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Technology Brkerage

There is a tsunami of change coming to the telephony market?

I take the suite of products available from Microsoft for granted. Microsoft Word, which I am using to write this blog before I put into into LinkedIn format, anticipates any need I may have. I am sure I only used about 10 percent of the features available. Remember the days of WordPerfect for DOS? And then we moved to WordPerfect for Windows. Now some of you understand how I just dated myself, and some do not have any idea why I mistyped Word as WordPerfect. That being said, WordPerfect was extremely popular with legal secretaries, transcribers, and anyone who produced significant amounts of documents.

Back then, I thought WordPerfect was perfect. Again, it did everything I (thought I) needed from a word processing program. I never even imagined I could have templates available to create a flyer, an invoice, or a resume.

We are at an Inflection Point with UCaaS

The reason I tell this story is to show that there are inflection points in industries. While I had no idea what I was missing by using the older program, once I used the latest and greatest, I was more efficient. I believe we are at an inflection point with UCaaS.

UCaaS and collaboration have been around for a long time, and the adoption is increasing at an ever-escalating pace, but there are many people who would just like to leave things as-is. The attitude of many is that UCaaS is not a viable option in many situations. This is just not true anymore.

If ever there was a death knell for a technology, it is the announcement, just last week by Gartner, that they are no longer publishing a Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications. They will only now publish the MQ for Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). Part of the reasoning for this is because all of the R & D is now happening in this space, with virtually no innovation in the UC On Prem space.

Telstra Ends ISDN

With the cessation of ISDN in Australia, more than 2 million businesses have a choice to make.

With the discontinuation of ISDN in the Australian market, more than 2 million businesses will be faced with the termination of their current service, creating a need to replace this with one of two options: a hosted, SIP based telephony offering from a carrier, or a UCaaS cloud offering, delivered over the internet, with Service Level Guarantees.

In North America, UCaaS now figures above 80% for all new voice technology deployments. In Australia, that is currently less than 20%. With the cessation of ISDN, that is going to change very rapidly.

Evolution of Business Telephony – a potted history

In the early 1990s, Telstra released CustomNet Spectrum. Basically, a PBX within the Telstra Exchange network. A bit like client-server computing, but for handsets. Fail.

Then we moved to private voice networks, with hop off. Success, but only for a period of time.

Jump forward several years and every vendor in town was spruiking the ability to host in the cloud, but asking partners and telcos to buy tin, stick it in a data centre and call it multi-tenanted. Moderate success, but still, just basic dial tone and PBX features. Huge cost for partners, with a “If we build it, they will come!” sting in the tail.

Hosted Collaboration Suite – PBX in the private(ish) cloud, delivered by a Telco with little or no customisation possible. Spend a whole pile more money and you can integrate with other great offerings, like collaboration apps, messaging apps, video etc. Microsoft is on their third iteration of voice, with Teams. Jury still out.

Now, we have UCaaS. This is not some hosted version of hardware in a data centre. This is one version of software, controlled, operated and upgraded by the vendor. It is then replicated, backed up and secured in world class data centres across the globe. One image. the latest image: globally.

Just to be clear, UCaaS is NOT Hosted PBX

Just like Microsoft Word now integrates with multiple applications and gives the user a seamless experience, so too, does UCaaS. One application with voice, messaging, video, team collaboration, whiteboard, video, omnichannel capability, API integration, workflow SDKs, integrated Contact Centre…you name it, UCaaS has it.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that UCaaS is Hosted PBX. They are definitely NOT the same thing.

Decision makers stand to save their companies significant network costs, while all the while greatly enhancing productivity across the business; not to mention increasing the engagement and customer experience with their audience.

Important Considerations with UCaaS

As you prepare to move your company to a UCaaS platform, you should consider some critical aspects of what is going to occur.

1.     This is not a phone system. Moreover, trust me when I tell you that you do not want it to be a phone system. You probably already have one of those, and this will be so much more. I talked to one partner this year whose approach to the market was to replace existing on-site premise equipment with cloud services and tried to make the new system function exactly like the old one. They would then “slowly” add new features, so the users were not traumatised.  The problem with that approach is the users never had to break how they currently work, so they never get a catalyst moment that lets them take advantage of new features.

Unused features are unrecognised promises. ROI is lost when the system is not used to its full capabilities.

2.     Retraining needs to be from the ground up. Imagine training users to understand how this NEW communication system will revolutionise the way they work. This system will be everywhere, integrated with the applications that they use to make money, with scalability and agility to work on any device they choose. Instead of trying to insulate these users from change, push the features to be the robust solution they know is possible.

3.     Certain functions will not exist. Take into account the ecosystems impacted: the elevator cameras, the alarm systems, the paging systems, the security readers, pager, and industry-specific equipment. That is ok because there are answers. You must plan, assess and implement with those processes in mind.

4.     Ask the right questions. Cloud-based solutions provide scalability and agility. That allows you to request demo units and live trial demos that can be live phones. You can demand cost-effective bandwidth options, and the requirement that you use the suppliers’ network is not absolute.

I was in a demonstration of a UCaaS phone system recently. The provider decided it was too hard to deliver quality with a multi-tenant, true cloud-based phone system. They decided to take a traditional PBX and put it in the data centre, bill for it monthly, carry the cost of the equipment and call it “cloud or UCaaS.” The problem with this is the fact that the scalability and flexibility of a cloud-based solution are robust because of the underlying design. This model takes the current technology, dresses it up as a cloud, calls it an angel and then charges more for what you have probably already purchased and amortised more efficiently.

It is time for legacy telecom managers and traditional IT managers to adopt the movement to the UCaaS.

Resistance is now merely a delaying the inevitable move to a cloud based collaboration environment.

In the last 4 years in the Australian market, providers such as 8×8, RingCentral and Vonagehave all established their brands in anticipation of the significant change that is afoot. As the end of ISDN approaches, don’t let your customers be left hanging, without an option.

As an IT Partner, do you offer UCaaS solutions to your customers? How are they responding? I want to hear from you.