Agility, the workplace of the future and UCaaS

Published on the 26/07/2018 | Written by Heather Wright


As unified comms-as-a-service grows, it’s embracing all today’s key catch cries…

The increasing push from companies to be agile and have a cloud-first mobile-first business, and the influx of younger workers demanding technology in line with the consumer services they’ve grown up with, are creating a perfect environment for unified communications-as-a-service.

UCaaS, where communications offerings such as telephony, videoconferencing, instant messaging, presence and collaboration are hosted in the cloud and paid for on a subscription basis, offers simplicity and cost benefits.

“The real goal is to get away from slow things like communicating via email where it starts to turn into a bit of a chat.”

Initially the domain of startups and very small companies, the popularity of UCaaS has spread, with larger organisations – including government departments, financial services, healthcare, retail and manufacturing – embracing it.

Frost & Sullivan is forecasting ‘healthy growth’ of around 14 percent for the Australian UCaaS market, which the research company expects to be worth US$570.3 billion by 2024. No New Zealand figures were available.

Audrey William, Frost & Sullivan A/NZ senior fellow and head of research for ICT, told iStart UCaaS will be an important component in the much hyped ‘workplace of the future’.

“A new generation of workers is coming to the enterprise and their expectation of communication is very different,” William says. “As companies grow, innovate and provide a richer experience for their employees, email, voice, video, messaging, and other forms of collaboration [and] cloud applications that are so simple to use, is going to be critical, because you want to create a very agile, cloud-first, mobile-first enterprise and to enable that to happen you have to think about having very good collaboration and communication tools in place.”

The battle for the UCaaS market is already heating up. The past 24 months have seen a number of big acquisitions, including a private equity company acquiring Mitel, Plantronics snapping up Polycom and Cisco buying Broadsoft. Meanwhile, service providers have been rolling out their end-to-end communications services and new offerings such as Telstra’s Liberate, which unifies desk and mobile phones.

Alongside the older players are a growing number of born-in-the-cloud players such as 8×8, Zoom, RingCentral – which recently opened an office in Australia – and BlueJeans.

William says those newbies are already starting to win deals and she expects other players from North America to enter the market in the next 12-18 months.

New Zealand telecommunications provider Vorco says it’s seeing high demand for UCaaS.

Dave Tolhurst, Vorco business development manager, says almost all customers are now opting for its SkyPhone offering, built around the Broadsoft platform, because of the increased flexibility it provides.

“UCaaS allows you to go beyond just a phone call,” Tolhurst says. He says UCaaS enables people to communicate with each other through the most appropriate tool, at the right time, and change the tool as needed.

“The real goal is to get away from slow things like communicating via email where it starts to turn into a bit of a chat. What you can do here, instead, is start with chat and then progress to the next level of detail which is probably a phone call. Then you might bring more people into the call to get their ideas, and then you might end up with a more formal method of communication like email that summarises the actions for everyone.”

Vorco’s UCaaS customers include professional services organisations needing to work from anywhere, anytime; traditional manufacturing and engineering companies needing to easily add technical input to customer queries through adding a technical specialist to the call or initiating chat to get answers; and medical companies where call recording, tight logging to monitor calls are required. The rich reporting is also appealing for call centres, Tolhurst adds.

For businesses looking to deploy UCaaS it isn’t always smooth sailing, however, William says. While it’s tempting to blame the solution when it doesn’t work, UCaaS also relies on a high-quality network within the business itself.

“Investing in the network to ensure it’s of the highest quality and can transfer the various workloads running through the network is going to be very critical, especially when you talk about voice and video calls. You don’t want latency and jitter or losing the person on the other end.”

Ensuring your provider has redundancy in its data centre and disaster recovery in place is also critical, she notes.

“It can be a very costly exercise if you don’t have voice or video for a day,” she notes.

“For organisations looking to procure UCaaS, many considerations will need to be made. It’s important to not just go and sign up with the first provider. Consider how many offices you have, where they are, how dispersed your employees are and how they work.

“Evaluating your service provider is going to be critical because cloud solutions rely heavily on the internet and therefore there should be sufficient backup in the event of a network outage, built-in redundancy, the right service level agreements and security.”

Tolhurst agrees. He notes when it comes to UCaaS, it’s not as simple as trying an application and finding you don’t like it.

“It’s a substantial change to the business and the key thing here is to go through the process of mapping out how interactions between staff and customers are supposed to occur, before you even start the process – then you can know if it’s right for you.”

 

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