Despite the still-wobbly state of the worldwide economy, enterprises have been firm in proclaiming the growing value of Unified Communications by investing heavily in the collaboration technology. According to Wainhouse Research, the overall UC market is set to grow at 17% CAGR over the next three years. In fact, the recession itself may be responsible for the explosion of remote, Cloud-based communication, which companies are opting for over costly business travel and hefty on-premise infrastructure investments.
Despite a wide adoption of UC throughout the global market, most companies still studying enterprise UC are understandably questioning how this fairly young service can deliver the productivity gains that it promises, taking into account hurdles that vary by industry and organization size.
Implementation and roll out, selecting the right deployment model, and return on UC technology investment often top the list of challenges decision-makers face when assessing a Unified Communications service. To help manage buyer expectations and ameliorate the evaluation process, here is our take on the most common UC misconceptions:
MISCONCEPTION: I need a costly on-premise infrastructure in order to deploy a full-ranging UC solution
For most medium to large businesses, hosted or hybrid UC solutions provide all necessary tools, features and modules with less fuss, lower Total Cost of Ownership and faster ROI than on-premise installation. At an operational level, a Cloud-based deployment not only delivers users a full range of functionality, providing equal access to enterprise-grade telephony, web and video conferencing, instant messaging and presence, email and unified messaging, mobility, and document and desktop sharing, it also adds value in the form of faster deployment and greater scalability. And, of course, it costs less.
For those very large companies with existing on-premise Unified Communications, expanding connectivity to new and/or overseas offices can be tricky. A hybrid approach tacks on Cloud-based UC to cover offices outside the reach of the centralized on-prem infrastructure, or offices without IT resources needed to maintain such an installation. In the end, everyone enjoys seamless access to the same features and functions regardless of location.
MISCONCEPTION: It is impossible to cost-effectively scale a UC solution to my company’s evolving needs
Not only is it possible to scale your UC solution, it should also be easy and cost-effective via the Cloud. Bear in mind, however, the importance of working with an expert Service Provider who can not only handle the up-scaling or pairing back of your services, but can do so without increasing the complexity of the deployment.
More flexibility is one of the advantages of hosted Unified Communications. Although seemingly less customizable than on-prem, Cloud hosted services can be quickly bolstered to accommodate new users and new features. That does not mean, however, that on-prem solutions are not scalable to a certain extent as well – their scalability, however, is mostly achieved by increments of several thousand users. As mentioned in the example above, adding Cloud hosted UC on top of an existing on-prem installation can easily extend UC connectivity.
MISCONCEPTION: We need to invest heavily in in-house trainers, user education and adoption resources
The truth is that when deploying a UC solution of any kind, the biggest factor of success will be user adoption. And the two largest barriers to user adoption are frequently “inadequate training” and “resistance giving up established tools.” If employees don’t want to or can’t use the new tools you’ve provided them, your ROI is in serious trouble.
A corollary misconception is that UC solutions are so intuitive that they do not require any training. This is not true for the majority of users, who will quickly understand how to use Instant Messaging and Presence, but who may not immediately recognize the full power of the tools they have at their disposal: i.e. working from any location seamlessly (and without cumbersome VPN setups), or interacting with business partners in the same way they do with internal colleagues.
In this respect, if you’re not already a UC expert or have an IT team dedicated to your on-prem UC infrastructure, you probably don’t have the in-house know-how to 1) ensure a smooth, timely roll out, 2) take on user training, or 3) manage on-going support. Again, this is where the value of a knowledgeable and skilled Service Provider will come in handy. It is unnecessary to invest in acquiring these resources internally when the right Service Provider will provide expert and tailored training to help ensure user adoption.
Service Providers “earn their keep” in large part through the quality and scope of their Client Services, which should accompany customers from beginning to end – user communication, on-going training, assistance and reporting.
MISCONCEPTION: Mission critical systems such as enterprise-wide telephony are not mature enough to be deployed in the Cloud
This is a reasonable concern for companies assessing their telephony options. The idea of being dependent upon the Cloud for the performance of a communication as significant as telephony can be unnerving. Even so, sizeable companies – such as Boeing, who employ Microsoft Lync for UC and enterprise voice – are migrating their telephony from an on-premise PBX infrastructure to UCaaS increasingly more frequently as Cloud hosting grows in stability and maturity.
Like all other Cloud-based services, the operational performance and reliability of the platform your telephony is hosted on makes all the difference. It is, therefore, essential to select a Service Provider with a Grade A platform and who is experienced in the dedicated management of hosted telephony, including crisis management, call re-routing, etc…
So, what are the advantages of hosted telephony? Cost savings, scalability, and hands-free IT support. Hosted telephony is gaining ground because, when done right, it can deliver significant savings and added flexibility to companies looking to decrease telecommunications spending. And for companies not ready or able to take the leap to fully hosted enterprise-wide telephony, hybrid co-existence models combine PBX and UCaaS with telephony.