This Industry Viewpoint was contributed by Jeff Blackey, SVP Marketing, Broadview Networks
Cloud-based unified communications solutions continue to grow, with market penetration on track to increase six times by 2020. This growth trajectory makes sense, as the combination of UC and cloud is a powerful one, major benefits including scalability, continuity and ease of use. The ROI of UC is well proven and continues to shift the industry in that direction. In fact, 79 percent of companies that analyzed ROI following their UC installation met or exceeded goals – and cloud-based solutions are still more cost effective.
However, data shows that 26 percent of IT decision makers and 39 percent of business decision makers report feeling at least somewhat fearful about making the transition, despite their expectation of significant benefits. To address these concerns, businesses should follow the below steps to ensure a smooth transition to cloud-based UC.
Prioritize usability and user centricity
Outdated communications systems are difficult for the average employee to operate, which leaves many features unused. IT leaders must choose a cloud UC system that meets the need for ease of use, or else the business will never see the benefits of advanced UC features. If a solution is not intuitive and user-centric, the migration will not be the only thing to fail – the entire shift to UC will prove to be a wasted effort with a solution no better than the legacy system.
By contrast, the right cloud UC solution will empower businesses with true mobility, basing the operation of technology on web-based user profiles, instead of hardware. A centralized dashboard will allow individuals to manage their preferences and settings from anywhere. For example, employees can ascertain colleagues’ availability, or presence, at a glance and set up call forwarding or mobile twinning within a moment’s notice to ensure that they never miss a call. Administrators can add new users with the click of a button when onboarding new hires. This ease of access and ability to self-manage streamlines the use of technology, reducing hassle and increasing productivity.
Prepare for the unexpected
The best cloud-based UC solutions are intuitive systems that require little explanation. However, offering optional training sessions and plenty of resources is key to ensuring that employees feel prepared to make the transition. Businesses should develop material that clearly outlines the process and explains the benefits of transition, emphasizing the ease-of-use afforded by 100 percent cloud technology. In order to address unexpected user questions or challenges, the full IT team should be on standby to assist and explain where needed. Additionally, businesses should look for a provider that offers an online community as a resource center for employees and IT teams alike to receive instant assistance and live conversation. In short order, employees will feel fully comfortable with the change and empowered to take charge of their communications.
The need to prepare for the unexpected applies not only to the migration, but also to the business’ ongoing reliance on UC. Housing UC in the cloud allows individuals to remain connected in the event of a crisis, natural disaster or office closure. Downtime is extraordinarily damaging from a financial perspective. One survey reports that 73 percent of IT leaders estimate costs of more than $10,000 per day due to downtime. Retaining communication programming and settings in the cloud, rather than in a physical phone, helps prevent disruption and allows businesses to leverage features like softphones, which allow any Internet-connected device to be used as a phone extension.
Understanding and highlighting the benefits of cloud UC to business continuity can help leaders overcome any internal hesitations around taking the plunge.
Consider long-term cost
The right cloud UC solution will bring immediate benefits to day-to-day communication, but the benefits to cost are fully realized over time. When comparing solutions, businesses ought to approach cost with a long-term perspective. Cloud-based UC lessens the burden on IT staff of maintaining on-premise equipment and supporting employees who would no longer need help managing the system. Savvy businesses will also select a solution that includes ongoing maintenance and support, as well as continued enhancements to keep the technology up to date and operational without facing unplanned expenses. The best cloud UC solutions will improve customer service through advanced features such as a virtual auto-attendant and will improve employee productivity through smooth integration with other critical third-party software such as Salesforce.
Businesses should also understand the cost of not leveraging cloud UC. As competitors make the transition and reap the benefits, more cautious businesses will find themselves working overtime to catch up and remain competitive.
Cloud UC is changing the expectation of connectivity, ease of use and productivity through the increasingly mobile workforce. When businesses understand and can articulate the user benefits, cost savings and operational continuity that comes from cloud UC, they will be better equipped to overcome internal anxiety and remove the barriers to continued growth.
Jeff Blackey is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Broadview Networks, one of the top 10 UC cloud providers in the nation. Broadview’s cloud offerings include its business telephone system, OfficeSuite® Phone, the easy-to-use hosted phone system that is 100% cloud-based using technology unique to Broadview. Blackey has more than 25 years of marketing management experience in the communications industry.