Unified Communications as a Service – the third way?
In my last blog post I wrote about how Technology can be used by ‘disruptors’ to change the competitive landscape and challenge long established segment leaders. In this piece I would like to explore a related technology that can be leveraged to disrupt the current landscape and one that I think is a reality now – Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
Unified Communications you said?
The reason I call it a disruptor is that UCaaS is another specific application that is moving into the cloud and having a major impact on the way companies collaborate and communicate.
So what is UC? Unified Communications is an approach to business communication that groups together all the various tools under one umbrella and connects them up, making it easier for company team members to stay in touch. The UC suite typically includes all the communication apps you would expect to find in an average office, including the likes of
- voice calling
- video conferencing
- web conferencing
- and instant messenger (IM)
UC is about flexibility. Workers are able to be more productive and effective because they can choose the communication mechanism that works best for them at that time – such as taking a call on a landline, smartphone or tablet device. Bringing all of these ways of communicating together in an integrated format is what UC is all about.
challenges along the way
So UC can genuinely help organizations to see positive impacts on their productivity, worker effectiveness and even staff morale thanks to them being able to do their work more on their own terms. Many companies have attempted to raise productivity through UC and increased collaboration, and different organizations have had varying degrees of success with it.
There are challenges involved however – with the biggest expense being CAPEX, while integration and interoperability can also present problems. Companies must choose whether they want to roll UC out and manage the technology, training and risks themselves or whether they would rather outsource it – which may still require a significant investment upfront for the CAPEX which must be paid up front. It’s a balancing act, and one that causes many companies quite a degree of soul-searching.
"as a service" - the third way
There is a new paradigm that is a reality today and that is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). The cloud continues to change the way that companies work, and it enables us to be more flexible in how we do things. In relation to UC, it means that companies can, rather than having that big initial CAPEX or big PBX, actually use a cloud-hosted service that gives all the benefits and control of an on-premise service. This is a potentially huge benefit for many companies.
Put simply, UCaaS makes Unified Communications and collaboration tools more affordable for all – vital at a time when companies need to reduce costs wherever possible. If you’re looking to manage costs then moving to an OPEX model is very attractive – and UCaaS also means smart outsourcing too. Working with an external partner means having a service level agreement (SLA) in place which covers you in unforeseen circumstances – when many companies have only one or two people responsible for their UC, who could be away on vacation or sick, this kind of safety net is a real advantage.
A further benefit of UCaaS is that it can offer event-based billing as well, meaning companies can offer support at times of greatly increased usage – such as delegates and staff collaborating around an annual conference, for example. The flexibility of UCaaS allows you to offer tools like video conferencing or Web conferencing which you might not otherwise need through the rest of the year.
Cloud - the enabler
One of the other advantages that the Cloud delivers is that of managing transitions of technology, again helping companies to reduce costs. By basing UC tools in the Cloud you don’t need to manage expensive upgrade cycles and you’re able to enjoy all the latest new features and versions as they become available.
What this also means is that companies can better manage the transitions of business models too – relocations, mergers, acquisitions and so on, any big changes to operational routines are more easily supported thanks to the agility of UCaaS. Take an example like mining companies which move operations around to where the next project demand is – starting up and shutting down projects is far easier in the Cloud.
These ideas have been around for quite a while now really, but only now are the service catalogues offering them come to market to make UCaaS a reality. The technology has caught up, meaning that companies can enjoy multi-tenanted Cloud offerings which allow more than one user on a box now. Similarly virtual machines can be had today with a compelling cost versus service proposition. It’s my belief that we are going to being seeing a big shift of people from on-premise UC suites to the cloud version, and adoption of the UC tools themselves is going to continue rising too.
At the end of the day, what UCaaS is about is
- managing risk
- cutting costs
- and increasing collaboration.
By outsourcing your UC needs to a service provider who is an expert in that area you reduce CAPEX risks and the need for costly, long IT equipment recycle periods. You’re not putting all your UC eggs in one basket and get to enjoy the flexibility and agility that comes with the “as a Service” strategy.
image: © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia.com
May 17, 2013Authored byUC applications are great advantage for the user. Although it has some drawback to use in mobile and it still needs improvement. But still I love to use it.
May 15, 2013Gordon MakyllosHi Art,
Good question. Thank You for raising this important consideration.
No doubt the full UC feature set extends further than the typical enterprise tools and applications summarized in my short blog, and certainly beyond messaging which is a subset of UC capabilities. From enriched telephony, messaging, conferencing, collaborative workspaces to contact center capabilities - todays UC answer to business demand should combine and unify such tools and applications.
In respect to the support of mobile users, it is expected that a truly mature UC solution and platform should be capable of supporting a mobile workforce and endpoints such as smartphones and tablets. UC capabilities extended to mobile devices facilitate and enabling real-time communication for the knowledge worker. By delivering messaging (IM, Presence, integrated or unified voicemail) or conferencing functionality to the mobile endpoint, effective communications and delivery of a true collaboration experience is achievable.
I agree, that the integration and extension of business processes into UC applications and associated clients is critical to realizing the true business benefits of UC. Embedding such business processes does extend beyond client to client communications to include B2B process interactions. The key is to demonstrate how UC can effectively integrate business process in a way that is relevant to unique customer requirements, their environment, key applications, people and processes.
This is why I am excited by "UC as a Service", in cloud solutions that offer feature parity with traditional deployment models, because I believe innovation will be accelerated with a cloud service ahead of an in-house fixed capex solution.
Good point. Thanks Gordon
May 5, 2013Art RosenbergGordon, You are missing the boat when fail to include all forms of messaging as UC applications. This is particularly true for mobile users with multi-modal smartphones and tablets who can't deal with everyone in real-time simultaneously. Also, UC is not just for person-to-person contacts, but is increasingly being used by business process applications send notifications to people.