The future lies in getting Unified Communications right

Every business today is looking at ways of improving efficiency and productivity, whilst reducing costs. One of the biggest game changers helping them to achieve these goals is the introduction of unified communications (UC). We are already seeing a rise in companies using applications like messaging, VoIP, video conferencing and telephony, and these will all provide essential foundations for a modern enterprise looking to collaborate and communicate better.

Blocking barricades

However, there are a few barriers to businesses embracing UC. IDC found the most common obstacle is the lack of a dedicated on-premises team sufficiently trained to maximise the effectiveness of the technology. Cost can also be another problem.

While UC drives down costs, hosting UC on-premises includes maintaining staff with the right skill set to set up UC tools themselves self-build, manage in-house operations, and deliver system upgrades. Companies are also wary that their critical business applications may not be compatible with the new UC apps.

Service as the solution

We’re now seeing Europe follow the US by readily adopting Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) and according to IDC the European UC&C market will grow 12.5% between 2013 and 2018. But what’s driving this trend? As mentioned, some European businesses are finding it difficult to justify moving to UC, but even those who are embracing the move need to be cautious because not every cloud or application will suit each business or be financially beneficial.

> See also: Why isn’t unified communications using the same cloud uptake as IT applications?

Implementing UC can be complex and to choose the right tools and navigate the transition, businesses often need help and guidance. This need for a sense of direction paired with the other drivers already mentioned such as cost and lack of skills-set provides further momentum for hosted UC – UCaaS – as the preferred option.

How are businesses using UCaaS?

For one of our customers we recommended a hybrid UCaaS approach – keeping a portion of UC on -premises and other applications in the cloud. NTT Com incorporated mobility tools such as Cisco Jabber for windows, Android, iPhone and iPad, which reduced the physical amount of desk space, enabled a ‘work from anywhere’ approach, standardised ICT governance and enhanced internal collaboration.

By incorporating a powerful set of mobility and collaborative tools the hybrid solution allowed the customer to communicate more effectively, which was measured by assessing the users’ perception on how much easier it was to reach colleagues, partners and customers on their first attempt.

Using our web directory tool and intuitive self-care portal also gave the customer the feeling they were operating as one ‘global virtual office’ and massively reduced complexity because tools were accessible through the cloud. This also reduced infrastructure costs and overheads, whilst increasing productivity.

By using just one service provider, the customer reduced telecom expenses by 30 per cent by firstly, consolidating their on-premises equipment that needed to be managed and supported, reducing complexity and administrative overhead. Additionally, savings were achieved by incorporating our SIP trunking services with more competitive call rates for this customer. In light of that, here are some key tips for adopting UCaaS:

Discuss with your provider partner

They can advise on training, efficient implementation, setting incentives for internal teams and enabling mobility.

Involve all business units

It’s not just the ICT department that needs to implement UC. HR, procurement, legal, facilities are just some of the other areas of the business that need to ensure the solution is used by every department to realise the full extent of cost savings

Invest in training

Hand-in-hand with getting all departments involved, equally, all members of staff need to know how to use the solution. If they’re not trained correctly, then it’s likely that tools won’t be used and the investment is wasted

Use a hybrid approach

Most organisations want to adopt a full UCaaS model but can’t because the customisation and configuration options of some solutions are limited. Using a hybrid model presents the best initial approach before expanding the use of UC tools.

Be patient

Legacy systems, CPE and a hybrid approach mean that integration can be difficult and slow. But remember that adoption of UCaaS is a transformation – it won’t happen overnight.

The future of enterprises

Unified communication is the future for all enterprises that are rapidly expanding across the globe. At the moment, consumers and businesses alike are using ‘over the top solutions’ and applications such as Skype to communicate. However, as soon as an organisation reaches a certain size and maturity, it becomes much more important to control tools such as these from a centralised environment.

> See also: One true voice: approaching unified communications

There are a number of reasons for this including reducing operational and administrative complexities, maintaining a secure network and platform, and being able to easily and quickly scale the solution and tools as the business grows.

Expanding connectivity to new and/or overseas offices can also be tricky; it’s not just a case of purchasing software off the shelf and installing it. It requires skilled and precise planning and implementation. Some businesses lack the knowledge and resources to do this alone and so partnering with an UCaaS provider is a natural choice.

Once the transition is complete, enterprises are then able to reap the many rewards UCaaS brings including a better network security, increased flexibility, efficiency and productivity. Paying-per-seat also reduces the need for large cash injections – a positive for all businesses.

Sourced from Sergio de Oliveira, unified communications product manager, NTT Europe

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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