The Unified Communications Buyer’s Guide to Picking the Right Cloud Telephony Solution
There’s no better time for a business to embrace unified communications solutions. Actually, that’s not entirely true – several years ago would probably have been a better time. After all, these tools offer major benefits to businesses of all kinds, from the largest enterprises to the smallest shops. With a UC system in place, an organization’s employees can become more collaborative, more efficient, and happier. The sooner a company starts to take advantage of these possibilities, the better.
For those firms that have yet to embrace UC, though, one of the most important steps they must take is choosing a particular solution. While UC as a general concept is fairly straightforward and consistent, there is a tremendous amount of variety between the various services available. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when evaluating available UC options.
The business case
The first and most important thing for business leaders to keep in mind as they debate UC solutions is the business case. Put simply, why should the business seek out a UC system?
Before selecting or even considering specific UC solutions, business leaders should have specific objectives in mind as to how the UC system will benefit the company. Far too frequently, organizations begin the search for UC with only vague notions of what they hope to achieve. They know UC is valuable and useful but haven’t considered the exact needs of their organizations.
Such an approach is almost certain to lead to suboptimal deployments. Ultimately, the technology should always serve the business need. Without considering what that need is initially, though, companies will instead look for potential uses after the UC solution is in place. The technology will still prove useful in this case – it just won’t be ideal.
Once a business case is established, leaders need to consider whether to pursue cloud-based or legacy UC technology.
In the vast majority of cases, cloud telephony will be the better choice. With cloud-based UC tools, businesses can enjoy a range of benefits inherent to the cloud – better cost-savings, superior data access, greater reliability, more time to spend on bigger-picture projects, and more. Cloud telephony also offers the possibility of real-time analytics and insight into UC performance – an advantage that is simply not possible when relying on legacy solutions.
There are select situations when legacy UC may be the better choice. Perhaps the organization overinvested in certain on-premises tools recently, for example. But such situations are rare. In either case, business leaders should make their choice before continuing their UC search.
This critical step may seem obvious, but many business leaders overlook it. There is more diversity among UC systems than many people realize. In reality, no two offerings are exactly the same. Choosing the ideal deployment largely comes down to knowing exactly what you want for your company.
Which leads to the question of features. UC is, as the name suggests, a collection of different communication channels, all brought together in a single solution. The right UC platform should therefore include all of the channels and functionality that a business’ employees are likely to need going forward. While there are certain obvious inclusions, such as voice and email, other components are not universal.
Some firms may feel like video conferencing is a priority, while others don’t plan to use that capability. One company may need robust, instantaneous file-transfer capabilities, while another can easily forego such a feature.
Failing to take these differences into account may lead to frustration or unnecessary expenditures. The more accurately a business leader can determine the needed and preferred features for his or her organization, the greater the chances of choosing the right UC offering.
Another key factor is the future. A UC deployment should be for the long-haul, which means that it’s important to consider how the company’s communication and collaboration requirements are likely to change.
The most obvious and significant way this plays out is in terms of growth. For businesses that hope and expect to expand, the ideal UC solution must be scalable and flexible. In such cases, cloud-based systems are usually the best bet. The cloud enables businesses to pay for the services they need as they need them, and to increase service if necessary. A legacy UC solution, on the other hand, requires businesses to invest in expensive hardware. If a firm underestimates its needs, it will need to upgrade hardware sooner than desired. If it overestimates, it will waste money.
As a general rule, workers tend to resist changes to their daily routines. Most employees feel comfortable with their existing tools and tactics, and they see any major upheaval as unwanted. And if a company launches new solutions that its employees do not actively use, the investment will go to waste.
Understanding your employees’ perspectives is imperative to ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
To avoid this outcome, it’s critical for business leaders to engage with workers and find out what kind of UC tools they think would improve their work abilities and overall performance. It’s easy for managers to have mistaken impressions about how a particular UC solution would fit into their employees’ day-to-day responsibilities.
Engaging with employees and understanding their attitudes can correct misconceptions and lead to better UC choices – and generally improve worker morale and company loyalty to boot.
One final UC factor for decision-makers to keep in mind is analytics capabilities. This is a relatively new addition to the UC landscape, but one which business leaders would be wise to pay close attention to.
With UC analytics, businesses can gain clear insight into precisely how their UC solution is being used throughout the organization. Company leaders can determine which apps are being used by which employees, how frequently and when this usage occurs, and much more. With this view of operations, leaders can clearly determine whether a particular part of the UC platform is underutilized, whether another needs to be expanded, and how resources can be best distributed across the company. This leads to improved efficiency and effectiveness.
Analytics are not a standard component of all UC platforms, but for firms that are eager to make the most out of their UC investment, both now and in the future, analytics should be viewed as a basic requirement
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