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The VoIP Report

Cloud UC Benefits for Mid-market Businesses
December 13th, 2017

Cloud UC Benefits for Mid-market Businesses

Ian Linton

Mid-market companies treat IT investments not as a means of acquiring better technology, but as a way to improve competitive advantage. And, the scale of their investment in cloud Unified Communicatio...

Mid-market companies treat IT investments not as a means of acquiring better technology, but as a way to improve competitive advantage. And, the scale of their investment in cloud Unified Communications (UC) indicates that they are setting the pace in this technology sector.

Cloud UC’s market share will increase six-fold overall to 41 percent by 2020, according to the 2015 BroadSoft survey of global telecom service providers and industry leaders, and it’s forecast to grow by more than seven times in the mid-market sector from 5 percent to 37 percent.

Cloud Unified Communications brings mid-market businesses all the features and advantages of UC, but with the added scalability and cost benefits of a cloud-based service. Cloud UC  benefits companies and reduces the burden on IT resources.

Unified Communications from the cloud

UC brings together a range of disparate communications tools, including voice, video, mobile, messaging, text, chat, email and voicemail, into a single integrated platform and makes them available on desktop and mobile devices in any location. That gives users the freedom and flexibility to use the most appropriate tool for the task, and switch seamlessly to other tools if circumstances change.

And, by taking UC as a Service (UCaaS) from the cloud, mid-market businesses no longer have to invest in physical infrastructure on the premises or maintain a dedicated support team on site. A service provider hosts the infrastructure in a secure remote data center and delivers the service over a high-speed Internet connection.

Reducing the IT burden

Mid-market companies have limited IT resources, compared to their larger competitors, and the complexity of UC deployment and management has traditionally put premise-based Unified Communications beyond the scope of these companies.

Taking the service from the cloud removes that barrier. The service provider is responsible for building, managing and maintaining a secure, resilient infrastructure that delivers the highest levels of availability to the business, and to users. As an added bonus, service providers are also responsible for software upgrades to the system, ensuring that businesses are always using the latest version of UC without the cost and disruption of on-site upgrades.

With automated deployment and ongoing technical support from the service provider, IT teams can improve productivity and focus on more strategic development tasks.

Protecting business continuity

Adopting a cloud solution can also help IT teams improve business continuity with minimal use of their own resources. Instead of setting up duplicate communication systems on other sites, businesses can use the resilience of service provider’s systems to provide continuity in the event of a disaster. Recovery teams can set up emergency facilities at any location with an Internet connection and make full use of their UC services to maintain essential communications.

Cutting communication costs

Reducing costs is a key driver for IT decision makers in mid-market companies, and cloud UC delivers important cost savings.

The move from premise to cloud deployment moves communication costs from the capital budget to operating expense. An affordable monthly payment to the cloud provider covers the cost of the service, together with associated maintenance, management, deployment and upgrade costs. That frees the capital budget for other strategic investment and eliminates the cost of hiring IT staff with the right level of UC skills and experience.

If the business grows or requires additional capacity or new services, there are no additional capital or installation costs. The service provider can scale the UCaaS solution in real time and the only additional cost is an increase in the monthly service fee.

Scaling with business needs

The scalability of a cloud deployment is important to mid-market businesses. They may need to scale their communication resources to deal with seasonal peaks or add new users or new sites. They may want to take advantage of an emerging market opportunity or handle increased call volumes efficiently following a successful sales or marketing campaign.

Scaling the UC solution in real time eliminates any potential delay, gives the business greater agility and reduces the risk of losing market opportunities to competitors. It also means business decision-makers can take the initiative to scale the service without worrying about the impact on IT resources.

Supporting increased mobility

A survey by Transparency Market Research (TMR) found that an increasingly mobile workforce, coupled with the rise in BYOD (Bring your own device) programs are key drivers for mid-market cloud UC adoption. According to TMR, more than half of all employees will work remotely by 2020 and they will expect the same UC features and services as their office-based colleagues.

