Deploying unified communications as a service isn't as easy as simply flipping a switch. Indeed, many factors come into play when enterprises consider a UCaaS migration. First and foremost, UCaaS provides a singular interface and seamless UX -- and it all needs to work equally well, whether at home, on a mobile device or in the office. There's a lot of complexity associated with delivering capabilities like these, and the end result must all be transparent for all users.
This process places many demands on IT, especially if an organization has only recently migrated some services to the cloud. What's more, there aren't many best practices to guide you. Yet, UCaaS is becoming a necessity; employees need its capabilities for hybrid work.
IT leaders, therefore, face two challenges. First is developing a sound strategy for cloud adoption. Second is coming up with an effective UCaaS deployment plan. To help IT leaders manage these issues, consider these three decision points and best practices.
1. Decide whether to stay with incumbent vendor
This is the starting point for any UCaaS migration decision. There are two basic scenarios. For enterprises with existing UC deployments, the first option is to migrate to UCaaS with the same provider. This may well be the path of least resistance, but it could also be problematic if there are issues with the incumbent's offering and/or the business relationship.
Organizations that use more than one on-premises UC offering face an additional complication. There might be a valid case to stay with multiple incumbents, but there might be an equally compelling reason to consolidate and use only one UCaaS provider. Keeping several premises-based deployments would require a new integration with UCaaS, adding cost and complexity to this plan.
Organizations that haven't yet deployed UC wouldn't have to worry about migrating their premises-based systems to UCaaS. In this case, a telecom vendor would be the incumbent, and the migration here would entail going with the UCaaS offering from the private branch exchange (PBX) vendor. But IT leaders in this case would still have to determine how comfortable they are with their telecom provider's technology and UCaaS options. The satisfaction quotient may loom even larger since the migration is not going from like to like.
2. Determine the extent of cloud migration
Unlike the PBX, which offers a complete set of capabilities when installed, UCaaS offerings fall across a broad deployment spectrum. Most offerings are modular, enabling organizations to deploy the applications they need and add others over time. Some companies choose to deploy all the apps at once; others might decide to roll out just a portion of the services available. There are valid use cases for each of these options as IT leaders can control how they want to manage priorities and end-user adoption levels, as well as determine how to navigate migrating other services to the cloud beyond UCaaS.
Organizations also must consider their current situations. An aging PBX may have reached a point where a full replacement is needed. Given the mission-critical nature of telephony, UCaaS is the best way forward, even if the company has hesitated to move real-time communications into the cloud.
Another important consideration is how strategic the cloud has become for the organization overall. Reducing costs, adopting new technology and managing complexity are all key drivers. All of these apply to a UCaaS migration as well, and if any or all of these factors are pushing the organization further down the cloud path in general, the business case -- and timing -- for UCaaS in particular will be well aligned.
Given how the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated cloud adoption and fueled hybrid work, IT leaders must consider these broader forces in their plans for UCaaS. With technology changing so quickly, it could be shortsighted to make UCaaS decisions in isolation.
Consider the challenges contact centers face when modernizing their operations. Cloud-based options, among them contact center as a service (CCaaS), are the best way forward. There are many ways where integrating CCaaS with UCaaS makes sense, not just for having a common platform, but for working with a single service provider. Both these applications are on a parallel track as they migrate from on premises to cloud. When considered together, there is a bigger story here than just UCaaS.
3. Network considerations
Deploying UCaaS is largely driven by the need to support your workforce, especially as hybrid work gains traction. A cloud infrastructure is the best way to support a decentralized organization. This factor alone supports the business case for UCaaS migration, but IT leaders have needs of their own that are independent from end users. At the highest level, all organizations are undergoing some form of digital transformation and, with that shift, comes an exponential rise in data streams that need to be managed effectively.
Harnessing data is strategic for the business, and it can be all-consuming for IT teams. IT wants to scale down elsewhere, and if UC can move to the cloud, this is an easy decision to make. IT has less to manage, and for those that find the newness of UCaaS complex, having this capability in the cloud simplifies IT's work.
Data residency is another consideration. UCaaS is deployed across all types of businesses, but security and compliance requirements in regulated sectors, including healthcare, financial services and government, become more challenging when data shifts from on premises to the cloud. Not only can cloud services be based in any geography, but they may be distributed across multiple clouds, possibly in different locales.
The more distributed your workforce, the more difficult compliance becomes with UCaaS -- in addition to ensuring that personal data resides locally. These are critical IT management concerns, and in terms of best practices, they must be carefully evaluated when considering UCaaS vendors.