10 October 2017

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5 Ways to Get Maximum Value from Unified Communications as a Service

Unified Communications by Tom Collins

While more than 90 percent of organizations have adopted cloud-based apps and technologies, not all of these firms have unified multimedia communications, like phones, email, chat, file-sharing, and web conferencing, into a single cloud-based platform. However, as organizations realize the massive business benefits of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) (superior reliability, mobility, and smarter collaboration), many are realizing the time is now to make the switch.

Experts predict that by 2020, more than half of organizations will have adopted UCaaS.

To learn more, check out 11 Valuable Business Benefits of Unified Communications as a Service.

The internet and mobile technology have had a profound impact on consumer behavior, which is why industry analysts like Forbes' Brian Rashid believe digital transformation is critical for organizations to survive and win customer loyalty in 2017 and beyond. Simply having technology for communications isn't a competitive advantage.

You Can't Afford to Delay Digital Transformation

The organizations that create a world-class experience for their customers and employees will create "change in thought and organization culture" writes Rashid. More than half (51 percent) of CEOs today believe their organizations have 12 months, or less, to achieve digital transformation, with 27 percent rating technology-driven improvements as a matter of "survival."

Organizations who adopt and optimize cloud-based communication tools have an opportunity to unlock world-class tools for mobile collaboration and business agility. However, achieving the capacity to digitally-transform your organization requires implementing the right UCaaS tools in the right ways. Not all Unified Communications platforms and vendors are created equal.

Here's what you need to know to drive the most value from your Unified Communications investment from day one and achieve significant business transformation.

1. Shop by UCaaS Platform, Not Just Vendors

When it comes to any cloud service, careful vendor selection is crucial. Unlocking the reliability and quality advantages of UCaaS requires focusing on vendors who deliver the best value to their customers. Leading cloud communication providers can be identified by a track record of happy customers, locally-owned media and facilities, and support availability. In contrast, signing on for UCaaS with a reseller with little industry experience could result in your business implementation being a test case.

The right UCaaS vendor can be a long-term strategic business partner for your organization. Learn how this proved true for one happy customer in True Story: Atlantech Saves the Day for a Montgomery County Law Firm.

Unified communications is based on a single platform for management and end users, for better or for worse. Since you're fully-reliant on the platform for your multimedia communications, it's going to have a significant impact on your experience. Not all platforms are created equal, and your options include everything from open source tools to enterprise/carrier grade options like Atlantech's instance of Broadsoft.

When it comes to evaluating a prospective vendor's platform, some important questions to ask could include:

  1. Is your system open source (OS)? While OS tools are the right choice for some UCaaS users, they typically are harder to learn, more technical, and more challenging to customize.
  2. How will this platform limit or enhance our information security?
  3. Is the platform easy to customize?
  4. Does the platform include options to accommodate team and contact center communications?
  5. Are there built-in integrations for the apps our organization already uses, like Salesforce, Google Drive, and Microsoft 365?

Choosing a platform that doesn't meet your requirements for necessities such as information security, integrations, and customization can lead to lengthier and costlier implementations, and lower satisfaction with your investment.

2. Drive Process Improvements with UCaaS

Integrating information can have a massive impact on your business productivity. Centralized tools for communications, like Broadsoft Team-One for project-based communications, can provide access to keyword-searchable communications around documents, discussions, and other important information. McKinsey research suggests that these features can lead to 35 percent improved efficiency in the hours each week the average employee spends searching for needed documents and information.

Integrating UCaaS with your business processes, an idea sometimes referred to as communications-enabled business process (CEPB), could allow your organization to simplify your workflows and achieve unprecedented efficiency. By integrating your communications tools with your processes, your company can achieve real-time communications and automate redundant work.

Some on-the-ground examples of smart integrations for process improvement with UCaaS include:

  • Developing UCaaS-supported business continuity and disaster management processes, including broadcasting communications via voice phones, instant messages, text, and email.
  • Eliminating redundant technology and the need to switch between programs or applications by integrating UCaaS with apps like Salesforce, Twitter, and document management solutions.
  • Reducing the need for manual data entry and research, by automatically-populated customer profiles for sales and customer service teams that contain a complete record of multi-channel customer communications.

3. Expand Your Talent Pipeline and Enable Global Collaboration

Unemployment rates are currently at a 10-year low, hovering below 3 percent in some states. Organizations are scrambling to fill vacant positions from limited talent pools, and many are turning to non-traditional talent pools out of sheer necessity. Research reveals that in 2017, HR leaders are trying to win the war for talent by:

  • 28% are exploring new opportunities for sourcing talent
  • 36% are actively recruiting non-traditional talent, including remote workers
  • 19% are relying on freelancers and contractors
  • 19% are changing models of work

For some organizations, hiring employees or contractors to work remotely from a different time zone or country is a matter of survival. UCaaS can deliver value by providing a mobile-first approach to team-based communications. Your organization can remove barriers to non-traditional talent pools and a remote workforce with some of the leading technologies for globally-based teams. Broadsoft's UCaaS offering Team-One supports your talent's need to collaborate from any location, device, or time zone by:

  • Contextual intelligence-based productivity features, including automated access to the files and information team members need to participate in conversations, web conferencing calls, and client interactions.
  • Mobile-first features, like click-to-call and multimedia meetings that automatically integrate rich features like video conferencing, screen sharing, and video chat.
  • Built-in project management capabilities that allow users to create projects, assign tasks, and attach files and communications.

