The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented shift to working from home. Nemertes Research's 2020 study on communications and collaboration showed that more than 70% of employees were now remote, up from just 34% prior to March 2020. The rush to work from home led to a rapid adoption of new collaboration apps as employees struggled to continue working in their organization's new reality. For example, nearly half of the 525 companies surveyed after the pandemic began had obtained a new video meeting application. Application adoption has often been haphazard; IT, lines of business and even individual teams have obtained their own apps, some paid for and others from vendors via numerous free offers.
What's behind rising UCaaS adoptions?
By late 2020, IT and business leaders moved past the initial pandemic panic and began reevaluating their direction strategically in an effort to ensure consistency in application availability, management and security. UC and UCaaS vendors, recognizing the value of integration, rapidly consolidated -- with almost all vendors now offering combined calling, messaging and meeting capabilities, often with integrated contact center features.
Nemertes Research's study on the cost benefits of workplace collaboration, published in March 2020 just after the pandemic began, found there was already significant momentum behind adoption of single-vendor solutions. Among the 564 participating companies, more than half (52.2%) had implemented a single UC vendor. And the majority of those (57.2%) had done so via cloud approaches, either through UCaaS adoption or via custom-hosted products. In addition, 19% were using a mix of on-premises systems and UCaaS to meet their collaboration and communications needs.
The pandemic accelerated the shift to cloud, with more than 60% of research participants saying they were increasing their adoption of cloud-based UC apps to gain access to new features, to better support remote work and to have greater flexibility in provisioning of users. UCaaS adoption correlates positively with success (defined as higher-than-average ROI for collaboration purchases) with 44.8% of the UC success group using UCaaS versus 30% of all other benchmarked companies. Overall, 76.6% of those implementing UCaaS said it had been successful in meeting company objectives.
Cost is a primary factor driving consolidation and a shift toward the cloud. While the majority of research participants reported a first-year increase in costs to move to cloud-based UC -- largely due to one-time training and deployment expenses -- after the first year, an integrated single vendor resulted in a 56% annual reduction in operating costs, including licensing and staffing expenses.
Add contact centers to UCaaS for more savings
Integrating contact centers and UC led to further measurable benefits, including a 56.7% improvement in customer success ratings; a 22% reduction in monthly contact center agent costs; and a 16.8% improvement in how customers rated their UC and contact center providers.
Other key drivers for shifting to the cloud include faster access to new features, especially AI-based capabilities to improve meeting experiences, such as noise cancellation, video optimization and virtual personal assistants to handle note-taking, transcription and translation, and management of post-meeting follow-up action items.
Like UC, contact centers are also rapidly moving to the cloud; nearly half of the research participants (46%) now use contact center as a service (CCaaS), with another 15.8% using a mix of on-premises and cloud-based applications. Here, too, the cloud offers significant advantages in terms of scaling up or down as needed, and in providing access to emerging features including AI-based tools for call routing, self-service and sentiment analysis.
Implementing an integrated, cloud-based approach to UC and contact centers offers the opportunity to deliver tangible benefits in terms of cost reduction as well as employee and customer satisfaction. IT leaders should consider the potential benefits of UCaaS adoption and CCaaS as part of their long-term strategy to optimize employee and customer engagement going forward.