As “Cloud” services become more pervasive within IT departments, so too does the concept of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). As always, when technology evolves and new solutions emerge, we see dramatic changes in the way technology is consumed. As adoption increases prices are adapted and often radically reduced, causing mass adoption of certain technologies. We have seen this happening with cloud based applications, and both consumers as well as providers are seeing the benefits.
But are all applications equally suited to the cloud and if not, what are the limitations? In this blog post, I will explore whether UCaaS is a perfect fit for cloud and if not, what needs to be done in order for it to flourish as a cloud-based solution.
Let’s start by looking at what works for UCaaS.
Firstly, enterprises can expect a cost saving on the technology as the UCaaS provider is able to build, configure and support the technology centrally for multiple customers, thereby driving efficiencies. In addition, the access to user licenses is based on usage – customers only pay for licenses that they use and if they don’t need it they stop paying for it. This flexibility allows organisations to plan their communications requirements directly in line with business operational requirements.
Secondly, historically, organisations have had to plan, invest in and roll out a solution before understanding its impact and usefulness to the business. In the case of UCaaS, however, organisations can access advanced functionality at any time and choose to implement it in specific areas of the business. For example, if company ABC is keen to understand the value of collaboration technologies within their business, traditionally, they would need to review their existing communications technology and evaluate an approach to enable collaboration. In a worst case scenario, they may need to implement a new communications solution or at best implement collaboration into their existing solution. Both cases require an investment that may not return the result expected. With UCaaS, any number of users across the organisation can be activated with additional functionality for the prupose of evaluating its usefulness. The process is easier, cheaper and the focus is on its use and not its availability.
Lastly, many organisations are finding it challenging to support and maintain communications environments and fully managed services offers the advantage of resolving the challenge of maintaining a competent support and maintenance function. This includes the retention of skilled technical and engineering resources whose career prospects are either focused in limited areas or in the balance due to corporate tendencies to move more towards an outsourcing model.
To summarise, the benefits of UCaaS are:
- Lower cost due to economies of scale
- Licenses can be accessed on a usage or utility basis
- Advanced applications can be added when required
- Access to advanced and specialist skills as part of the service
- Ability to expand at short notice
Now what are the pitfalls of UCaaS?
What makes UCaaS different from any other type of application is its reliance on dedicated hardware (phones and gateways) and the fact that it needs to access the public communications network. This means that while a utility or pay-per-use may be a clients primary requirement they will inevitably need to acquire phones and gateways in order to access the appropriate voice communications services.
All UCaaS offerings will therefore include a solution that connects the service to the broader public telecommunications infrastructure. Whatever the solution, there will be a requirement for equipment to be implemented on the clients premises. Telephone instruments and voice gateways that connect the media to specific telecommunications networks and infrastructures may need to be purchased or financed as part of the overall service.
An area of cloud-based applications where significant efficiencies are driven is in service provision automation. The ability for users to self provision and configure, facilitates a reduction in operational effort and cost. In the case of UCaaS, it’s my opinion that the level of automation required to initiate the expected discounts has not yet been achieved and much work has to be done by both mainstream vendors as well as UCaaS providers.
While the benefits of integrated unified communications suites are undeniable and contribute to overall simplicity, there’s an opportunity for UCaaS providers to differentiate their solutions by including emerging technologies into the overall offering. Service is the focus and ensuring clients get what they expect will be the key to success.
There’s no doubt that technology is evolving faster now than at any time in the past. While this presents organisations with many opportunities, the question remains as to when new technology should be adopted. Cloud can make technology available to clients more conveniently and faster than ever. The challenge to remain current amidst constant advancement now falls to the Cloud, or UCaaS, provider. Over time, providers that are able to stay abreast of new technology and functionality will emerge as the winners. Further, providers that drive large scale efficiencies and combine multiple services into complete offerings to provide compounded benefits for clients will be seen as leaders.
While UCaaS is here to stay, we’ve only just seen the first iteration of what will undoubtedly evolve into a very exciting and interesting cloud application.