Early Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) adopters frequently cited the considerable cost and efficiency benefits of cloud communications as one of their primary motivators for adopting the technology. While those benefits certainly remain a strong reason behind the surge in popularity of cloud communications today, more recent adopters have been swayed by another critical benefit.
In particular, more recent adopters say faster access to new cloud communications and collaboration innovations spurred their decisions. Customer research shows that businesses increasingly adopt cloud communications solutions to gain access to advanced features that are often difficult and expensive to deploy and continually maintain on premises. In a 2018 Frost & Sullivan survey of UCaaS users, video calling, web and video conferencing, and team collaboration were considered most important UCaaS features to their businesses by 36%, 34%, 32%, and 28% of respondents, respectively. Also important, pre-integrated cloud applications suites reduce the cost and hassle associated with integrating multi-vendor solutions on premises. In a 2017 Frost & Sullivan study of 1,695 global cloud users, one-third of respondents indicated that they chose cloud solutions for this particular benefit.
Interest in these more dynamic collaboration and communication capabilities reflects the considerable technology advancements of the past two decades. Compared to their plain-vanilla IP Centrex predecessors, contemporary UCaaS solutions deliver a much broader feature set, including: full private branch exchange (PBX) functionality; automated attendant; visual voicemail and voicemail to email; instant messaging and presence; audio, web, and video conferencing; team collaboration; mobility; contact center, and more. UCaaS providers show no sign of slowing down on innovation, as they continue to leverage advanced technologies, such as WebRTC, artificial intelligence, analytics, and more, to further boost the value of UCaaS for customers.
The reasons for the explosive growth of cloud communications and collaboration go beyond pricing and access to innovation, however. Advanced connectivity technologies, such as multi-label protocol switching (MPLS) and software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), as well as continued improvements in public broadband services, are enabling better service quality, reliability, and security. In addition, more sophisticated architectural designs, backed by high-quality monitoring tools and more robust security management practices, are also enabling adoption of next-generation IP communications solutions.
Best Practices for Short-listing Prospective UCaaS Solutions and Providers
While many businesses start their UCaaS provider evaluation with a comparison of service features and prices, the most prudent and forward-looking organizations go a step further in assessing their solution and provider options.
Key steps in the preliminary UCaaS solution and provider assessment must include the following:
- Ensure that the UCaaS solution features provide the best fit for your end users. Consider end-user demographics, job functions, technology familiarity and training, stated preferences (e.g., via surveys, focus groups) for different types of communications tools, and other criteria.
- Become educated about the provider’s broader portfolio and explore bundling options and opportunities for one-stop shopping.
- Inquire about the service provider’s technology roadmap to assess future provider ability to support your evolving needs.
- Learn about the provider’s partner ecosystem and APIs to better assess the UCaaS solution’s ability to integrate with important third-party software.
- Investigate the available delivery mechanisms for the UCaaS solution being evaluated. Find out if the solution can be delivered over public broadband, MPLS, and/or SD WAN connectivity options.
- Inquire about service provider ability to support distributed organizations across country borders.
- Keep an eye on service provider flexibility to tailor their services and support to your unique requirements.
Businesses adopting UCaaS must look beyond features and price to future-proof their investments and ensure long-term success. Innovative UCaaS providers with global presence and a strong focus on service performance and customer service excellence are best suited to become long-term partners and ensure a successful cloud migration journey.
Elka Popova is the Vice President and Senior Fellow, Digital Transformation at Frost & Sullivan.