And AWS, Microsoft, Mio, Optanix, and Plantronics-Polycom win in four new breakout categories.
A Vertical Hybrid
As its name implies, Vertical Communications has always focused on delivering communications solutions for vertical sectors, a strategy it's recently expanded with the addition of a hybrid solution called Vertical Cloud Connect (VCC). The VCC capability will initially complement installed premises-based communications systems, while positioning the company to deliver future solutions completely as a service.
The Vertical team believes general-purpose UC applications are most suitable for general knowledge workers, and miss the mark for many specialized job roles. For example, most retail employees have little use for UC applications. Vertical serves many sectors, including retail, automotive, education, and healthcare practitioners.
Vertical does offer general UC applications, such as conferencing, contact center, and a UC desktop client, on its SIP-enabled Wave platform. Its new VCC strategy is the result of working with several customers to identify how it could facilitate their workflows.
The result is a more flexible approach to UC the company describes as "adaptive UC," which optimizes the UC apps and integrations for specific roles and functions. By hosting these applications in the cloud, it simplifies onsite infrastructure and accelerates implementations, especially across multiple sites.
This VCC initiative can be partially attributed to Vertical's direct sales approach, which bucks the industry trend of selling through indirect channel partners. When customers ask for customizations to accommodate their business workflows, they are talking with Vertical and not through intermediaries. As a result, Vertical has become savvy with the various sectors it services.
Vertical said it intends to host VCC in the Google Cloud, and will use a microservices architecture that enables deployment of new features and functions via independent services. "Our microservices architecture gives us tremendous velocity to deploy new capabilities over the cloud within days," said Praveen Mamnani, head of product management at Vertical. "Customers no longer have to wait for long release cycles."
This new hybrid architecture leverages premises-based telephony, which should appeal to Vertical's installed customer base. The Wave IP system also can be hosted in a private data center or even hosted by Vertical. The company also intends to support third-party telephony platforms in the future.
While Wave IP is generally a capex purchase, the new overlay cloud services will be charged under a per-user, per-month opex model. The new cloud-delivered services include a variety of communications applications, integration with other sector-appropriate cloud services, call logging, and advanced conferencing services.
Vertical also added contextual communication capabilities into its Wave IP platform. For example, contact center agents could tag active calls with notes, which then follow the call as it gets transferred to different extensions. This can reduce re-work and improve customer service.
Administrators can customize the user experience on a persona basis for specific job roles. Vertical refers to this as "customization through configuration." For example, a car dealer may define different tools and views for the general manager, sales manager, and sales team members. An application that sends service appointment reminder texts to customers collects data that only the service manager may find of interest.
Vertical re-customizes these variations to each of the sectors it serves. The in-store messaging workflow app that Vertical created for retail was repurposed for healthcare customers to address patient care workflow that occurs between doctors and nurses. User clients are also pre-integrated to popular sector-specific external business applications. For automobile dealers, for example, Vertical offers integrations to the Elite and DealerSocket CRMs.
Vertical has an aggressive roadmap for additional sector-optimized applications. For example, a planned contextual VIP customer service app will enable high-touch customer service by connecting website shoppers directly to a product specialist over IM, voice, SMS, or video. Vertical can easily add modalities and services as a result of the microservices architecture.
Path From the Premises
VCC is intended to extend the life of existing equipment while simultaneously creating a path for new, advanced services. It also enables Vertical to upgrade existing premises-based applications with modern Web technologies. For example, the company plans to upgrade Vertical Meetings from a Flash-based technology to a native, browser-based solution. This new implementation will also offer improved support for online education and doctor/patient interactions.
Just about every UC vendor has a strategy aimed at vertical sectors, but Vertical's approach is unique in that it centers on the premises-based PBX. There's an extraordinary number of businesses, such as retailers, that require an enterprise strategy for small, separate locations. Vertical's customers include several large chains such as CVS and Pizza Hut.
Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.