Cloud-based UC services are accessible from any location on any device with an Internet connection. That means mobile and remote workers can access their UC services at home, on the road or in remote offices using smartphones, tablets, laptops or IP-enabled phones. And, with increasing options for securing BYOD devices, businesses can confidently allow employees to use their own devices to access company data and services.

With full employee access to UC services away from the office, mid-market businesses can maintain the connectivity, productivity, and availability that is so important to competitive advantage.

And, it’s not just full-time employees who deliver those benefits. Businesses can supplement their teams and provide cloud UC services to contractors or part-time workers, enabling them to scale their workforce when necessary or operate virtual teams.

Driving productivity

Cloud UC brings many important productivity benefits for office and remote workers. That’s a key driver for 80 percent of mid-market decision makers, according to BroadSoft research. Now, employees can access all their communications tools through a single interface and switch seamlessly between tools. They no longer have to switch devices or open a different interface if they want to escalate a phone call to a video conference or check email and messages during a call.

To save time, all messages, voicemail, email and text messages are available through a single inbox, making it easy for employees to catch up quickly on the latest messages or check on earlier communications.

Employees can also save valuable time when they are trying to contact colleagues. A Single Number Reach feature means that they do not have to check or dial alternative numbers for an elusive contact. One number dials all the phones allocated to an individual.

A Presence feature enables callers to check the availability of a colleague before dialing. If the colleague has posted their status as ‘unavailable’ or ‘do not disturb’, the caller can leave a message or try later.

This doesn’t just save time – and frustration – it can help mid-market companies improve customer service. If a customer needs to speak urgently to an expert about a product or service issue, for example, the customer service team can quickly decide on the most suitable response by using Presence or Single Number Reach to find the first available specialist. This speeds resolution and helps increase customer satisfaction.

Increasing user flexibility

With so many services available through a single interface, users can select the most appropriate communication tool for the task. They might want to hold a detailed discussion over the phone or a video conference. It might be enough just to send a text or leave a message on email or voicemail.

With UC, all of those services are available through a consistent interface. And, with UC solutions like Microsoft’s Skype for Business, that flexibility is even greater. Users working on a report or presentation with Microsoft Office 365 tools can launch calls or conferences from within the application, bringing integrated communications into familiar business applications.

There’s another great benefit with cloud UC. Users who are on a call at the office can easily switch devices without losing the call. They can easily switch the call seamlessly to their mobile device if they have to leave the office for an urgent appointment.

Improving collaboration

Mid-market companies recognize the importance of collaboration, inside and outside the organization. According to the BroadSoft study, it’s a key driver for 70 percent of mid-market decision-makers. Collaboration enables colleagues to work closely together more easily, building teamwork and sharing skills and expertise.

This helps project teams accelerate tasks and reduce time to market, and it’s a preferred way of working for employees of the Millennial generation who represent an increasingly important part of the workforce.

Employees with the right collaboration tools can also draw on the skills and resources of external groups such as suppliers, business partners, universities or research groups to create virtual project teams with members participating regardless of their location.

Cloud UC solutions offer a range of easy-to-use tools to suit different collaboration tasks. Participants can use audio, video or web conferencing to set up or participate in meetings. And, participants who are away from the office can join the meeting from a mobile device.

For simpler meetings or one-to-one collaboration, voice calls, chat or messaging provides a convenient solution when only a quick update is needed.

In customer service environments, UC collaboration tools can provide important differentiation from other businesses. Customer service or technical support representatives handling complex inquiries can easily escalate an incoming call to a collaborative conference with an expert to ensure the customer receives the best available advice.

Maximizing return on investment

Research from Frost & Sullivan indicates that making the right IT investment decisions is one of the top challenges for mid-market decision-makers. Adopting Unified Communications from the cloud helps these businesses meet key business objectives while cutting communication costs and reducing the burden on internal IT teams.

Mid-market businesses have experienced significant improvements in productivity, collaboration and customer service following a cloud UC deployment, so it’s no surprise that these companies are the fastest-growing adopters of the technology.

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