There is interest across most industries in hosted Unified Communications, but it is interesting that we at Cisco, as we work with Sprint in implementing these solutions, are seeing spikes of interest in certain vertical markets and sectors.
There is a high degree of interest in financial services and insurance, all professional services, manufacturing and packaged goods, and in every area of the public sector. Why these markets more than others? We think the answer is in a few key business and competitive pressures that seem to be more intense in these areas. Interest and activity will remain high here, while other verticals are quickly following this market transition.
In finance and insurance there is an extreme focus on cost savings and preserving the bottom line in today's economy. These companies face a flat or even declining IT budget, so massive investments in new premises-based systems are out of the question. Public sector customers face similar pressures; the “do more with less” mantra is prevalent almost everywhere.
Many manufacturing and packaged goods companies are dealing with the traditional "core versus context" issue. Communication and collaboration are strategic for these companies, but may not be a direct part of their core business. Making and distributing “things” is what they do, so they are more open to a hosted solution that will provide them the flexibility and agility to focus where they want to, when they want to.
Ultimately, all companies face similar issues or opportunities that have opened their eyes to the possibilities of a hosted approach. I talked about several of these during a recent Sprint-Cisco webinar, Specifically, there is a realization that a hosted offer could be used as a standardization tool, while mitigating risk and accelerating business value across the entire enterprise.
Many companies have grown through merger and acquisition, or expanded so quickly that they have lost control over IT and communications platforms. This creates a real need to standardize processes and platforms in such a way that the business and technology leaders will be able to establish success metrics, and stay prepared for the future. Cloud, in the form of a hosted UC solution, offers that standardization and the potential to maintain an evergreen set of applications and services. It offers the value of UC for every employee and eliminates internal turf wars over platforms and standards. It also fulfills the IT administrator's objective of a common user experience across the organization and helps with collaboration adoption and the organization's ability to drive productivity, innovation and growth.
Risk mitigation is also a concern. The complexity inherent in UC rises as the innovation curve continues to accelerate. For most companies, there isn't really an argument about the business transformation opportunities that UC provides. The real issues are how long it will take them to integrate with the latest and greatest in technology, and how quickly they will realize the value of their investment. The risk is in the complexity and the rate of change, which is why turning this over to a trusted partner, with guaranteed service levels, is so appealing. Another important business benefit is that the cloud enables and accelerates the journey to full collaboration across all workloads and workspaces. Incremental benefits of cloud collaboration include optimization of resources (both IT and financial with predictable OpEx costs) and enabling IT agility and therefore business agility in a predictable fashion through standardized and consolidated service levels.
I am fortunate to be part of a team at Cisco that is in direct contact with customers interested and migrating to Hosted UC. This allows me the opportunity to ask them why they are moving to UC, what their objectives are, how they define and measure success, and what they are looking for in a solution partner. Interestingly, a lot of the answers are founded in basic principles: the partner's credibility, capability, and the confidence and trust that is created. They are turning over a good segment of their IT organization to another company. That's like giving the keys to your car to someone else. You not only want to be sure that they know how to drive, but that they're a good driver, mindful of the ultimate destination and caring about your car and journey as much as you do.
With that in mind, let's look at one particular enterprise in which Cisco and Sprint worked together to implement a very successful Hosted Collaboration Solution.
This company, a North American-based global professional services company, was looking to consolidate disparate systems across their infrastructure to improve their internal and external communications and collaboration. They wanted more flexibility and agility, but also wanted to shift to a trusted partner the responsibility of having to support and manage the network and UC applications. They saw voice communications and collaboration as a strategic enabler to their business, but not a core part of it.
Additionally, they wanted to minimize their capital investment and implement a solution in which they could immediately realize value. This had to be achieved without taxing this company's staff, which simply didn't have the expertise to plan, design, and implement the kind of UC solution and accompanying enabling network that was needed. They wanted their IT organization to focus on business growth, not IT operations.
After looking at some premises-based alternatives, this company took a hard look at the total cost of ownership differential between a premises-based and a hosted solution. Following a detailed analysis of all the ROI considerations projected over five years, the company saw that the hosted solution had a definite edge. Costs alone didn't drive the decision; this company determined that the hosted approach was best for the business in the long term. The solution provided agility, with a fraction of the risk of doing something “on their own.”
Ultimately, this was much more than a technology sale. The strong partnership between Cisco and Sprint helped solidify the opportunity, with Sprint dedicating multiple convergence subject matter sales managers to the company's account. The business value of UC and the agility of cloud were a powerful combination. That combination, with executive-level support from both Cisco and Sprint, convinced this company that it had a partner it could trust and believe in for the long run.
Mike Velder is the Global Sales Manager, Hosted Collaboration Solutions for Cisco. Mike is responsible for working with strategic Cisco Service Providers and System Integrators to bring value-added collaboration services to market. In this role, Mike and his team have managed many large-scale engagements and global partnerships with providers and customers leveraging technology to drive business innovation and transformation.
With more than 18 years of leadership experience in engineering, consulting and market development, Mike has a breadth of experience in telecommunications, unified communications and consulting service industries. Mike holds a B.S. degree in Management of Business Information Systems, and is an Emeritus member of the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) program.