When considering a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution from a provider, pay attention to the user experience, along with the features and pricing, says Elka Popova, vice president, and senior fellow, Unified Communications, Frost & Sullivan. “A good user experience is one of the top criteria that businesses look at when selecting a cloud provider,” she said. “Our firm did a survey at the end of 2018 and found the user interface and experience were high on the list.”
Popova spoke at an Enterprise Connect 2019 session, “How the Evolving UCaaS Market Can Benefit Your Organization,” hosted by Sean Spradling, chief product officer, PGi.
“Beyond those natural points, you should look at the vendor’s service performance more than other factors,” she added. “Our surveys show that service reliability and security consistently top the list.”
“If your business wants to generate a high return on its UCaaS investment, be sure users are adopting the functions and using them appropriately,” Popova said. That might mean implementing a training initiative, starting with the early adopters and power users of the UC services. “You should also incorporate contact center capabilities to impact the customer experience as well,” she added.
Spradling agreed with Popova that organizations should avoid cloud-based solutions that make life difficult for users. “Give them a simple user interface that will help them prioritize communications that are hitting them during the day,” he said.
In the North American market, more than 120 providers are offering UCaaS in the cloud, according to Popova. “The number of companies, their offerings, and technical requirements can be overwhelming for decision-makers,” she said.
UCaaS providers have a more varied assortment of architectures than traditional TDM solutions, she added. “Cloud-based solutions offer a number of benefits, including more agile development of new features and cost-effective upgrades,” she said.
For enterprises considering a UCaaS solution, a good starting point is to look at the business features and the pricing for a vendor’s solution, Popova said. “Beyond those natural points, you should look at the vendor’s service performance more than other factors,” she added. “Our surveys show that service reliability and security consistently top the list.”
Next, look at the baseline features and functions of the solution to see how well they match the needs of your business. “Today, are likely to need web conferencing, video conferencing and mobility tools to meet the needs of your changing workforce,” she said.
After evaluating the nuts and bolts of business features and service performance, you can start looking at the bells and whistles of each vendor’s solution. These may be helpful add-ons or basically irrelevant for your business.
You should also evaluate the vendor’s experience and reputation in offering cloud-based solutions. Spradling said enterprises should talk potential providers to make sure they have the scope and scale to support their operations, particularly when there is a multinational or global workforce.
You should also talk with providers about innovative features and what’s coming next, said Popova. Service providers are constantly adding features. For instance, voice text and email channels are being integrated into productivity suites, help desks, vertical applications, and other solutions.” There is more innovation ahead with artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality.
But beyond technology, IT professionals need to take the “human factors’ into account. “The next generation of UC providers focuses on the user, reinventing, rather than replacing legacy systems,” Spradling said. “You want a vendor who can help you manage your technologies in an easy to understand manner.”