The revolution of the cloud services model has shaken up how businesses think about unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools. No longer rigid platforms, modern UC&C tools are more integrated and more robust than ever before. Today, UC platforms support a seamless experience for the user and the customer or partner on the other end of the line. By linking communication tools, such as voice, video conferencing and instant messaging, online calendars, project management applications, and tying those into line-of-business applications, users can flip between apps quickly, making real-time communication and information sharing a reality. The most effective UC&C solutions work across multiple devices allowing users to start a meeting on a smartphone and then switch to a video conference when they arrive at their desk. Or a customer can be using IM to chat with a customer service agent, and they can opt to receive a phone call at a more convenient time.
Even with these significant advances around UC&C today, there are still challenges to look out for when evaluating options. One of the most significant obstacles is that most vendors don’t provide all the pieces needed for a complete unified communications solution. This fact adds complexity around deploying, managing, and troubleshooting UC&C platforms. It can also be challenging to juggle multiple vendors concerning contracts and support and maintain service quality across all communication and collaboration services. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most critical challenges and essential questions to ask when adopting UC&C tools.
1. How do I support a mobile workforce? Research firm IDC tells us that the U.S. mobile worker population will continue to grow at a steady rate, and in 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly 75 percent of the total U.S. workforce. Not only that, this younger generation of ‘digital natives’ sees collaborative applications as a ‘must-have’ for employers. Suppose companies want to hire and retain top talent going forward. In that case, they’ll need to continue to shift towards easily-to-use cloud-based tools and applications that support productivity and a collaborative environment. When evaluating UC&C solutions, make sure they are mobile-first, and they can be used easily on smartphones, tablets, home offices, or branch offices. It’s also critical that organizations have visibility into endpoint devices and connectivity—regardless of device, network, or location.
2. How do I ensure service quality? As highlighted, as UC&C platforms continue to evolve, they’ve become a hybrid of integrated solutions. UC platforms often include multiple vendors, platforms, and a combination of applications either on-premise, hybrid, or cloud-delivered, i.e., Cisco Spark, AT&T UC Services and Solutions, SIP trunking services, etc. This framework makes it more challenging to ensure service quality. If managing the UC&C platform in-house or relying on an MSP, they have real-time management and visibility over the entire domain stack of assets, transport layers, and cloud-based services. This way, if one component of the platform is impacted, teams can look at both the UC&C components and service delivery components to identify the cause of problems. If looking for simplicity, look for those that package communication, collaboration, and mobility solutions, along with the IP network connection, giving businesses a single point of contact for service delivery and the ability to treat UC&C as a service instead of several individual components or assets.
3. What will management look like? Similar to maintaining service quality, managing today’s UC&C systems are also more complex. Companies need visibility and control over the infrastructure where it runs, within a mixed landscape of endpoint solutions, third-party providers, UC servers, and networks. Look for providers that offer centralized management controls and move away from relying on point management tools. Beyond UC tools themselves, businesses may also require services that monitor security policy compliance across the wired and wireless networks.
4. What does the integration look like in my contact center? Today, there is an increased reliance on contact centers to be key touchpoints for business. Just like other aspects of business, cloud-based contact center solutions are integrating UC&C tools like IM and video, bringing customers to a whole new level of service. In addition to voice integrations with CRM applications such as Salesforce or Zendesk, built-in connections with team collaboration tools can give agents better access to customer data and improve internal communication between agents. The trick is to find UC&C solutions that offer many of these integrations out of the box, so organization can achieve immediate ROI without relying on additional developers. It’s also essential to select a unified communication platform that follows industry standards, a wide range of gateways, and a broad ecosystem of third-party integrations and solutions plus partners.
Unified communications platforms make it possible for companies to cost-effectively deploy and manage the technologies that power a more productive and collaborative workforce. Choosing the right platform means innovative UC&C features will be accessible from mobile phones, desktops, laptops, and other wired and wireless devices. Look for UC specialists and managed partners to simplify implementation, service additions, management, and ongoing support of these increasingly robust and interconnected UC platforms.