UCaaS can also expand the impact of your existing talent resources and eliminate the need to search for hard-to-find cloud specialists to manage your communications tools. When your IT team's need to perform routine maintenance and support tasks is reduced, there will be an opportunity to shift time and focus from operations to innovation.

4. Integrate Social Media and Social Collaboration

In 2017, the average person spends over two hours per day engaged with social media and social messaging apps. Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce, and have an observed preference for social media-based methods of communication and learning.

Forbes' Jimmy Rohampton writes millennials have a strong preference for social technology-based modes of work, including social tools for employee recognition, workplace learning, and collaboration. Integrating internal and external social media with your UCaaS system can improve employee engagement and customer happiness in exciting ways, including:

  • Real-time feedback: Organizations can become more agile as they use social media's real-time features to engage with employees and promote internal collaboration in real-time.
  • Open collaboration: By integrating UC with social tools, organizations can inspire their employees to engage in a culture of open innovation and design thinking, discussing projects and ideas with colleagues from around the world.
  • Better customer service: Social tools can aggregate customer feedback from social media networks with your customer relationship management (CRM) tools, allowing your customer-facing employees to understand your customer's needs and proactively reach out to dissatisfied customers.

5. Improve Mobility Without Massive Security Risks

Today, more than 67 percent of American professionals use their own devices--laptops, smartphones, and tablets--to work. However, only 36 percent of organizations have an official bring-your-own-device policy in place. Organizations are balancing some real challenges when it comes to effectively implementing BYOD programs; while the majority of today’s talent expect to be able to do work from their own device there are some real security risks to corporate data privacy. Employee mobile devices are linked to 21 percent of security incidents and data breaches.

UCaaS can allow organizations to drive employee engagement and mobile productivity by making BYOD a secure possibility. With all-in-one apps for any device, employees can securely access sensitive data and communicate through UCaaS apps, instead of balancing a series of apps that have not been approved by IT to complete routine tasks. With cloud-based access to need-to-know information, organizations can eliminate the risks associated with unapproved file-sharing software or employees who download data directly to personally-owned smartphones.

UCaaS doesn’t entirely eliminate your organization’s security risks or mitigate the risks associated with the BYOD movement. However, it does encourage your mobile workers to behave in much more secure ways by providing a convenient, centralized way to securely access information. With contextually-based tools for remote work that your employees enjoy using because they’re intuitive and effective, your organization can encourage employees to work securely.

The Value of UCaaS: Expectations vs. Reality

The right approach to UCaaS adoption can deliver many different types of value to your organization. Your company's finances can benefit from upfront cost avoidance, predictable billing, and the savings that come with bundling your fiber connectivity, cloud, voice, and communication tools with a single vendor. Your organization’s IT team benefits from outsourcing communication tools and unlocking new self-service options for users to reset their own passwords and configure their app settings.

However, one true test of value in a tech investment is how an initiative’s results stack up to the actual results. Research reveals that UCaaS adoption doesn’t just deliver the expected results, it generally exceeds executive expectations by offering more diverse value than anticipated. While most organizations believe UCaaS is a tool for better productivity and collaboration, the actual reported value of Unified Communications tools are:

  1. Increased Employee Productivity
  2. Superior Employee Collaboration
  3. Increased Disaster Recovery/Risk Management
  4. Competitive Advantage
  5. Improved Relationships with Customers, Suppliers, and Business Partners
  6. Lower Cloud Communications Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

What if the Real Value of UCaaS Was Total Business Transformation?

In order for your organization to secure future profitability and happy customers in the future, it’s wise to anticipate a need to change and evolve. As your customer’s habits and behaviors change, so will their purchase patterns. Developing the ability to quickly change and adapt in response to your customers is among the best ways to ensure your success in the years to come.

By making the switch to UCaaS, organizations can achieve the most flexible approach to business communications and collaboration available. Your organization can scale your services up or down in real-time, adopt new technologies immediately, and benefit from mobile-first, user-friendly tools that are designed for the way people collaborate in 2017. By integrating your communications into a single, globally-accessible platform, you can pave the way for digital transformation.

With over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, Atlantech Online is a leading provider of UCaaS solutions that deliver diverse business value to organizations in the Mid-Atlantic. To speak to an expert, click here to get a quote.

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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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