- UCC deployment is complex, even when hosted or managed by a third party
- Enterprises need to look beyond the marketing and tread carefully when integrating UCC solutions
Marketing around carriers’ cloud-based unified communications and collaboration (UCC) services is reaching a fever pitch. As vendors improved the quality and reliability of VoIP services, enterprises increased their deployments, and now they want to add collaboration features. IT managers and corporate executives see hosted UCC as a way to reduce communications costs and increase employee productivity in a tight economic environment; carriers can use these offers to embed their services more deeply into an enterprise’s business. Enterprise adoption of UCC in any form, whether fully hosted or premises gear managed by someone else, is still a complex proposition.
Some offers marketed as UCC are little more than VoIP, audio/Web conferencing, e-mail, and a desktop dashboard. Full-featured hosted UCC offers typically include these features along with some combination of integrated Microsoft Communication Services, fixed/mobile convergence, unified messaging, presence, chat, application/file/desktop sharing, and contact center features. While it may be simple to deploy these solutions in a greenfield environment, enterprises that want to, or must, retain infrastructure and applications will need to tread carefully to ensure that the new hosted solution can be fully integrated with existing equipment and services.
AT&T, BT, Cypress, Orange Business Services, and Verizon have turned to Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS) to underpin their enterprise UC-as-a-service offers. Carriers are working with Cisco to ensure that HCS integrates with existing enterprise infrastructure, allowing enterprises to keep premises infrastructure and layer hosted UC applications on top. Other providers offer a hosted UC solution based on the Cisco Hosted UC Service (HUCS) platform. HUCS is a viable option for telephony features, but it may offer less flexibility for new applications compared to an HCS-based offer.
A UCC deployment holds the promise of improving communications by changing, and presumably improving, how employees communicate and how business processes are handled. There are many factors to be taken into account when considering a UCC deployment. Just a few things that enterprises should keep in mind include:
- Get the features you use. A solution may tout hundreds of features, but if there are two that employees rely on which are not included, the system is not effective. This is particularly important when it comes to applications specific to that business’s market. IT managers must identify these applications and ensure they can be integrated into the new solution.
- Find out what the carrier will do in terms of deployment support. Are site surveys and implementation support included in the service, or is this handled separately through a professional services engagement? What about the carrier’s post-deployment support? Enterprises should talk to several reference customers, in their own vertical market if possible, to find out how the carrier fares in terms of post-implementation support.
- Consider the company’s culture and employee base when planning UCC deployment and post-deployment training. Some workers will jump in with both feet, while others may not be as quick to adopt new features and integrate them into their day-to-day work processes.
So, are you happy with the hosted UCC services from your current carrier (or those generally available from any carrier)? What should carriers be offering that they’re not?