We’re gearing up for a great event at Enterprise Connect in Orlando next week. The theme of the event is “Communications Transforming Business” and it couldn’t be more perfect.
At Fuze we’re fixated on transforming the way businesses communicate. Work life is dynamic and unpredictable, and Fuze is all about flexible, always-on business communications, video conferencing, messaging, and collaboration. Anytime, anywhere, across any device.
In preparation for the event, I caught up with Alex DiNunzio, director of product, on his panel session titled, 5 Tough Questions to Ask Your (Would-Be) UCaaS Vendor, scheduled for Wednesday, March 9 at 1:30 pm.
If you're heading to the event and interested in learning more about Fuze (including our schedule, contest, and private dinner), check out our guide: All Things Fuze at #EC16.
About Alex: When he is not watching the Sox at Fenway Park or chasing after his young daughter, Alex DiNunzio is the Director of Product at Fuze. He is responsible for the core platform: voice innovation, the self-service portal, carrier network, international expansion, and the reseller experience. Alex first came to Fuze in 2009, left to obtain his MBA from Harvard Business School, and returned to lead product efforts.
1) What are the differences between hosted and cloud solutions?
Alex: Let’s start with discussing the cloud. Cloud solutions are vendor-managed, multi-tenant, single-software platforms that provide enterprise customers with the ability to consume services when they need them and provide flexibility for scale and growth. On the billing side, a cloud solution is typically Opex heavy (instead of the traditional Capex intensity of an on-prem solution). In my opinion a cloud solution allows an enterprise to focus on their business without worrying about the management and overhead of a communications system.
In contrast, hosted solutions typically involve an enterprise customer purchasing hardware, to host in their own facilities, and this hardware has a fixed set of features and scale which can lead to rigidity as time goes on. Hosted solutions can also involve a third party, who bears the responsibility of the physical hardware, but the same feature and scale limits apply.
2) What are the top three things that buyers should look at when evaluating UCaaS?
Alex: The three things I would recommend focusing on are: mobile, the cloud-delivery model, and the collaboration strategy.
If your UCaaS provider doesn’t already have a mobile-first platform, they’re behind and you should look elsewhere. Mobile needs to be an integral part of your vendor’s strategy to ensure that the user experience and design align with what workers are demanding and will actually use. After all, if you build something that isn’t going to be used, what’s the point in rolling it out? Practically, I see customers being able to take advantage of the BYOD (bring your own device) movement, eliminate the need for every worker to have two phones, reduce costly traffic, and increase critical data being captured by their platform, all through an uptick in mobile application usage.
Next, delivering the full solution via the cloud is key. As we discussed in the first question, a cloud-delivery model is essential for achieving a scalable and feature rich platform that adapts as the market adapts. I have heard objections to the cloud numerous times (although far less these days than I did a few years ago) and continually point out the following: enterprises are already comfortable moving critical applications to the cloud (e.g. Salesforce, Zendesk, Workday, ServiceNow), so why not your communications service? Over the past 10 years, UCaaS providers have matured, stabilized, and can predictably deliver a quality service. The proof is in the hundreds of thousands of users across the globe on one of the leading platforms. Without these characteristics, we all wouldn’t be growing as fast as we are.
Finally, integrated collaboration happens when all of your tools are on one platform, ideally within one client. In particular, I want to focus on delivering a global voice network, messaging (internal and external), presence, conferencing, screen-sharing, and video collaboration all inside of one application (e.g. desktop or mobile client). What if you could have all of this in one place? Allowing your users to communicate how they want, when they want? That would be the Holy Grail. This is what you should be looking for in your vendor.
3) What buzzwords do vendors in the UCaaS space need to stop using?
Alex: Certainly “analytics” and “big data”. Both mean something different to everyone who uses them and often times, they don’t mean anything at all. The challenge exists because data is everywhere (e.g. IoT), becoming easier to harness (e.g. personal fitness wearables), and is being shown to people in a myriad of ways every day. With this landscape we all need to step back and ask some fundamental questions: what are the problems that we are trying to solve with this data? What business solutions can we create? Yes, we have patterns, but why do we care about them? Does ‘analytics’ achieve a goal, or simply create noise?
Once we have answers to these questions, or at least a subset of them, the value of ‘analytics’ and ‘big data’ will rise. Don’t get me wrong, we have a product that we are very proud of in this space, and it brings a lot of value to our customers. However, my belief is that it is only at the inception of where it could possibly go and that the value will only rise over time.
4) What are some of the ways a cloud-based UC solution can increase productivity?
Alex: There are a two simple ways to look at productivity.
- Can my employees do more given the same constraints?
- Can I extract value from tools/decisions that I have made in the past?
Let’s dig in. First, instead of being limited to a particular communication method (e.g. cell phone, desk phone, IM) a UC solution frees up the universe of options, allowing you to achieve what I previously stated: a place where employees can communicate how they want, when they want. If you want to multi-task during a meeting via IM or SMS, that’s fine. If you prefer your mobile application, great. If you want to use video & screen share because you have a global team, excellent. The idea is that you provide an employee with flexibility and you let them choose. Doing so will allow them to do more with their current resources and take better advantage of the time that they are working for you.
Second, most enterprises (as discussed above) are making multiple cloud investments. However, these investments are typically done in silos with the benefit going largely to only one team (e.g. Salesforce for the sales team). What if your UCaaS platform sat on top of all of your SaaS applications and could drive additional value by plugging communication directly into the app? A simple example is the sales or support agent who works inside of a CRM tool. These agents are constantly leaving the core CRM application to place calls, look up critical information, etc. However, if you could plug a softphone, with real-time data feeds of customer info directly into the CRM, the team would be more likely to achieve the result faster and be less frustrated doing so. This allows for better usage of tools, happier employees, greater productivity, and ultimately happier customers.
5) The panel that you are speaking on is called the 5 Tough Questions to Ask your (Would-be) UCaaS Provider. What’s the question you think won’t be asked?
Alex: From what I know about the questions it seems like a big gap is around the capability to provide service globally. Specifically, how does your UCaaS provider service your needs, in a localized-fashion, internationally? It’s critical that there is a common user experience, regardless of where a user is located, and that all users have a tool that behaves in a way native to their country. If your platform has these capabilities it will be flexible enough to grow with your organization over time (either from organic growth or acquisition).
Learn more about everything Fuze at Enterprise Connect here. Get your sneak peek at our content session by downloading our latest eBook, 5 Key Questions to Ask Your Future Cloud Communications Provider.