Nothing is more frustrating than going from a voicemail system that uses "9" to delete a message and "7" to save a message to one that does the opposite. It usually takes contact center agents about a month with a new UI to get to the point where their average handle time starts improving. In a contact center of 1,000 agents, every second that the average handle time can be reduced saves $1 million/year in payroll.

    Security -- The number one problem with a UC rollout as measured by trouble tickets coming into the help desk is users forgetting their new voicemail passwords. Yes, moving to a new six-digit PIN with three failed attempts causing a lockout is the right thing to do, but users will forget their passwords, use common ones such as 123456, and/or write down their PINs. As communication APIs arise, IT needs to be able to control the security governance and compliance of the data within them. Providing security within a closed network is easier then when getting services from multiple cloud providers.

3. Performance -- IT must be able to ensure voice quality all the way to the end user. Even today, most users believe the voice quality of TDM systems is better than it is with VoIP. TDM systems reserved and guaranteed bandwidth unlike today's shared IP networks. One poor voice quality experience can negate that of 1,000 good calls.

    Reliability -- 99.999% is the expectation. Cloud solutions have two challenges here:
      Brownouts -- If the network has a few seconds where it drops many packets, the problem is not bad enough to force hard rerouting of the underlying network link, but does impact voice mean opinion scores of quality. Software-defined WAN solutions are coming to market to help address this.
      Mid-call rerouting -- If a data center or other major infrastructure fails, most cloud solutions will drop all calls in flight and then send the next call to another site. This is disruptive, causing a negative customer experience in the contact center.

    Quality assurance -- Between the end-user devices (cell phone, WebRTC client, and so on), cloud provider infrastructure, enterprise infrastructure, and the multiple networks in between, ensuring high voice quality is a challenge, and isolating where problems are is even more difficult. One-way audio, significant delay (walkie-talkie effect), or clipped audio disrupt the user experience. The number of network monitoring tools aimed at addressing this continues to grow.

Cloud UC/CC systems today are ready for the generic use cases and common user requirements. But, fully retiring the enterprise PBX and going to a cloud system and using communication platform-as-a-service APIs to build a contact center suite will leave a small percentage of users in the enterprise wanting the old system back. If this small percentage of power users are executive admins or business operation leaders in charge of customer experience, then the cloud migration will be a bust.

Happiness is expectations minus reality. The expectations of a new UC/CC cloud solution is that it can do everything the old premises solution could do, plus all the cost savings and agility, as well as the better UI, the cloud promises.