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UC and CC: Better Together for Cloud Migration
In the communications space, cloud migration begins with telephony. Telephony is so fundamental to how work gets done, and with premises-based phone systems being so reliable for so long, it’s easy to see why IT leaders may resist modernizing telephony by moving to the cloud. While the installed base of these systems remains large, cloud is the future for all forms of communications, and any doubts about that before the pandemic have largely been washed away given how well the cloud has performed since then.
A key challenge facing both IT leaders and the channel partners who are trying to get them on their cloud journey is the persistent legacy mindset that telephony is a standalone solution. So long as telephony is viewed as an island, the cloud will be viewed only as a lower-cost alternative to time division multiplexing (TDM). To realize a much richer return for the business overall, telephony must be viewed as a starting point for the cloud journey and not the destination. Channel partners need to get IT leaders to look beyond telephony for what can come once that step has been taken.
Once businesses deploy cloud telephony, UCaaS – unified communications as a service – is the next logical step, as this provides the platform for integrating telephony and voice with other context-appropriate communication modes. A consistent user experience across all endpoints and networks – all from a single interface is a powerful value proposition, and not surprisingly, UCaaS is booming.
Just as UCaaS is gaining traction, the same trend is unfolding now in the contact center space, where contact center as a service (CCaaS) is providing a similar value proposition. To date, the use cases for UCaaS and CCaaS were based in separate worlds with little reason to intersect. The technologies were different, the vendors were different, and the decision-makers were different.
Two changes have occurred in recent times that are turning this dynamic upside-down. First is the emergence of CX – customer experience – as a strategic driver for the business. This requires the entire business to become customer-centric, meaning that CX isn’t just a concern confined to the contact center. In essence, all employees need to become customer-facing, and in this environment, agility is needed for seamless communication across the organization, especially to support contact center agents.
An even stronger driver is the evolution of cloud technology. Just as telephony and UC platforms can now be fully cloud-based, the same holds true for the contact center. As legacy hardware components become software-based, cloud then becomes a viable deployment model. The flexibility of cloud platforms means that any vendor can develop solutions for any space, and that brings new possibilities where one cloud provider can offer a highly integrated UCaaS/CCaaS solution.
For IT leaders, this new path offers attractive benefits. Cloud technology is evolving quickly, and most IT teams struggle to keep up – which serves as another barrier to cloud adoption. The right technology partner is one that manages all that complexity so IT can be more strategic in driving CX.
When one partner can integrate seamlessly – and natively – across UCaaS and CCaaS, this simplifies IT’s job – fewer vendors to manage and only one point of contact to orchestrate everything. Furthermore, in terms of economics, if an enterprise has already embraced the SaaS model for CRM, Office 365, file sharing, etc., then the business case for UCaaS and CCaaS becomes quite easy to make.
At face value, this seems like a risk-free approach, but as with anything else, not all technology partners or cloud platforms are created equal. With the cloud market moving so quickly, vendors are aggressively pursuing cloud converts; not just to be first in line, but also because a combined UCaaS/CCaaS deployment represents a massive land-and-expand opportunity for all the new applications yet to come.
To think beyond telephony for cloud migration, think through the use cases that will drive business success. For knowledge workers, this means better productivity and collaboration outcomes, and for the contact center, this means delivering better CX. To help map out that journey, here are three key considerations.
First: Identify UCaaS Needs
Not all workers have the same needs. Some roles have limited collaboration needs, while others are constantly in meetings and working in teams. There will be power users and light users, just as some forms of collaboration are simple, and others are complex.
You must also consider how a multi-generational workforce will have a range of communication styles, where digital natives lean more to messaging and video, while digital immigrants will favor telephony and email. In short, don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to UCaaS. You need to assess the various personas in your organization, and make sure UCaaS can support them all.
In terms of defining collaboration needs, you need to think beyond the everyday features workers are already using. Most of the applications supported by UCaaS will be familiar, but others will be new, so the collaboration possibilities with UCaaS may well be greater than you think. You can certainly start simple with UCaaS, focusing on basic features like softphone, chat, video meeting, calendaring and file sharing.
However, UC keeps evolving, so you should also consider the advanced features that a UCaaS solution can support. Examples include voicemail transcription, call recording, mobile integration, rich presence settings, search, co-creation, and AI applications like digital assistants. You may not be using those features right away, but as end-user adoption grows, they will become part of their collaboration palette.
Another critical need for end users will be ease of use, and what you really need to know is how well all of these applications can be supported in a single interface. A rich feature set can make for a very crowded screen, so you’ll need to determine how easy those features are to use from one screen view; from any device, and with as few mouse clicks as possible. An intuitive GUI is harder to do than it looks, and the same can be said for making the mobile experience as good as the desktop.
Second: Identify CCaaS Needs
Start by determining how many modes of communication are supported. At minimum, this should include voice, chat, email, social media, mobile. Video is also emerging, especially for co-browsing, so that should be on your radar as well.
More broadly, CCaaS will need to support both inbound traffic and outbound for proactive notifications, as well as to support digital marketing efforts. With agents working from home, scaling to support a distributed operation is a must-have, as is the ability to use AI and APIs to develop intelligent self-service options and call routing.
Given all the orchestration required for a high-performing contact center, deep integration with third-party platforms will also be essential. Top of mind for this will be CRM, WFM and marketing automation, not just so agents can deliver personalized CX, but so supervisors can optimize operations, and utilize real-time reporting to address problems before they get out of hand.
Third: Choose Technology Partners Carefully
These are just a few examples to illustrate what’s really needed for effective UCaaS and CCaaS deployments. As you move from telephony to these areas with cloud, it’s understandable to view UCaaS and CCaaS as needing separate solutions. For some, the best-of-breed argument will carry the day, but there’s a strong case as well for an integrated approach – and one that is being validated by current market trends.
This is where your choice of technology partners really comes into play. Just as UCaaS and CCaaS are each harder to do than they look, so is integrating them into in a singular offering. There is no shortage of very capable pure-plays in both spaces, either for unified communications or contact center. Increasingly, these cloud providers are finding ways to add the other piece so they can have an integrated offering, but each takes their own path.
As a result, no two cloud providers will have the same mix of capabilities or ability to integrate UCaaS and CCaaS. Some will have native platforms for each, in which case UCaaS and CCaaS will operate seamlessly, making this an easy choice for resource-strapped IT teams. Intermedia is a prime example to consider in this case. Others, such as Microsoft, Zoom, RingCentral or Nextiva have solid UCaaS offerings, but rely on or refer to third-party partners for CCaaS. Conversely, CCaaS players generally lack UCaaS, although Talkdesk has recently launched telephony, and this could lead to a broader UCaaS offering.
The caveat here is to do your homework, as the vendor landscape is both complicated and confusing. If the cloud migration story began and ended with telephony, this article wouldn’t be necessary. However, cloud is a bigger story, and once you see the value of a combined UCaaS and CCaaS offering, it should be clear why choosing the right technology partner is so important.