Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) is one of the few IT technologies with a "multifaceted" value proposition, in that it not only can lower costs, but can help streamline processes and form new ones. You may start out with cost reduction in mind, but along the way, you find ways to change and improve how you do business.
That was a key point made by analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZK Consulting, during a recent webinar on the subject of hosted UC&C. Also participating were Sprint's own Joseph Martin and Mike Velder of Cisco. If you missed it, you can replay it here.
Among the factors pushing enterprises toward UC&C are the desire to stay competitive, the need to deal with the BYOD (bring your own device) tsunami, and of course all the collaborative work advantages it offers. And as we mentioned, cost reduction – which can amount to an impressive 25 to 30 percent annually.
As Kerravala describes it, the UC&C market has shifted from a hardware-driven model to a software-driven, cloud-based model. This, he says, " pushes a lot of complexity in the infrastructure into the cloud and leverages end-to-end IP connectivity ... giving people the best of both worlds."
The hosted approach, he emphasizes, enables an almost infinitely flexible deployment. Different tools can easily be made available to different employee groups, tested for a while, then rolled out to the whole organization when appropriate. Software updates are transparent and instant. External groups such as partners, vendors, or customers can easily be incorporated into the organizational environment. And management is supremely centralized.
Joseph Martin talked in detail about the Sprint Complete Collaboration solution, our hosted UC&C offering that we announced in March and which we wrote about here, as well as in other posts.
Mike Velder noted that Cisco and Sprint are seeing significant interest in hosted UC&C in the financial, insurance, and professional services industries, as well as manufacturing, packaged goods, and the public sector (government). But no matter what industry you are in, Velder said you need to achieve "cloud readiness" before making a commitment to a hosted solution.
That means, he explained, delineating a vision of what you want to accomplish, and then developing a solid and specific plan to achieve that vision. It should address what your organization sees as the desired results, where you see the cloud adding value both initially and longer term, and how you will implement it and train your people, to name just a few elements.
During the webinar, they did two quick polls of participants, and the results – despite their unscientific nature – were interesting. The first question asked what participants felt was their biggest barrier to rapid UC&C adoption. Forty-one percent said it was the difficulty of measuring ROI, while 25 percent identified a lack of the right IT skills and resources. Also, 16 percent said high up-front capital investment was an issue, and 14 percent identified "operational challenges."
The second question asked about the single biggest business driver pushing participants toward UC&C. The top answer? Reducing CAPEX and the costs of ongoing maintenance, to achieve a lower TCO. That was the driver for 38 percent of participants. Twenty percent want a fast, flexible, and scalable deployment, while 16 percent are looking to prevent delays and lost business due to communications inefficiencies. Also, 14 percent are looking to facilitate BYOD through enhanced mobile integration and 12 percent are looking to shift their IT people to more strategic projects.
If you have an hour and want to put it to good use, give this webinar a listen. Click here to get it started.