Move Your Mission-Critical Communications to the Cloud?
Jive is excited to share this guest blogpost, written by Frost and Sullivan, about key competitive differentiators between UCaaS providers. Frost & Sullivan is a leading group of global industry analysts. They work to uncover market trends, highlight technological advancements, and award strong companies through their Best Practices Award.
Digital Transformation Projects Drive Cloud Communications Adoption
Frost & Sullivan’s 2017 global IT investment survey is out and the verdict is in: cloud migration is well on its way. Out of 1,934 IT decision makers and influencers, 80 to 95 percent of respondents in each vertical industry report that their organizations are using cloud communications solutions. Among cloud adopters, 54 percent have already moved all or part of their telephony services to the cloud and another 31 percent plan to do so in the next two years. Top drivers for cloud communications adoption among respondents include greater flexibility at times of downsizing or rapid growth (38 percent) and access to advanced features/capabilities (37 percent).
Cloud migration is no trivial matter. Developing a cloud strategy ranks among the top three challenges faced by 24 percent of IT decision makers worldwide. Key factors such as security, reliability and price continue to top the list of perceived cloud-related risks and cloud provider selection criteria. Businesses embarking on their digital transformation journeys and embracing cloud deployment models as the more flexible and cost-effective way to consume advanced technologies must partner with a cloud communications provider that meets stringent business requirements.
Cloud technologies and business models have come a long way since the industry’s inception some 20 years ago. However, not all cloud communications providers and solutions offer the same level of technology maturity, vision and roadmap. Frost & Sullivan’s paper “How to Select a Cloud Communications Provider to Ensure Long-Term Success” discusses the key benefits of deploying unified communications as a service (UCaaS) and identifies the most important considerations for businesses when evaluating UCaaS providers. A structured approach can help businesses ensure their UCaaS investments provide sustainable value over a long time period. The old carpenters’ wisdom “Measure twice, cut once” aptly captures the need for thorough due diligence when committing your mission-critical communications to a UCaaS provider.
A Future-proof UCaaS Investment Requires Careful Solution and Provider Assessment
Frost & Sullivan’s paper affirms that cloud communications solutions should evolve with customers’ business needs. They must also possess the following characteristics:
- Designed for the customer’s specific requirements
- Leverage extensible cloud architectures that scale cost-effectively and securely
- Enable ease of use
- Provide deployment flexibility for lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Follow a technology roadmap aligned with a customer’s broader business objectives
Most businesses start their UCaaS evaluation processes with feature and price comparisons. These criteria are insufficient since many providers offer similar feature bundles and prices can be adjusted based on volume, contract terms and provider discretion. Service reliability, however, often varies significantly from provider to provider. Therefore, as Frost & Sullivan’s survey reveals, cloud reliability is among the most important provider selection factors for 40 percent of respondents. UCaaS solutions leveraging distributed, redundant, cloud architectures with multiple provider interconnects and advanced network quality monitoring tools can ensure higher service availability. Businesses must inquire about historical service availability as well as demand stringent service level agreements (SLA) to reduce the risk of disruptive downtime.
Provider and solution flexibility should also be focal points of the UCaaS evaluation process. Most cloud architectures and delivery models provide flexibility in terms of capacity adjustment as well as network and device independence. However, UCaaS offerings vary with respect to IP phone support, last-mile connectivity, customization and integration with third-party software.
Different users and business sites often require different communications endpoints—desktop IP phones, desktop or mobile soft clients, wireless local access network (WLAN) handsets, digital enhanced cordless technology (DECT) phones, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) mobile phones and tablets, and so on. Also, many businesses demand flexible connectivity options. Customers typically choose to deploy managed bandwidth services (e.g., multi-label protocol switching (MPLS) or software-defined wide-area access network (SD WAN)) at most sites for quality, security and reliability reasons, yet need the flexibility to deliver services to remote workers and branches via more cost-effective public broadband connections. Businesses must ensure their UCaaS provider supports a broad array of devices, as well as both managed and over-the-top connectivity options.
Businesses with more complex requirements often look to custom-tailor their solutions. Many also seek to integrate communications into mission-critical workflows to gain more tangible business outcomes, including greater user productivity and improved business agility. Such forward-looking organizations typically select UCaaS solutions based on open standards and with flexible application programming interfaces (APIs). These attributes enable customer IT staff and third-party developers to create customized applications and better integrate communications into the company’s broader IT fabric. Providers with a strong focus on technology innovation and agile development methodologies are particularly well suited to adjust fluidly and evolve their solutions as customer needs change.
Businesses must further evaluate their future UCaaS provider’s capabilities based on the following:
- Customer focus
- Financial stability
- Executive vision
Customer support and overall attention to customer needs is a critical, though often overlooked factor. Customer focus very rarely appears as a line item on a request for proposal (RFP), because it is considered table stakes. However, not all providers are equally well equipped to address a customer’s needs holistically. It takes a combination of technology, people and processes to ensure a top-notch customer experience. Providers with sophisticated project management capabilities, diverse implementation and customer support teams (i.e., comprised of engineers, line-of-business managers and other experts), and a culture focused on customer service excellence (including relevant employee training and incentives) are much better positioned to deliver superior customer value.
Net promoter scores (NPS), customer satisfaction and loyalty data, call response time, and other relevant metrics can provide evidence of a provider’s ability to deliver effective customer service and support on a consistent basis. Businesses must also observe future providers’ capabilities during the initial phases—business needs assessment, RFP, solution design, trials and pilot deployments—to accurately assess provider readiness and resources to adequately respond to challenging circumstances and/or events.
Provider financial stability and executive vision are also fundamental factors to future-proof UCaaS investments. Strong financial performance and executive leadership enable a service provider to place greater focus on customer satisfaction and value.
Selecting a UCaaS provider is a business-critical decision. Businesses must employ a structured approach and conduct thorough due diligence to ensure a successful initial implementation and overall solution lifecycle. Remember to measure twice, cut once! A sustainable investment and a long-term partnership with a UCaaS provider can deliver considerable benefits, including higher ROI, greater operational efficiency and business continuity, improved user and customer experiences, and shared roadmaps.